Jacobs, Irwin M.

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JACOBS, IRWIN M. (1933– ), U.S. computer and communications entrepreneur. Born in New Bedford, Mass., Jacobs received an engineering degree from Cornell University and master's and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He began his career teaching at mit and was on the staff of the Research Laboratory of Electronics there. While at mit, Jacobs, together with Prof. J. Wozencraft, wrote Principles of Communication Engineering, developing a vision of ubiquitous communications worldwide made possible by digital wireless communications. This led to the founding of his first company, Linkabit, a wellspring for most of the telecommunications industry in San Diego, Calif. Jacobs guided the growth of Linkabit from a handful of employees in 1969 to over 1,700 by 1985. Linkabit merged with m/a-Com in 1980. During most of that time, Jacobs was chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Linkabit, and executive vice president and a director of m/a. While there, Jacobs led the team that developed the first microprocessor-based, spread-spectrum satellite communication modem for military anti-jam airborne applications. He also guided the development and manufacture of the first successful video scrambling system (Videocypher), currently operating to descramble premium television transmission to millions of satellite dishes.

In 1985 Jacobs became a founder and then chairman and chief executive of Qualcomm, which develops, manufactures, licenses, delivers, and operates digital wireless communication products and services based on code-division multiple access technology (cdma). As a pioneer in wireless communications, Qualcomm develops and supplies integrated circuits and system software for wireless voice and data communications. Its standard is used by major carriers like Sprint and Verizon Wireless. Consumers may know it best for its Eudora e-mail software. The cdma standard was adopted as one of two digital standards for the next generation of cellular telephones in North America. In 2005 it had 7,600 employees worldwide and had revenues topping $5 billion, making Jacobs one of the wealthiest men in the United States. In 1994, Jacobs was awarded the National Medal of Technology, the highest award bestowed by the president of the United States for achievement in the commercialization of technology or the development of human resources that foster technology commercialization. Jacobs's philanthropies were diverse, with gifts to schools and museums. He and his wife gave an endowment gift to the University of California, San Diego, for an engineering college which was named the Irwin and Joan Jacobs School of Engineering. In 1992 Jacobs and his wife gave the financially troubled San Diego Symphony a $100 million endowment, then the largest ever awarded to a symphony orchestra in the United States. They have been generous to the Jewish Community Center and other Jewish charities in San Diego, but like many philanthropists, they have given their megagifts to general, not specifically Jewish causes.

In 2005, paul e. jacobs (1962– ) succeeded his father as chief executive of Qualcomm. Jacobs had started in his father's first company, Linkabit, in 1985 and worked at different engineering jobs at Qualcomm during his college years at the University of California, Berkeley, from which he earned a doctorate. Paul Jacobs, who formally joined the company in 1990, was president of Qualcomm's Internet and wireless group, one of the company's most important divisions. In his early years at the company, he worked on the engineering for the antenna of Qualcomm's OmniTracs system, which is used to track the routes of freight trucks. He worked on the speech compression algorithm for cdma, and holds a patent for part of the technology, one of more than 25 Qualcomm patents that he helped develop. Paul's brother Jeff is the leader of Qualcomm's global development division.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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