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ISA Northern California Section

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About ISA Norcal

History of ISA NorCal

Prompted by the tremendous increase in industrial activity in Northern California following world War II, several far-sighted individuals gathered in the Fall of 1946 in Roger Stanley's home in the East Bay to form the Northern California Instrument Society. Fred Miller was the first President, followed by D. J. Pompeo, Chester (Chet) Beard and, later, Roger.

Monthly Society meetings were first held at Pacific Gas & Electric's facilities in Oakland. The urge for dinner meetings took them to a then small place in Berkeley, Spenger's. Thanks to the Dinner Meetings, both the Society and Spenger's grew.

Shortly after the Society's formation, news of the activities of an organization of similar groups in the eastern part of the country, the Instrument Society of America, reached this area and Los Angeles. There was lively debate about affiliating with the eastern group. When time came for a vote, the Board of Directors, knowing that they had an organization that was strong enough to continue on its own if affiliation did not work out (they made sure they could drop out) and recognizing the probable advantages of national affiliation, voted for affiliation and became officially know as Instrument Society of America Northern California Section. 

Northern California Section flourished under affiliation, becoming the largest Section in the country when surpassing Philadelphia in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, ISA raised dues and many people dropped out.

In the early days, the "official" monthly publication was a postcard (two cents at first) announcing the next meeting. Prior to the economy moves in 1997, one of the major accomplishments of our Section was the publication of a very serious monthly magazine known as the Transmitter. Started by Alex Wayne in 1968 when he was the Membership Chairman, it had grown from a single page, typed and mimeographed message into a twenty or more page, publication distributed to all members of the Northern California and Santa Clara Valley Sections. During the 1995-96 fiscal year, the Communications Committee established and maintained a World Wide Web site on the Internet that was one of the best, if not the best, section Web sites in all of ISA. Among its many features was an online version of the Buyers’ Guide portion of the Roster & Buyers’ Guide.

Section technical expositions featuring demonstrations of hardware and software as well as teaching/discussion sessions began in 1954. That year, the Claremont Hotel on the Berkeley/Oakland border set up plain tables, one to a vendor, for table-top demonstrations. Overwhelming response each time kept this a bi-annual event until 1998.  Since that time the internet, and cutbacks in industry in the Bay Area have dampened interest in local expositions.

Another major accomplishment was the establishment of professional registration of Control System Engineers in the State of California. Sparked by Mark Bagley and others, and with the help and support of the five Southern California Sections, we circulated petitions, and prepared a book of evidence demonstrating the need for registration. We were successful in this effort and there are now many registered Control System Engineers.

In the 1960s, our group found itself split in ideology between those primarily interested in process control and those interested in aerospace, computers and electronic research. As a trial solution to this problem, a second organization was spun off which became the Santa Clara Valley Section of ISA.  In 2001 the Santa Clara Valley Section again merged with the Northern California Section.

Other outstanding achievements have been made in the field of education. Our first effort was establishment of an endowment known as the D. J. Pompeo Memorial Fund at the University of California. Our latest effort, begun in the 1980s, is our assistance to San Francisco State University (SFSU) to initiate a course of study leading to a degree in Control System Engineering. Using cash donations from the membership and donations of hardware and software from vendors, the Section has aided in the creation of a control system laboratory in the university's engineering building that includes a multiple loop process. There, the students can get hands-on-experience with the same equipment and processes that they will encounter following their graduation. The Student Section at SFSU has become very active in recent years, holding monthly meetings, competing in student section competitions at national ISA shows and hosting one of our monthly dinner meetings once a year. This year we are looking to upgrade the control system hardware and software located in the laboratory with donated equipment from vendors and users, and donated time from members. In addition to these two efforts, we participate in the Bay Area Engineering Council's Engineers' Week.

History of ISA

rev: 1/17/04 GJG