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 Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Charles Peter Sandbank, who was very well known to many in ITU, and was recently elected as Chairman to ITU-T’s Study Group 9 has died aged 77.

Charlie, as he was affectionately known to friends and colleagues, started his long and distinguished career with STC making radio valves and later transistors. During his time here he developed some of the first semiconductor integrated circuits to be produced in Europe. Among his early papers were proposals for the techniques now commonly used in ASICS and the principle of surface mount.

In 1964 he was appointed head of the Electron Devices Laboratory at Standard Telecommunications Laboratories and in 1968 became Manager of the STL Communications Systems Division. While at STL he was responsible for the team which pioneered the use of optical fibres for communications and in 1976 built the world’s first wide band digital optical fibre communications system (140 Mbit/s between Hitchin and Stevenage) installed in BT ducts. He edited one of the first books on the technology of optical fibre communications in which he proposed the optical amplifier as now commonly used in long haul systems.

In 1978 he joined the BBC as head of its Research Department and became BBC Deputy Director of Engineering in 1984. He made personal contributions to the BBC’s work in electronic graphics; the ‘BBC MICRO’ project; HDTV and particularly digital broadcasting. NICAM stereo sound for TV was among the activities which he initiated while he was Head of Research. He played a leading role in the establishment of the technology and world-wide standards for Digital Television (a subject on which he also edited a book). The work he initiated at the BBC contributed to the establishment of the world’s first terrestrial digital radio service in 1997 and TV service in 1998. After leaving the BBC in 1993 he became a Director of Snell and Wilcox Ltd and DTI Broadcasting Technology Adviser.

He was a founder member of the DVB project, the founding Chairman of the ETSI/EBU JTC and founding co-chair of the European Digital Cinema Forum. He was also the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Visiting Professor in the Principles of Information Systems Design at the University of Bradford.

He was elected to the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1983, was also FIET and FInstP. He received Fellowships from the RTS, BKSTS and SMPTE for contributions to broadcast engineering and Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Surrey and Bradford.

In the ITU he participated actively since the late 1970s in ITU-R SG6 (previously SG10 and 11) and in ITU-T SG9 since its formation, acting as a Vice Chairman in the last two study periods before being appointed Chairman at WTSA-08 in Johannesburg. He played a major role in the drafting of the basic Digital TV Recommendation ITU-R Rec. 601, and more recently in the ITU-T network independent middleware Recommendations. He chaired the JRG1 the joint T/R Rapporteur group on middleware and was a co-chair of the joint activity of ITU-T SG9 and ITU-T SG9 on IPTV.