I worked first on a photoelectric proximity fuze and succeeded in solving the basic problem of making a circuit such that the fuze would have equal sensitivity over a large range of ambient light levels. My circuit gave an output approximately proportional to the logarithm of the current from a photoelectric cell by using a fundamental characteristic of a vacuum tube diode. My demonstration of a breadboard of this circuit to Charlie Lauritsen and Willy Fowler showed that I got the same size pulse by waving my hand in front of a photocell when illuminated by full sunlight as I got in a darkened room. Their exuberant response not only made my day, it propelled the photoelectric fuze into the realm of serious consideration.
But soon thereafter, I was transferred to work on the radio proximity fuze. Dick Roberts had built a simple self-excited r.f. oscillator operating at about 70 MHz after the fashion of the one that the British called an autodyne circuit. In brief, the plate current of the one-tube oscillator with a short antenna was affected by the reflected signal from a nearby conductor. The basic scheme was that the transient pulse as a fuze passed an aircraft could be amplified so as to trigger a gaseous tube (thyratron) to fire the detonator of the projectile. This device became the focus of a truly huge development.
For the first time in my life I worked under conditions in which urgency was the motto, multiple approaches to a problem were fostered, money was no object, and the first approximation to a solution was the prime objective. As Tuve put it, "I don't want you to waste your time saving money."