A technology developed by a Monroeville businessman was inducted Thursday into the Space Technology Hall of Fame.
Giorgio Coraluppi, 87, of Pittsburgh accepted the honor during a pre-recorded conference for his company’s invention of the technology behind the digital teleconference call.
Coraluppi is the founder and president of Compunetix, Compunetics and Chorus Call, companies based in Monroeville that manufacture electronic products and offer conferencing services.
He and his wife moved to the Pittsburgh area in 1964. Four years later, while Coraluppi was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, he founded Compunetics Inc. alongside two others from CMU. Their first business site was located in a rented space behind an ice cream parlor along Saltsburg Road in Penn Hills.
By 1984, Coraluppi had invented an algorithm – a complicated set of mathematical rules governed by a computer chip – that allowed thousands of callers to join in on one telephone call. It was a groundbreaking advancement in digital technology.
In 1987, NASA awarded Compunetics a $4 million contract to install the conferencing technology for the Goddard Space Flight Center. Five years later the company’s technology had replaced all of NASA’s communications systems.
Coraluppi’s company eventually earned patents for the technology, which allowed the outfit to produce the technology for commercial purposes.
Today, the technology is nearly ubiquitous, serving mainstream companies such as Verizon, First Energy, Subway and ESPN. It’s also present in several governmental agencies: the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice and Department of State.
“Teleconferencing now, more than ever, is vital to everything we do,” said Luke Sauter, a judge in this year’s Space Technology Hall of Fame. Sauter is a professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“It started as a space application so we could talk to folks in remote locations and then also bring expertise from all over the world,” he said. “That need has helped us get through this time when we can’t be close together and get that face-to-face that we used to have.”
Coraluppi thanked the Space Foundation, the organization behind the Space Technology Hall of Fame, for the recognition and the honor. He said the technology still serves as the company’s foundation for the products and services it offers.
“It is a great honor and privilege to be inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame,” he said.
Two other technologies were inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame during the ceremony. One was the traveling wave tube amplifier, which led to advances in radar, long-distance microwave and television broadcast technology.
The other technology inducted was Apollo 70, a technology that allowed doctors to remotely monitor astronauts and later became useful in hospitals.
All inductions into the hall of fame reflect how space exploration led to advancements in everyday technology.
For example, the man behind the Bowflex exercise machine originally invented a device that astronauts could use to stay strong while in space. That inventor, Paul Francis, was inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame in 2019.
This year’s technologies have proved especially useful, given the challenges brought on by covid-19, said Tom Roeder, an editor at The Gazette of Colorado Springs and another judge for the Space Technology Hall of Fame.
“If you look at the technologies that were selected for this round, these are all things that are amazing in light of what happened this year,” Roeder said.
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