A hate-love relationship with computer technology

Jonathan Landon, 37, radio frequency design engineer for L3Harris Technologies

Jonathan Landon was about 10 when he tried to program his family’s Atari computer with instructions from a book. The experience was frustrating but he eventually decided to overcome defeat by spending four years in college learning how computers work. Those classes led him to electronics, electromagnetics and antennas. He now designs antennas at L3Harris in Salt Lake City, a maker of antennas for ground vehicles, ships and aircraft.

Attracted to “hard” work

What drew me to engineering was that I heard it was hard. I wondered if I was up to the challenge. Whenever I thought about quitting, I remembered how I felt when I first looked at college course offerings and saw an antenna theory class. It’s magical to me that a big piece of metal miles away creates electromagnetic waves that induce tiny electrical currents in my radio.

Signals are the point

At Brigham Young University, I focused more on signal processing because ultimately if there’s no signal being received or transmitted, what’s the point of the antenna?

Choreographing a mechanical ballet

When I finished undergraduate, I felt like I didn’t have enough knowledge to be useful to a company. I stayed for graduate school and got involved in radio astronomy, working with a small radio telescope array on the roof of the engineering building. When you see antennas working in this mechanical ballet to steer and track a celestial object while the Earth rotates under them, it’s truly beautiful. I stuck around to get a Ph.D. in electrical engineering.

Special mission

I feel like some people have a negative view toward military aerospace. I want to make a plug for the important work we do. When my friends, neighbors and family members who have the courage to put on that uniform can talk to each other in the field or see video beamed down from an airplane showing dangers on the other side of a hill or building, it keeps them safer and helps ensure they come home.

Autonomous cars preview urban air mobility

In futuristic TV shows, everybody has rocket packs and personal flying vehicles. I would love that to be a reality but I don’t think it will be 30 years from now. The basic technology already exists but it is not cost-effective. However, I think we’re going to see a lot more self-driving cars and the coordination between those autonomous cars will be directly applicable to coordination of small individually piloted aerial vehicles. Thirty years from now, I think that we’re going to be having the kinds of discussions about flyable cars of the future that we’re having right now about self-driving cars.

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A hate-love relationship with computer technology