Michael Babb, long-time Control Engineering editor, dies

Michael P. Babb passed away April 6, 2011, after a short illness. Babb began his editorial career with Control Engineering in 1985. Babb was recognized globally for 26 years of writing and editing about automation and control systems. Leave a remembrance of Mike, if you'd like, using the link below.
By Mark T. Hoske, Frank Bartos, Control Engineering April 12, 2011

Michael Babb, Control Engineering, Control Engineering Europe editorMichael P. Babb passed away April 6, 2011, after a short illness. After working in areas of applications programming and engineering services for nuclear instrumentation, Babb began his editorial career with Control Engineering in 1985. Babb was recognized globally for 26 years of writing and editing about automation and control systems, first noted as Control Engineering associate editor in the February 1985 edition, managing editor in November 1986, and editor-in-chief in November 1987, succeeding Ed Kompass. Babb also held posts of senior editor, international editor, and editor of Control Engineering Europe.

Under Babb’s editorial leadership and journalistic example, Control Engineering continued to develop its reputation as a premier U.S. technology journal. With a global outlook from its 1954 beginning, the publication widened its international reach with Control Engineering International in 1993, later renamed Control Engineering Europe, which continues publishing today under a CFE Media-IML Group agreement. See Control Engineering’s global publications.

In 1999, Babb relocated to the U.K., near London, with his family, to work on Control Engineering Europe, after years living in Elgin, IL, and working at Control Engineering while it was based in Barrington, IL, under Technical Publishing, then in Des Plaines, IL, at Cahners Publishing Co. (Control Engineering was subsequently published by Reed Business Information, and, as of June 2010, by CFE Media. www.cfemedia.com)

Frank Bartos, a long-time Control Engineering editor and continuing contributing content specialist, said Babb’s “journalistic style shaped that magazine into a well-recognized, respected pan-European publication in the English language. The myriad meaningful articles he wrote reflected true passion for his work. Particularly his overview editorials about industrial control companies and their technology drew wide interest. Michael truly came into his own while working at CE Europe. Michael reached a large, loyal readership in Europe and beyond. He was welcome in the top offices of world-class automation companies. An anecdotal vignette about Michael involves his entrance to a major press conference. One of the hosts was overheard remarking to another, ‘Automation control is now arriving.’

“Many readers, friends, and colleagues will sorely miss his passing,” Bartos said. “However, they surely will remember Michal Babb as the consummate interviewer, editor, writer, and interpreter of automation technology. He was all that and more.”

Michelle Palmer, MediaSolve partner, recalled a mid-1990s meeting on flow-chart programming with Babb and other Control Engineering staff, prior to her time as Control Engineering publisher: “Michael always seemed to have fun learning about the automation and control space, and his move to Europe was very exciting for him."

Peter Jago, owner, IML Group, noted Babb’s “ability to communicate the intricacies of convergent technologies, in a clear, concise, interesting and informative manner…. A consummate professional, held in the highest regard by the people that worked with him and the market he served, his death is untimely, coming as it does just a few months after his retirement from the publication that really was his pride and joy and stands today as a fitting testimony to his talent.”

Babb’s wife, Sharon, preceded him in death in 2004. He has two daughters, Sarah and Melissa. He earned an Indiana University degree in physics. A family note said: “He had been sick a short time and his passing will be mourned by so many who knew him.  Memorial arrangements were made for April 11, 2011, at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses located at the intersection of Mirador Crescent and Walter Rd in the Uplands, Swansea.  Condolences may be sent to the family at 12 Kimberley Rd, Sketty, Swansea SA2 9DL.”

Links to some Michael Babb articles

First known bylines for Babb were in April 1985, under the Control Engineering “Bookshelf” department page, Babb provided information and comments on several recently published books, “Measurement and Instrumentation for Control,” “Power Electronics and Controls,” and “Demystifying Artificial Intelligence.” Of the last, Babb said, in part, “while many are pushing ahead with the technological challenges of AI, nobody is studying the potential marketplace for AI products… Not to worry; the authors tell us AI is here to stay, and give us plenty of reasons why.”

Read Babb’s first editorial, November 1987, in Control Engineering: Yes, But… Will It Run in the Dark?

50, 25, 10 years ago (50th Anniversary column, March 2004, cites a March 1994 piece called) PLC Users Get New Packing Option: traditional rack-mounted PLC is beginning to look old fashioned! The micro has become the darling of the PLC industry

Standards for Windows running with fieldbus networks presented at PC & automation event (May 1, 1998)

ABB introduces world’s first wireless proximity sensor (May 15, 2002) – Hannover, Germany – ABB Stotz-Kontakt presented the first pre-production samples of a new wireless proximity switch that promises to eliminate the task of cabling sensors on production machines.

Cheap motors costing U.K. manufacturers millions (May 31, 2002) – London, U.K. – British industry is wasting millions of pounds annually through the use of poor reliability motors.

On-Machine Controls (27 June 2008, Control Engineering Europe) – Improved environmental ruggedness is opening up more applications for on-machine control options.

Safe acceleration: Automating the world’s largest and fastest machine – Global Perspectives: The CERN accelerator and its safety is controlled and monitored by 130 control systems featuring ‘hardened’ automation technology.

Those wishing to publish remembrances of Michael Babb may do so to at this Ask Control Engineering blog posting. (To prevent spam, we need to approve submissions; please be patient.)

– Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, www.controleng.com, with help from Frank Bartos, contributing content specialist