Haines Hibbard

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Haines Hibbard
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Latest company Exxon Production Research


Biography Citation for the Reginald Fessenden Award

Contributed by Franklyn K. Levin

Although he is unknown to many members of SEG, the recipient of this year's Reginald Fessenden Award, Haines C. Hibbard, is well qualified to receive an award given to a person who has made a specific technical contribution to exploration geophysics. That contribution can be an invention or a theoretical or conceptional achievement which in the opinion of the SEG's Honor and Awards Committee and Executive Committee merits special recognition. Among the many inventions of Haines Hibbard, the one being recognized today is the binary gain amplifier. The binary gain amplifier system was the first with truly digital control to find widespread use. More than 450 systems of this type were built and used by the geophysical industry.

Advances in recording seismic data that culminated in today's systems of several digital channels form a short sequence: wiggly trace galvanometer traces on photographic paper, analog magnetic tape, and digital magnetic tape. Haines developed amplifiers for one of the first seismic analog systems, an FM system, but his great contribution was part of the revolutionary turn from analog to digital recording. Because amplitudes of signals detected during the few seconds of a standard reflection seismogram may vary over a range of a million to one while the dynamic range that can be conveniently recorded at one time is only a few thousand to one, the gain of a seismic amplifier must be changed as the signal strength changes and a method for recording the gain at every moment must be devised. Haines Hibbard's method was to increase or decrease the gain in steps of two hence the name "binary gain amplifier." A code that gives gain changes is recorded with the data. Previously used analog systems resorted to automatic gain control (AGC). AGC compresses the dynamic range but loses amplitude calibration.

Binary gain quickly became an industry standard. It maintained its dominance until the advent of instantaneous floating point amplifiers and, because of its inherent simplicity, still finds special uses. Binary gain recording with its preservation of amplitudes was the key that opened the door to today's sophisticated processing algorithms pulse shaping, multiple removal, and the like. Proper processing and amplitude preservation in turn led to new methods for interpreting lithology and to recognition of direct indicators of hydrocarbons.

Coincident with the invention of the binary gain amplifier was Haines' development of one of the first playback systems to read and process field-recorded binary gain coded tapes. Based on what would today be considered a minicomputer, that Model T of playback systems worked very well indeed. It allowed the application to seismic data of processes such as stacking, filtering, and deconvolution.

With his contributions to digital recording and processing completed, Haines passed on his final invention in the area of geophysical exploration: he developed units that automatically switch from single or clustered geophones to geophone arrays as soon as the initial energy the first kicks have arrived. The resulting records have clean beginnings. After the development of the first-kick transfer units, Haines left 27 years in geophysical research that began when he joined Carter Oil Co. in 1946 to give the same invaluable aid to the production function of Exxon Production Research Co., Carter's research successor, that he formerly gave the exploration function.

During his long and productive career, Haines contributed to many exploration developments. Before continuing to nontechnical matters, I shall list some of Haines' other exploration activities. He worked on a manometer-type surveying device and on electrical prospecting equipment. He made major contributions to Carter's linear phase amplifier. He developed circuitry needed for physical model studies and co-authored an early paper on three-dimensional solid models. His optical correlator was a marvel of simplicity and ingenuity. His first-kick units were an ingenious solution to a geophysical problem. And he was a pioneer of magnetic tape recording with the success for which SEG honors him today.

Within his chosen field of electronics, Haines C. Hibbard has few peers. Those who work with him wonder at his ability to solve technical problems as they arise. His formal education has been extensive: only actual writing of a thesis prevented Oklahoma

State University's awarding Haines a Ph.D. degree. Haines is a quiet man, a man of complete integrity, and a gentle man. He is active within his church and devoted to his wife and daughter. He has many friends and no enemies. Like a character from a novel, Haines moves through surroundings that touch but don't harm him. The tales that result startle and amuse. They include accounts of helicopter flights from the deck of the tanker turned-icebreaker, the S. S. Manhattan, and of hours spent repairing equipment while perched on the beams of a platform off Australia. At 63, Haines Hibbard is an active research man who works harder than many half his age and who can be counted on to contribute more than his share of ideas to any discussion.

The Reginald Fessenden Award is SEG's recognition of a specific technical contribution to exploration geophysics. The binary gain amplifier certainly is that but, as in past years, the recipient is as remarkable as the contribution.