There are now at least 1200 registered international conferences each year. Many of these convene in United Nations buildings at New York or Geneva which are well equipped for such gatherings. Ten to fifteen percent of the yearly totals, however, are agencies whose substantive business may take them on conference missions to remote geographical areas. These are -field- conferences and they are often quartered in local hotels or public buildings where provisional technical arrangements become necessary. To meet the specialized needs of such conferences, portable systems are employed. These are required primarily for the control of microphones and the distribution of oral interpretations. Demountable booths of light construction are also necessary for the acoustical insulation of intepreters. Attendance at field conferences, including spectators, may range anywhere between 200 to 2000 persons. Because of the size of the gatherings and the fact that interpretations issue simultaneously with proceedings in the original tongue, distribution is practicable only by means of a system terminating in headphones. In contemporary systems, distribution is accomplished either by means of a reticular audio system or inductively by means of a -wireless- system. Generally, the most involved aspect of the conference problem in the field is that of distribution. Public and private agencies, in increasing numbers, are availing themselves of oral interpretation systems for the conduct of affairs entailing international cooperation. Many operate with limited budgets, and the cost of the service often proves to be a crucial matter. There is a continuing need for improvements to bring the operating, shipping, and maintenance costs down to reasonable levels. This article briefly surveys the evolving technology relevant to portable conference systems.
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