(also known as Bell Labs
and formerly known as AT&T Bell Laboratories
and Bell Telephone Laboratories
) is the research
organization of Alcatel-Lucent
and previously the American Telephone & Telegraph Company
Bell Laboratories has had its headquarters at Murray Hill, New Jersey, and it has research and development facilities throughout the world.
Origin and historical locations
In 1925 Western Electric Research Laboratories and part of the engineering department of the American Telephone & Telegraph
company (AT&T) were consolidated to form Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., as a separate entity. The first president of research was Frank B. Jewett
, who stayed there until 1940. The ownership of Bell Laboratories was evenly split between AT&T and the Western Electric Company
. Its principal work was to design and support the equipment that Western Electric built for Bell System operating companies, including telephone exchange switches
. Support work for the phone companies included the writing and maintaining of the Bell System Practices (BSP), a comprehensive series of technical manuals. Bell Labs
also carried out consulting work for the Bell Telephone Companies
, and U.S. government work, including Project Nike
and the Apollo program
. A few workers were assigned to basic research, and this attracted much attention, especially since they produced several Nobel Prize
winners. Until the 1940s, the laboratory's principal locations were in and around the Bell Labs Building
in New York City
, but many of these were moved to the New York suburbs area of New Jersey
Among the later Bell Laboratories locations in New Jersey were Murray Hill, New Jersey, Holmdel, New Jersey, Crawford Hill, New Jersey, the Deal Test Site, Freehold, New Jersey, Lincroft, Long Branch, Middletown, Princeton, Piscataway, Red Bank, and Whippany, New Jersey. Of these, Crawford Hill, Murray Hill, and Whippany remain in existence. The largest grouping of people in the company was in Illinois, at Naperville-Lisle, in the Chicago area, which had the largest concentration of employees (about 11,000) prior to 2001. There also were groups of employees in Columbus, Ohio, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Breinigsville, Pennsylvania, and Westminster, Colorado. Since 2001, many of the former locations have been scaled down, or shut down entirely.
Discoveries and Developments
At its peak, Bell Laboratories was the premier facility of its type, developing a wide range of revolutionary technologies, including radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, information theory, the UNIX operating system, and the C programming language. There have been six Nobel Prizes awarded for work completed at Bell Laboratories.
During its first year of operation, facsimile (fax) transmission, invented elsewhere, was first demonstrated publicly by the Bell Laboratories. In 1926, the laboratories invented the first synchronous-sound motion picture system, and continued to produce inventions throughout its lifetime.
In 1924, Bells Labs physicist Dr. Walter A. Shewhart proposed the control chart as a method to determine when a process was in a state of statistical control. Shewart's methods were the basis for statistical process control (SPC) - the use of statistically-based tools and techniques for the management and improvement of processes. This was the origin of the modern quality movement, including the Six Sigma one.
In 1927, a long-distance television transmission of images of the Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover from Washington to New York was successful, and in 1928 the thermal noise in a resistor was first measured by John B. Johnson, and Harry Nyquist provided the theoretical analysis. (This is referred to as "Johnson noise".) During the 1920s, the one-time pad cipher was invented by Gilbert Vernam and Joseph Mauborgne at the laboratories. Bell Labs' Claude Shannon later proved that it is unbreakable.
In 1931, a foundation for radio astronomy
was laid by Karl Jansky
during his work investigating the origins of static on long-distance shortwave communications. He discovered that radio
waves were being emitted from the center of the galaxy
. In 1933, stereo signals
were transmitted live from Philadelphia
to Washington, DC
. In 1937, the vocoder
, the first electronic speech synthesizer
was invented and demonstrated by Homer Dudley
. Bell researcher Clinton Davisson
shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with George Paget Thomson
for the discovery of electron diffraction
, which helped lay the foundation for solid-state electronics
In the early 1940s, the photovoltaic cell
was developed by Russell Ohl
. In 1943, Bell developed SIGSALY
, the first digital scrambled speech transmission system, used by the Allies in World War II. In 1947, the transistor
, probably the most important invention developed by Bell Laboratories, was invented by John Bardeen
, Walter Houser Brattain
, and William Bradford Shockley
(and who subsequently shared the Nobel Prize
in Physics in 1956). In 1948, "A Mathematical Theory of Communication
", one of the founding works in information theory
, was published by Claude Shannon
in the Bell System Technical Journal
. It built in part on earlier work in the field by Bell researchers Harry Nyquist
and Ralph Hartley
, but it greatly extended these. Bell Labs also introduced a series of increasingly complex calculators through the decade. Shannon was also the founder of modern cryptography
with his 1949 paper Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems
- Model I - A Complex Number Calculator, completed January 1940, for doing calculations of complex numbers. See George Stibitz.
- Model II - Relay Calculator or Relay Interpolator, September 1943, for aiming anti-aircraft guns
- Model III - Ballistic Computer, June 1944, for calculations of ballistic trajectories
- Model IV - Bell Laboratories Relay Calculator, March 1945, a second Ballistic Computer
- Model V - Bell Laboratories General Purpose Relay Calculator, of which two were built, July 1946 and February 1947, which were general-purpose programmable computers using electromechanical relays
- Model VI - November 1950, an enhanced Model V
The 1950s saw fewer developments and less activity on the scientific side. Efforts concentrated more precisely on the Laboratories' prime mission of supporting the Bell System with engineering advances including N-carrier, TD Microwave radio relay
, Direct Distance Dialing
, Wire spring relays
, and improved switching
systems. Maurice Karnaugh, in 1953, developed the Karnaugh map
as a tool to facilitate management of Boolean algebraic
expressions. In 1954, The first photo voltaic was examined at Bell Laboratories. As for the spectacular side of the business, in 1956 TAT-1
, the first transatlantic telephone cable
was laid between Scotland and Newfoundland, in a joint effort by AT&T
, Bell Laboratories, and British and Canadian telephone companies. A year later, in 1957, MUSIC
, one of the first computer programs to play electronic music
, was created by Max Mathews
. New greedy algorithms
developed by Robert C. Prim
and Joseph Kruskal
, revolutionized computer network
design. In 1958, the laser
was first described, in a technical paper by Arthur Schawlow
and Charles Hard Townes
In 1960, Dawon Kahng and Martin Atalla invented the metal oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET
); the MOSFET has achieved electronic hegemony and sustains the large-scale integrated circuits
(LSIs) underlying today's information society. In 1962, the electret microphone
was invented by Gerhard M. Sessler
and James Edward Maceo West
. In 1964, the Carbon dioxide laser
was invented by Kumar Patel
. In 1965, Penzias and Wilson discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background
, and won the Nobel Prize in 1978. In 1966, Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing
(OFDM), a key technology in wireless services, was developed and patented by R. W. Chang. In 1968, Molecular beam epitaxy
was developed by J.R. Arthur
and A.Y. Cho
; molecular beam epitaxy allows semiconductor chips and laser matrices to be manufactured one atomic layer at a time. In 1969, the UNIX
operating system was created by Dennis Ritchie
and Ken Thompson
. The Charge-coupled device
(CCD) was invented in 1969 by Willard Boyle
and George E. Smith
The 1970s and 1980s saw more and more computer-related inventions at the Bell Laboratories as part of the personal computing
revolution. In 1970 Dennis Ritchie
developed the C programming language
as a replacement for the interpretive B for use in writing the UNIX
operating system (also developed at Bell Laboratories). In 1971, an improved task priority system for computerized switching systems
for telephone traffic was invented by Erna Schneider Hoover
, who received one of the first software patents
for it. In 1976, Fiber optics
systems were first tested in Georgia
and in 1980, the first single-chip 32-bit microprocessor
, the BELLMAC-32A was demonstrated. It went into production in 1982.
In 1980, the TDMA and CDMA digital cellular telephone technology was patented. In 1982, Fractional quantum Hall effect was discovered by Horst Störmer and former Bell Laboratories researchers Robert B. Laughlin and Daniel C. Tsui; they consequently won a Nobel Prize in 1998 for the discovery. In 1983, the C++ programming language was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup as an extension to the original C programming language also developed at Bell Laboratories.
In 1984, the first photoconductive antennas for picosecond electromagnetic radiation were demonstrated by Auston et al. This type of antenna now becomes an important component in terahertz time-domain spectroscopy. In 1984, the Karmarkar Linear Programming Algorithm was developed by mathematician Narendra Karmarkar. Also in 1984, a divestiture agreement with the American Federal government forced the break-up of AT&T: Bellcore (now Telcordia Technologies) was split off from Bell Laboratories to provide the same R&D functions for the newly created local exchange carriers. AT&T also was limited to using the Bell trademark only in association with Bell Laboratories. Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., was then renamed AT&T Bell Laboratories, Inc., and became a wholly owned company of the new AT&T Technologies unit, the former Western Electric. The 5ESS Switch was developed during this transition. In 1985, laser cooling was used to slow and manipulate atoms by Steven Chu and team. Also in 1985, Bell Laboratories was awarded the National Medal of Technology "For contribution over decades to modern communication systems". During the 1980s, the Plan 9 operating system was developed as a replacement for Unix which was also developed at Bell Laboratories in 1969. Development of the Radiodrum, a three dimensional electronic instrument. In 1988, TAT-8 became the first fiber optic transatlantic cable.
In 1990, WaveLAN
, the first wireless local area network
(WLAN) was developed at Bell Laboratories. Wireless network technology would not become popular until the late 1990s and was first demonstrated in 1995. In 1991, the 56K modem
technology was patented by Nuri Dağdeviren and his team. In 1994, the Quantum cascade laser
was invented by Federico Capasso
, Alfred Cho
, Jerome Faist and their collaborators and was later greatly improved by the innovations of Claire Gmachl
. Also in 1994, Peter Shor
devised his quantum factorization algorithm. In 1996, SCALPEL electron lithography
, which prints features atoms wide on microchips, was invented by Lloyd Harriott and his team. The Inferno operating system
, an update of Plan 9, was created by Dennis Ritchie with others, using the new concurrent Limbo programming language
. A high performance database engine (Dali) was developed which became DataBlitz in its product form.
AT&T spun off Bell Laboratories, along with most of its equipment-manufacturing business, into a new company named Lucent Technologies. AT&T retained a smaller number of researchers, who made up the staff of the newly-created AT&T Laboratories. In 1997, the smallest practical transistor (60 nanometers, 182 atoms wide) was built. In 1998, the first optical router was invented and the first combination of voice and data traffic on an Internet Protocol (IP) network was developed at the Laboratories.
2000 was an active year for the Laboratories, in which DNA machine
prototypes were developed; progressive geometry compression algorithm made widespread 3-D communication practical; the first electrically powered organic laser
invented; a large-scale map of cosmic dark matter
was compiled, and the F-15 (material), an organic material that makes plastic transistors possible, was invented.
In 2002, Jan Hendrik Schön, a German physicist, was fired after his work was found to contain fraudulent data. It was the first known case of fraud at Bell Labs.
In 2003, the New Jersey Nanotechnology Laboratory was created at Murray Hill, New Jersey.
In 2005, Dr. Jeong Kim, former President of Lucent's Optical Network Group, returned from academia to become the President of Bell Laboratories.
In April 2006, Bell Laboratories's parent company, Lucent Technologies, signed a merger agreement with Alcatel. On December 1, 2006, the merged company, Alcatel-Lucent, began operations. This deal raised concerns in the United States, where Bell Laboratories works on defense contracts. A separate company, LGS, with an American board was set up to manage Bell Laboratories' and Lucent's sensitive U.S. Government contracts.
In December 2007, it was announced that the former Lucent Bell Laboratories and the former Alcatel Research and Innovation would be merged into one organization under the name of Bell Laboratories, continuing the commitment to research at Alcatel-Lucent. This is the first period of growth following many years during which Bell Laboratories progressively lost manpower due to layoffs and spin-offs.
As of July 2008, however, only four scientists remained in physics basic research according to a report by the scientific journal Nature.
On August 28, 2008, Alcatel-Lucent announced it was pulling out of basic science, material physics, and semiconductor research, and it will instead focus on more immediately marketable areas including networking, high-speed electronics, wireless networks, nanotechnology and software.