Bell LabsNokia Bell Labs (formerly named Bell Labs Innovations (1996–2007), AT&T Bell Laboratories (1984–1996) and Bell Telephone Laboratories (1925–1984)) is an industrial research and scientific development company owned by Finnish company Nokia. With headquarters located in Murray Hill, New Jersey, the company operates several laboratories in the United States and around the world. Bell Labs has its origins in the complex past of the Bell System.
In the late 19th century, the laboratory began as the Western Electric Engineering Department and was located at 463 West Street in New York City. In 1925, after years of conducting research and development under Western Electric, the Engineering Department was reformed into Bell Telephone Laboratories and under the shared ownership of American Telephone & Telegraph Company and Western Electric.
Researchers working at Bell Labs are credited with the development of radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, the photovoltaic cell, the charge-coupled device (CCD), information theory, the Unix operating system, and the programming languages B, C, C++, and S. Nine Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work completed at Bell Laboratories.
Origin and historical locations
Bell's personal research after the telephoneIn 1880, when the French government awarded Alexander Graham Bell the Volta Prize of 50,000 francs (approximately US$10,000 at that time; about $ in January 2019's dollars) for the invention of the telephone, he used the award to fund the Volta Laboratory (Alexander Graham Bell Laboratory) in Washington, D.C. in collaboration with Sumner Tainter and Bell's cousin Chichester Bell. The laboratory was variously known as the Volta Bureau, the Bell Carriage House, the Bell Laboratory and the Volta Laboratory.
It focused on the analysis, recording, and transmission of sound. Bell used his considerable profits from the laboratory for further research and education to permit the "[increased] diffusion of knowledge relating to the deaf": resulting in the founding of the Volta Bureau (c. 1887) which was located at Bell's father's house at 1527 35th Street N.W. in Washington, D.C. Its carriage house became their headquarters in 1889.
In 1893, Bell constructed a new building close by at 1537 35th Street N.W., specifically to house the lab. This building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1972.
After the invention of the telephone, Bell maintained a relatively distant role with the Bell System as a whole, but continued to pursue his own personal research interests.
Early antecedentThe Bell Patent Association was formed by Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Sanders, and Gardiner Hubbard when filing the first patents for the telephone in 1876.
Bell Telephone Company, the first telephone company, was formed a year later. It later became a part of the American Bell Telephone Company.
American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T) and its own subsidiary company, took control of American Bell and the Bell System by 1889.
American Bell held a controlling interest in Western Electric (which was the manufacturing arm of the business) whereas AT&T was doing research into the service providers.
In 1884, the American Bell Telephone Company created the Mechanical Department from the Electrical and Patent Department formed a year earlier.
Formal organization and location changes
In 1896, Western Electric bought property at 463 West Street to station their manufacturers and engineers who had been supplying AT&T with their product. This included everything from telephones, telephone exchange switches, and transmission equipment.
In 1925, Bell Laboratories was developed to better consolidate the research activities of the Bell System. Ownership was evenly split between Western Electric and AT&T. Throughout the next decade the AT&T Research and Development branch moved into West Street.
Bell Labs also carried out consulting work for the Bell Telephone Company, U.S. government work, and a few workers were assigned to basic research. The first president of research at Bell Labs was Frank B. Jewett who stayed there until 1940.
By the early 1940s, Bell Labs engineers and scientists had begun to move to other locations away from the congestion and environmental distractions of New York City, and in 1967 Bell Laboratories headquarters was officially relocated to Murray Hill, New Jersey.
Among the later Bell Laboratories locations in New Jersey were Holmdel, Crawford Hill, the Deal Test Site, Freehold, Lincroft, Long Branch, Middletown, Neptune, Princeton, Piscataway, Red Bank, Chester, and Whippany. Of these, Murray Hill and Crawford Hill remain in existence (the Piscataway and Red Bank locations were transferred to and are now operated by Telcordia Technologies and the Whippany site was purchased by Bayer).
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 Indianapolis, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; North Andover, Massachusetts; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Reading, Pennsylvania; and Breinigsville, Pennsylvania; Burlington, North Carolina (1950s–1970s, moved to Greensboro 1980s) and Westminster, Colorado. Since 2001, many of the former locations have been scaled down or closed.The Holmdel site, a 1.9 million square foot structure set on 473 acres, was closed in 2007. The mirrored-glass building was designed by Eero Saarinen. In August 2013, Somerset Development bought the building, intending to redevelop it into a mixed commercial and residential project. A 2012 article expressed doubt on the success of the newly named Bell Works site however several large tenants had announced plans to move in through 2016 and 2017
Discoveries and developments
Bell Laboratories was, and is, regarded by many as the premier research facility of its type, developing a wide range of revolutionary technologies, including radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, information theory, the operating system Unix, the programming languages C and C++, solar cells, the charge-coupled device (CCD), and many other optical, wireless, and wired communications technologies and systems.
1920sIn 1926, the laboratories invented an early example synchronous-sound motion picture system, in competition with Fox Movietone and DeForest Phonofilm.
In 1924, Bell Labs physicist Walter A. Shewhart proposed the control chart as a method to determine when a process was in a state of statistical control. Shewhart's methods were the basis for statistical process control (SPC): the use of statistically based tools and techniques to manage and improve processes. This was the origin of the modern quality movement, including Six Sigma.
In 1927, a Bell team headed by Herbert E. Ives successfully transmitted long-distance 128-line television images of Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover from Washington to New York. In 1928 the thermal noise in a resistor was first measured by John B. Johnson, and Harry Nyquist provided the theoretical analysis; this is now termed 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.
1930sIn 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 1931 and 1932, experimental high fidelity, long playing, and even stereophonic recordings were made by the labs of the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski. In 1933, stereo signals were transmitted live from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. In 1937, the vocoder, an electronic speech compression device, or codec, and the Voder, the first electronic speech synthesizer, were developed and demonstrated by Homer Dudley, the Voder being demonstrated at the 1939 New York World's Fair. 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.
1940sIn 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. The British wartime codebreaker Alan Turing visited the labs at this time, working on speech encryption and meeting Claude Shannon.
Bell Labs Quality Assurance Department gave the world and the United States such statisticians as Walter A. Shewhart, W. Edwards Deming, Harold F. Dodge, George D. Edwards, Harry Romig, R. L. Jones, Paul Olmstead, E.G.D. Paterson, and Mary N. Torrey. During World War II, Emergency Technical Committee – Quality Control, drawn mainly from Bell Labs' statisticians, was instrumental in advancing Army and Navy ammunition acceptance and material sampling procedures.
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 1947, Richard Hamming invented Hamming codes for error detection and correction. For patent reasons, the result was not published until 1950. 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.
1950sIn 1952, William Gardner Pfann revealed the method of zone melting which enabled semiconductor purification and level doping.
The 1950s also saw developmental activity based upon information theory. The central development was binary code systems. 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, E-repeaters, 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 modern solar cell was invented 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 1959, Mohamed M. Atalla and Dawon Kahng invented the metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET), and presented their invention in 1960. The MOSFET has achieved electronic hegemony and sustains the large-scale integrated circuits (LSIs) underlying today's information society.
In December 1960, Ali Javan and his associates William Bennett and Donald Heriot successfully operated the first gas laser, the first continuous-light laser, operating at an unprecedented accuracy and color purity. In 1962, the electret microphone was invented by Gerhard M. Sessler and James Edward Maceo West. Also in 1962, John R. Pierce's vision of communications satellites was realized by the launch of Telstar. In 1964, the Carbon dioxide laser was invented by Kumar Patel. The research of Philip W. Anderson into electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems led to improved understanding of metals and insulators for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1977. In 1965, Penzias and Wilson discovered the cosmic microwave background, for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1978. Frank W. Sinden, Edward E. Zajac, Kenneth C. Knowlton, and A. Michael Noll made computer-animated movies during the early to mid-1960s. Ken C. Knowlton invented the computer animation language BEFLIX. The first digital computer art was created in 1962 by Noll. 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, Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson created the computer operating system UNIX for the support of telecommunication switching systems as well as general purpose computing. From 1969 to 1971, Aaron Marcus, the first graphic designer involved with computer graphics, researched, designed, and programmed a prototype interactive page-layout system for the Picturephone. In 1969, the charge-coupled device (CCD) was invented by Willard Boyle and George E. Smith, for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009. In the 1960s, the New York City site was sold and became the Westbeth Artists Community complex.
1970sThe 1970s and 1980s saw more and more computer-related inventions at the Bell Laboratories as part of the personal computing revolution. In 1972, Dennis Ritchie developed the compiled programming language C as a replacement for the interpreted language B which was then used in a worse is better rewrite of UNIX. Also, the language AWK was designed and implemented by Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger, and Brian Kernighan of Bell Laboratories. In 1972, Marc Rochkind invented the Source Code Control System.
In 1970, A. Michael Noll invented a tactile, force-feedback system, coupled with interactive stereoscopic computer display. In 1971, an improved task priority system for computerized telephone exchange switching systems for telephone traffic was invented by Erna Schneider Hoover, who received one of the first software patents for it. In 1976, Optical fiber 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.
The 1970s also saw a major central office technology evolve from crossbar electromechanical relay-based technology and discrete transistor logic to Bell Labs-developed thick film hybrid and transistor–transistor logic (TTL), stored program-controlled switching systems; 1A/#4 TOLL Electronic Switching Systems (ESS) and 2A Local Central Offices produced at the Bell Labs Naperville and Western Electric Lisle, Illinois facilities. This technology evolution dramatically reduced floor space needs. The new ESS also came with its own diagnostic software that needed only a switchman and several frame technicians to maintain. The technology was often touted in the Bell Labs Technical Journals and Western Electric magazine (WE People).
1980sIn 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 1985, the programming language C++ had its first commercial release. Bjarne Stroustrup started developing C++ at Bell Laboratories in 1979 as an extension to the original C language.
In 1984, the first photoconductive antennas for picosecond electromagnetic radiation were demonstrated by Auston and others. This type of antenna became an important component in terahertz time-domain spectroscopy. In 1984, Karmarkar's algorithm for linear programming was developed by mathematician Narendra Karmarkar. Also in 1984, a divestiture agreement signed in 1982 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. 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. In 1985, the modeling language A Mathematical Programming Language AMPL was developed by Robert Fourer, David M. Gay and Brian Kernighan at Bell Laboratories. Also in 1985, Bell Laboratories was awarded the National Medal of Technology "For contribution over decades to modern communication systems". During the 1980s, the operating system Plan 9 from Bell Labs was developed extending the UNIX model. Also, the Radiodrum, an electronic music instrument played in three space dimensions was invented. In 1988, TAT-8 became the first transatlantic fiber-optic cable. Bell Labs in Freehold, NJ developed the 1.3-micron fiber, cable, splicing, laser detector, and 280 Mbit/s repeater for 40,000 telephone-call capacity.
Arthur Ashkin invented optical tweezers that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers. A major breakthrough came in 1987, when Ashkin used the tweezers to capture living bacteria without harming them. He immediately began studying biological systems and optical tweezers are now widely used to investigate the machinery of life.
In the early 1990s, approaches to increase modem speeds to 56K were explored at Bell Labs, and early patents were filed in 1992 by Ender Ayanoglu, Nuri R. Dagdeviren and their colleagues. In 1994, the quantum cascade laser was invented by Federico Capasso, Alfred Cho, Jerome Faist and their collaborators. 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 operating system Inferno, an update of Plan 9, was created by Dennis Ritchie with others, using the then-new concurrent programming language Limbo. A high performance database engine (Dali) was developed which became DataBlitz in its product form.
In 1996, 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 small number of researchers who made up the staff of the newly created AT&T Labs.
In 1997, the smallest then-practical transistor (60 nanometers, 182 atoms wide) was built. In 1998, the first optical router was invented.
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, physicist Jan Hendrik Schön 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 Institute of Technology Biomedical Engineering Laboratory was created at Murray Hill, New Jersey.
In 2005, Jeong H. Kim, former President of Lucent's Optical Network Group, returned from academia to become the President of Bell Laboratories.
In April 2006, Bell Laboratories' parent company, Lucent Technologies, signed a merger agreement with Alcatel. On 1 December 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 Innovations, with an American board was set up to manage Bell Laboratories' and Lucent's sensitive U.S. government contracts. In March 2019, LGS Innovations was purchased by CACI.
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. This is the first period of growth following many years during which Bell Laboratories progressively lost manpower due to layoffs and spin-offs making the company shut down for a short period of time.
As of July 2008, however, only four scientists remained in physics research, according to a report by the scientific journal Nature.
On 28 August 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.
In 2009, Willard Boyle and George Smith were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the invention and development of the charge-coupled device (CCD).
Gee Rittenhouse, former Head of Research, returned from his position as Chief Operating Officer of Alcatel-Lucent's Software, Services, and Solutions business in February 2013, to become the 12th President of Bell Labs.
On 4 November 2013, Alcatel-Lucent announced the appointment of Marcus Weldon as President of Bell Labs. His stated charter was to return Bell Labs to the forefront of innovation in Information and communications technology by focusing on solving the key industry challenges, as was the case in the great Bell Labs innovation eras in the past.
In July 2014, Bell Labs announced it had broken "the broadband Internet speed record" with a new technology dubbed XG-FAST that promises 10 gigabits per second transmission speeds.
In 2014, Eric Betzig shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in super-resolved fluorescence microscopy which he began pursuing while at Bell Labs in the Semiconductor Physics Research Department.
On 15 April 2015, Nokia agreed to acquire Alcatel-Lucent, Bell Labs' parent company, in a share exchange worth $16.6 billion. Their first day of combined operations was 14 January 2016.
In September 2016, Nokia Bell Labs, along with Technische Universität Berlin Deutsche Telekom T-Labs and the Technical University of Munich achieved a data rate of one terabit per second by improving transmission capacity and spectral efficiency in an optical communications field trial with a new modulation technique.
In 2018, Arthur Ashkin shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on "the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems" which was developed at Bell Labs in 1980s.
Nobel Prizes and Turing AwardsNine Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work completed at Bell Laboratories.
The Turing Award has been won four times by Bell Labs researchers.