The legacy of Bell Labs
In the second half of the 20th century, Bell Labs was a hotbed of unfettered creativity, churning out inventions, patents, and Nobel Prizes.
From the TV to the fax machine, to the telephone itself -- if Bell Labs didn't invent it, they probably perfected it. "Studio 360's" Michelle Mercer looks back at the little lab from New Jersey that could.
Bell Labs was the crown jewel of industrial research laboratories -- most homes today have at least 25 products that are based on Bell Labs technologies. The first hi-fi recording, for example, was made there. And in 1962, Bell developed Telstar -- the world's first communications satellite -- beating NASA itself to the punch.
Imagine all the modern artists of 1920s Paris, or all the jazz musicians who recorded for Blue Note in the 1960s -- in science, Bell Labs was that creative. It recruited the most gift science PhDs and put them to work, with room to improvise.
For decades, Bell Labs was buoyed by post-war idealism, and lavishly funded by AT&T's monopoly on long-distance phone calls. But that changed after AT&T's divestiture in 1984. Managers labored to justify basic research against the need to prove share-holder value.
Today, Bell Labs is owned by Lucent, which employs a fraction of the researchers who once flourished in its scientific Camelot.
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