A History of Bell Labs — the Cradle of Communication
In order to capitalize on his groundbreaking invention, Alexander Graham Bell founded the Bell Telephone Company in 1877. As franchises quickly sold, the American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) was founded to contain the sprawling industry that would emerge from behind its doors as its tendrils reached across North America, connecting the continent.
“Ma Bell” would go seemingly unchallenged for almost 100 years, mainly due to their continued investments in science and research. From its beginnings in 1925, Bell Telephone Laboratories (“Bell Labs”) was the official research and development wing of AT&T. The fledgling unit was tasked to make their widespread, yet primitive telephony service more reliable and less expensive. There were no features, only bugs.
For decades, Bell Labs would hire top scientists from the best schools to explore new realms of physics, mathematics & chemistry in efforts to transform the communications industry and the way that we connect with one another. Diving deep into the organization’s history, Jon Gertner’s book, The Idea Factory, explores the origins of some of the twentieth century’s most important inventions and inventors, telling a story of a small group of career engineers who overcame challenges with innovative solutions. Here was the cradle of communication.
The Idea Factory — Hard Work Pays Off For Bell Labs
The research, of course, paid off. The labs endeavored to invent the future. From the first-working transistor to the laser and cell phones, Bell Labs ushered technology into a new era. The book examines this golden age through now, leading to the personal computer, the smartphone and the internet. However, it may come as a surprise that our current paradigm wasn’t born out of Silicon Valley, no matter what the Californian hive-mind may have you think.
Bell Labs was the birthplace of protocols and technologies that are still in use today, providing the backbone of our infrastructure. They literally wrote the books “The Unix Programming Environment” and “The C Programming Language” — Why? Because they were busy creating these technologies and documentation was an obvious byproduct. These fundamental tomes have led to many more important technologies and more abstraction from the source, all thanks to the research arm of a big-brother-esque monopoly.