NYT commentary: Bell Labs as compared to innovation today [telecom]

The New York Times had a commentary piece on 2/26/2012 on the many accomplishments of Bell Laboratories and how their methods could help inspire and improve innovation today. He does a comparitive analysis on the research environment at Bell Labs and research today.


"Why study Bell Labs? It offers a number of lessons about how our country's technology companies -- and our country's longstanding innovative edge -- actually came about. Yet Bell Labs also presents a more encompassing and ambitious approach to innovation than what prevails today. Its staff worked on the incremental improvements necessary for a complex national communications network while simultaneously thinking far ahead, toward the most revolutionary inventions imaginable. "

"Consider what Bell Labs achieved. For a long stretch of the 20th century, it was the most innovative scientific organization in the world. On any list of its inventions, the most notable is probably the transistor, invented in 1947, which is now the building block of all digital products and contemporary life."

"Other major innovations:

-- The silicon solar cell, the precursor of all solar-powered devices, its researchers were awarded the first patent for a laser, and colleagues built a host of early prototypes.

-- the first communications satellites;

-- the theory and development of digital communications;

-- the first cellular telephone systems. What's known as the charge- coupled device, or CCD, was created there and now forms the basis for digital photography.

-- the first fiber optic cable systems and subsequently created inventions to enable gigabytes of data to zip around the globe;

-- Its computer scientists developed Unix and C;

-- Bell Labs researchers composed papers that significantly extended the boundaries of physics, chemistry, astronomy and mathematics.

-- Bell Labs engineers focused on creating extraordinary new processes (rather than new products) for Ma Bell's industrial plants. In fact, "quality control" -- the statistical analysis now used around the world as a method to ensure high-quality manufactured products -- was first applied by Bell Labs mathematicians. "

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