Sunday, April 29, 2012

Imaging being able to work in a place where you have the opportunity to be as creative as you want. No pressures about budgets or money because the company is worth Billions of dollars. You get awards for what you do and provide a good or service that benefits everyone everywhere. Well, then imagine working for Bell Labs. It is the offspring of the giant company Ma Bell that is now gone but their laboratory is alive and well.
They have stuff there that can look like a Contemporary Art project but everything has a function that we all benefit from. There they created the first telephone that won three physicists at the lab a nobel prize. They invented in 1947 the first transistor. With out it , your cell phone would be the size of a building. Americans are spoiled. Give us a new gaget and we just take it and use it without even a thank you to the creative process that gave it to us .
Most of us are living through the micro-electronics revolution. The quest for everything getting smaller. In 1960 the first Helium Neon Laser was invented that was about four feet long. It was the first laser that was able to give a visual continuous beam of light and was invented at Bell Labs when the laboratory was the research place for AT&T. Notice that the company names keep changing throughout time but thankfully the creative place stays the same.
In ten years the scientists there have been able to shrink the 4 foot laser contaner to about the size of a grain of salt. Edward Eckart is the Archivast for Alcatel-Lucent, the AT&T spinnoff company that operated the laboratory. He says that the company knew that the invention of the laser was going to be the next big game changer in the tele-communications network and they were right. Suddenly data could travel at the speed of light over telephone lines.
Now it is difficult to name a product that doesn’t use lasers. The place has produced scanners, CD Players, Fax machines, Solar Cells, Digital Cameras and most importantly Telstar, the first satellite that remarkably was able to transmit the first pictures from space to America. So, stupid selfish Americans, please give credit to your very own greatest laboratory that exists in your country. At the very least, know that it exists!
It is a place that can do innovation from A to Z . Jon Gertner has written a book on the history of Bell Labs called “The Idea Factory” Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation. In his book he explores why the place was and still is so successful. He notices that the creative laboratory is connected to a monopoly that gives it a steady stream of money, and it employes the smartest people in the world.
The scientists there managed to win Seven Nobel Peace Prizes for their work on products that benefit the world. The place was founded in 1925 that throughout the years eventually employed 25,000 people world wide. Most of the employees work in and around Murry Hill, New Jersey. So, if you are driving around in Jersey please be careful. I don’t want you running over some great scientist that is going to make something that can improve the quality of my life.
No bottom line pressures meant that the creative process there can flow freely. Ironically, the creative juices there produced things that were ahead of its time. At the 1964 World’s Fair in New York the first picture phone was released to the public. That was nearly 50 years ago. In the 1990’s the first cell phones were appearing. In 1947 the concept was developed for cell phones.
When AT&T was broken up in 1984, suddenly 4.7 Billion dollars wasn’t made available. Now the most recent innovation is a device that is the size of a rubrics cube called “The Light Radio” to replace all those large cell phone towers everywhere. Size does matter. In this place everything is a quest to be smaller.
Today Bell Labs employs 1,500 people. Throughout the years, Bell Labs has received more than 17,000 patents. That is like one patent a day for 50 years. The number is close to 30 thousand now. They filed 600 patents just last year alone, which translates to 7 per day. The research is narrower in tune to customer’s needs. Their budget is still over $3 Billion Dollars a year. They aren’t as large as they were before but the culture, the knowledge, the innovation and the devices that can change the world ARE being developed here in America. Be Proud.

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