Bell Labs

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Bell Telephone Laboratories (or sometimes AT&T Bell Laboratories), best known as Bell Labs, was originally the research and development arm of the United States Bell System. It was the premier corporate facility of its type, developing a range of revolutionary technologies from telephone switches to specialized coverings for telephone cables, including the famous discovery of the transistor.


In 1925, Walter Gifford, then president of AT&T, established Bell Telephone Laboratories Inc as a separate entity which took over work previously conducted by the research division of Western Electric's engineering department. Half of Bell Labs was owned by Western Electric, the other half being owned by AT&T.

Discoveries made at Bell Labs include:

After the 1984 divestiture agreement with the government that broke up AT&T, Bellcore was split off from Bell Labs to provide the same R&D functions for the newly created local exchange carriers. AT&T was also limited to using the Bell trademark in association with Bell Labs.

In 1996 AT&T spun off Bell Labs, along with most of its equipment-manufacturing business, into a new company named Lucent Technologies. AT&T retained a smaller number of researchers to form AT&T Laboratories.

In 2002 Jan Hendrik Schön, a German physicist, was fired from Bell Labs after his work was found to contain fraudulent data; it was the first case of fraud in the lab's history. Over a dozen of Schön's papers were found to contain fictional or altered data, including a paper on molecular-scale transistors that was portrayed as a breakthrough.

At its height, Bell Labs had research and development facilities all over the USA,though mostly concentrated in the majority of areas in New Jersey; but before the telecomm bust of 2000, the Naperville-Lisle location had the single largest concentration of people (about 11,000). Among the locations were Westminster in Colorado, Crawford Hill, Freehold, Holmdel, Lincroft, Long Branch, Middletown, Murray Hill, Piscataway, Red Bank, Whippany, Naperville, Lisle,Columbus in Ohio, Allentown and Breinigsville.

Bell Labs is currently located in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Within the past five years, many of the former Bell Labs locations have been scaled back or shutdown entirely.


The work done by Bell Labs was broadly divided into three categories: research, systems engineering, and development.

Research created the theoretical underpinnings for telecommunications. It covered subjects such as mathematics, physics, material sciences, behavioral sciences, and computer programming theory.

Systems engineering concerned itself with conceiving the highly complex systems that make up the telecommunication networks.

Development, by far the largest of Bell Labs' activities designed the specific systems -- both hardware and software -- needed to build the Bell System's telecommunications networks.

Calculators built by Bell Labs

  • Model VI - November 1950, an enhanced Model V.

See also

External links

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