Bell Laboratories’ support for basic science and engineering led to major advances in telephony spanning terminals, switching, transmission, services, and operations. Out of the Bell System research program also came many world-famous innovations, including the transistor, information theory, the laser, the solar cell, communications satellites, and fiber-optic communications. Perhaps the most notable benefit of the research was the creation of the semiconductor industry as a result of the mandatory public licensing of Bell’s patent for the transistor. In addition, research in basic science at Bell Labs was recognized by six Nobel prizes for strides in quantum mechanics, solid-state physics, and radio astronomy.
A number of other companies were also involved at the time in developing new telecommunications technologies and equipment. The work of companies like GTE Automatic Electric, TRW Vidar, and Northern Telecom, along with Bell’s own Western Electric, pushed telephony forward through advances in handset design and digital switching, for example.
Bell Labs also served as an important nucleus for the broader telecommunications research community: in the predivestiture era, university researchers and telecommunications research leaders from around the world commonly spent summers or sabbaticals at Bell Labs, where they could conduct exploratory research that could not have been undertaken elsewhere.
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