Milestone-Proposal:Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., 1925-1983

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Docket #:2012-05

This proposal has been submitted for review.

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation?

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., the First 60 Years, 1925-1984

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

(Note that there will be four plaques in order to provide space to list the achievements)


Between 1925 and 1984, Bell Labs researchers made numerous fundamental contributions to wireless and satellite communications including the first radio astronomical observations (1933), the Friis transmission formula (1946), the cellular radio concept (1947), characterization of point-to-point microwave propagation (1950's-70's), the first active communications satellite, Telstar (1962), the first observation of the cosmic background radiation (1965) and the Advanced Mobile Phone System, AMPS (1977).


Between 1925 and 1984, Bell Labs researchers made numerous fundamental contributions to digital signal processing and computing including the first electronic speech synthesizer (1937), the Karnaugh map (1953), computer generated music (1957), digital computer art (1962), the UNIX operating system (1969), the C programming language (1970), the AWK programming language (1977), the first single-chip 32-bit microprocessor (1980) and the C++ programming language (1983).


Between 1925 and 1984, Bell Labs researchers made numerous fundamental contributions to solid state and optical devices including the discovery of electron diffraction (1927), the transistor (1947), zone refining (1951), the solar cell (1954), theory of the laser (1958), the MOSFET (1959), the electret microphone (1962), the CO2 laser (1964), molecular beam epitaxy (1968), the charge coupled device (1969), modified chemical vapor deposition (1974) and the fractional quantum hall effect (1982).


Between 1925 and 1984, Bell Labs researchers made numerous fundamental contributions to communications theory and networks including the negative feedback principle (1927), the theory of the one-time pad cipher (1945), Hamming codes (1947), information theory (1948), modern cryptography (1949), the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable (1956), Direct Distance Dialing (1950's), the first transcontinental microwave relay networks (1950s), greedy algorithms for network design (1960s) and orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (1966).

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

North Jersey

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: IEEE North Jersey Section
Senior Officer Name: Naresh Chand

Unit: IEEE North Jersey Section
Senior Officer Name: Ken Oexle

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE North Jersey Section
Senior Officer Name: Naresh Chand

Unit: IEEE North Jersey Section
Senior Officer Name: Ken Oexle

Unit: IEEE North Jersey Section
Senior Officer Name: Howard Leach

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: IEEE North Jersey
IEEE Section Chair name: Naresh Chand

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Howard Leach
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, 600 Mountain Avenue, Murray Hill, New Jersey 07974


Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. In the lobby of the Hall of Innovation museum adjacent to the lobby of Building 6, Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, 600 Mountain Vae, Murray Hill, NJ

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

In the entrance hall lobby

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

The Alcatel-Lucent Bell labs 6 lobby and the Hall of Innovation have security protection. The building lobby is accessible to the public at the milestone dedication ceremony and during business hours according to Alcatel-Lucent building security procedures.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

Bell Labs transformed the way people communicate at work and home through the invention and development of many technical innovations that were necessary for the modern tele-communication systems and other advanced technologies. From its founding in 1925, Bell Telephone Laboratories made numerous significant contributions to telecommunications and related fields that led to the information age and the digital era. Some of these contributions include: information theory, systems engineering, digital signal processing, digital transmission and switching, data networking, cellular systems, (800) service, the transistor, solar cell, integrated circuit technology, communication satellites, high capacity undersea cable, touch-tone dialing, voice and video compression, and the Unix operating system.

The following provides a brief summary description of some of the most significant innovations at BTL within the 1925-84 time period that are in the milestone citation.

Information Theory was developed by Claude E. Shannon at Bell Telephone Laboratories to find fundamental limits on signal processing operations such as compressing data and on reliably storing and communicating data. It is the fundamental underpinnings of modern computer and communications technology.

Systems engineering is the interdisciplinary field of engineering that focuses on how complex engineering projects should be designed and managed over the life cycle of the project. It originated in Bell Telephone Laboratories in the 1940s for the development and implementation of complex systems. It is widely used by companies and government organizations. The NASA Apollo Project and the International Space Station is an example of such systems.

The UNIX operating System and C programming language were created at Bell Labs between 1969 and 1972. UNIX made large-scale networking of diverse computing systems - and the Internet - practical. UNIX and its spin-offs are the operating system of most large computers, Internet servers, and smart phones. The C language brought an unprecedented combination of efficiency and expressiveness to programming. C and its descendants are the most widely used programming languages in the world.

The Transistor was invented in 1947 as a replacement for bulky and inefficient vacuum tubes and mechanical relays. The transistor revolutionized the entire electronics world. The transistor sparked a new era of modern technical accomplishments from manned space flight and computers to portable radios and stereos. As embodied in integrated circuits, it is the basic building block of modern electronics and is manufactured by the multi- billions every year.

The first practical Solar cell was developed in Bell Labs in 1954. It converts the sun’s energy into electricity. It was first used on a large scale for satellites and is now an important factor in the sustainable creation of electricity.

Cellular systems were first proposed in 1947 Bell Labs publications. The primary innovation was the development of a network of small overlapping cell sites supported by a call switching infrastructure that tracks users as they moved through a network and pass their call from one site to another without dropping the connection. Bell Labs installed the first commercial cellular network in Chicago in the 1970s. Today, it is the basis of a rapidly growing cellular and mobile smart phone industry.

The first high capacity transatlantic telephone cable, which was based on innovations from Bell Labs, was deployed in 1956.

Bell Labs was the pioneer in communications satellites. In 1962 it built and successfully launched the first orbiting active communications satellite (Telstar I), which transmitted the first live television across the Atlantic.

Digital transmission and electronic switching; In 1962, Bell Labs developed the first digitally multiplexed transmission of voice signals. This innovation not only created a more economical, robust and flexible network design for voice traffic, but also laid the groundwork for today's advanced network services such as 911, 800-numbers, call-waiting and caller-ID. In addition, digital networking was the foundation for the convergence of computing and communications.

LASER - the invention of the laser, which stands for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation,” originated in 1958 with the publication of a scientific paper by Bell Labs researchers. Lasers launched a new scientific field and opened the door to a multi-billion-dollar industry that includes applications in medicine, communications, and consumer electronics.

Bell Labs built the first single-chip digital signal processor in 1979. The DSP is the engine of today's multimedia revolution. DSP technology is in multimedia PCs and in the modems that connect computers to the Internet. It's in wireless phones, answering machines, and voice-mail; it's in video games talking toys, DVD players and digital cameras.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

As a regulated monopoly, Bell Labs had to share its innovations with others under terms of the federal government's regulatory agreements.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

As this milestone includes about 20 of the most significant BTL innovations within 1925-1984, it would very difficult to comment about similar achievements for each one.

However, I have the following on the Solar Cell.

In 1954, three BTL researchers, G.L. Pearson, Daryl Chapin, and Calvin Fuller, demonstrated a silicon solar panel of cells capable of six percent energy-conversion efficiency when used in direct sunlight. Up until that time only about one percent energy-conversion efficiency had been achieved.

It should be noted that, in my opinion, there are no similar achievements to these 20 significant innovations developed at BTL from 1925 - 1984. We were limited to these 20 based on the citation word count limitation. A list of BTL, Inc. significant innovations from 1925 through 1983 numbers about 213 as complied by Dr. A. Michael Noll, former BTL researcher. The list may be included in the following book he co-authored: Bell Labs Memoirs: Voices of Innovation by A Michael Noll and Michael Geselowitz, published October 2011.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

Encyclopedia Britannica Bell Laboratories, vol 2, p70 (2007)

Crystal Fire, The Birth of the Information Age; Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson, W. W. Norton & Co. Inc. (1997)

Bell Labs from Wikipedia

A History of Science and Engineering in the Bell System, National Service in War and Peace (1925-1975), M. D. Fagen. (1978)

Physical Sciences (1925-1980) S. Millman, (1983)

Communications Sciences (1925-1980) S. Millman, (1984)

Transmission Technology (1925-1975) E. F. O’Neill, (1985)

Electronics Technology (1925-1975) F. M. Smits, (1985)

Impact, M. D. Fagen (Editor), 1971; A History of Engineering & Science in the Bell System – Communications Sciences (1925-1980), S. Millman (Editor), 1984; A History of Engineering & Science in the Bell System – Physical Sciences (1925-1980), S. Millman (Editor),1983.

Bell Labs Memoirs: Voices of Innovation by A Michael Noll and Michael Geselowitz, published October 2011.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).