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The Evolution of Bell Labs

The Evolution of Bell Labs

The Evolution of Bell Labs

1875 - Bell Patent Association was formed Feb. 27 with Thomas Sanders and Gardiner Greene Hubbard financing the telegraph experiments of Alexander Graham Bell. On June 2, Bell and Watson test the "gallows" telephone and transmit the first speech sounds by wire. (Fagen 1975, p. 7).

1876 - Gardiner Green Hubbard filed a patent application for Bell Feb. 14, granted March 7. On March 10, Bell made the first test of an improved liquid transmitter with the words "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you." (Fagen 1975, p. 11).

1877 - Bell Telephone Company was organized July 9, and included Thomas Watson. Two days later, Alexander Graham Bell married Mabel Hubbard, the daughter of Gardiner Greene Hubbard, and while honeymooning in Europe, Bell wrote a prospectus to attract investors: "I will impress upon you all the advisability of keeping this end in view, that all present arrangements of the telephone may be eventually realized in this grand system. . ." (quoted in Fagen 1975, p. 23).

1878 - Bell Telephone Company incorporated in Massachusetts July 30; Theodore N. Vail hired as General Manager of the Company. (Fagen 1975, p. 29).

1879 - National Bell Telephone Company incorporated March 13, consolidating the Bell Telephone Co. and the New England Telephone Co. under the presidency of William H. Forbes, son-in-law of Ralph Walso Emerson and leader of a group of Boston investors. Emile Berliner was hired as a telephone inspector. (Fagen 1975, p. 30).

1880 - American Bell Telephone Co. incorporated April 17, to raise capital to purchase the equipment of the rival companies owned by the Western Union Telegraph Company. (Fagen 1975, p. 31).

1881 - Western Electric Manufacturing Company of Illinois was purchased by American Bell Nov. 26 and after merging the equipment plant of Charles Williams of Boston, was reorganized as the Western Electric Co. to manufacture equipment for American Bell, effective Feb. 6, 1882. (Fagen 1975, p. 32).

1885 - American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) was incorporated March 3 in New York to expand the long lines connections across the U.S. of the Bell system. Theodore Vail was President 1885-87 and 1907-1919. In November, Dr. Hammond V. Hayes from MIT became Director of the Mechanical Dept. created June 1884 in Boston, responsible for research and development. (Fagen 1975, p. 34, 37).

1899 - AT&T assumed all assets and became the publicly-held parent company of the Bell system Dec. 30. (Fagen 1975, p. 34).

1907 - Western Electric Engineering Dept. created by Theodore Vail in New York to centralize research within AT&T, in the building at 463 West Street. (Fagen 1975, p. 42).

1911 - Research Branch organized under E. H. Colpitts within the Western Electric Engineering Dept. to do scientific research and development. H. D. Arnold from the University of Chicago joined the Branch. (Fagen 1975, p. 44).

1925 - Bell Telephone Laboratories organized Dec. 27 to consolidate research labs from AT&T and Western Electric; began operations Jan. 1, 1925 under John Carty at 463 West Street in New York. (Fagen 1975, p. 52).

1984 - AT&T Bell Laboratories became the new name for Bell Telephone Laboratories Jan. 1, remaining a wholly-owned subsidiary of the new AT&T after divestiture of the 7 regional baby Bell operating companies.

1991 - NCR (formerly National Cash Register 1884-1974) was acquired by AT&T to become AT&T Global Information Solutions.

1993 - McCaw Cellular was acquired by AT&T for $11.5 billion

1995 - AT&T announced September 30 its restructuring into three separate, independent companies: AT&T Corp. to provide communication services; Lucent Technologies to provide communications products; and NCR Corp. to provide computer products and services. (Allen 1996).

1996 - AT&T Laboratories became the new name for AT&T Bell Laboratories, remaining a wholly-owned subsidiary of AT&T Corp.; Lucent became an independent company on October 1, and NCR became an independent company by December 31.

References:

  • Allen, Robert E. "When the Whole Becomes Less than the Sum of Its Parts: The Story Behind the AT&T Breakup." article by the Center for the Study of American Business, Washington University in St. Louis, November 1996.
  • Fagen, M.D., ed. A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System: The Early Years (1875-1925). New York: Bell Telephone Laboratories, 1975.
  • Hochheiser, Sheldon. History of AT&T. June 6, 1997.

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