The scientific discoveries and technological innovations produced by Bell System research and engineering were critical not only to the evolution of global telecommunications but, more widely, they had a considerable impact on the technological base of the global economy and, indeed, on our daily lives.
Bell Labs is the source of many significant contributions, of course, in the area of telephony, but also in memory devices, imaging devices, system organization, computers and software technology, as well as acoustics, optics, switching, transmission, wireless and data communication. New principles, new materials, new devices, and new systems from Bell Telephone Laboratories resulted in new industries, hundreds of new products, and thousands of new jobs. The invention of the transistor in 1947, and subsequent advances in related solid-state device and circuit technology formed the basis of a multibillion dollar global industry and ultimately enabled the digital world. Shannon’s seminal paper titled “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” published over 60 years ago, gave birth to Information Theory and has stood as the guiding foundation for communications scientists and engineers in their quest for faster, more efficient, and more robust communications systems ever since.
The charge-coupled device (CCD), a technology that transforms patterns of light into useful digital information, is the basis for many forms of modern digital imaging. It has launched entirely new industries and markets and is widely used in devices as diverse as digital cameras, video cameras, and bar code readers as well as in security monitoring, medical endoscopy, modern astronomy and video conferencing. Optical technology and systems, from earliest advances in lasers to low-loss fiber, opto-electronic waveguide devices, and high capacity WDM transmission systems have enabled worldwide connectivity to build a truly global community. Cellular telephone service, the concept that multiple lower-power transmitters could be spread throughout a region employing automatic call handoff and frequency reuse changed the face of communications. Multiple input multiple output (MIMO) smart antenna technology in concert with LTE, based on OFDM technology, will define next generation wireless, delivering wider coverage and higher throughput.
“Technological innovation” is more than just invention. It is a process, often long and costly, of transforming new scientific knowledge into feasible technology, introducing it to use, and making its benefits available to the public. “Technical integration” is intended to emphasize the more subtle flow of an intangible—engineering information and understanding. Not only has Bell Labs innovated, but it also showed the world technical integration of the innovations. The Bell System Technical Journal was a key enabler for this achievement.
With this posting of the Bell System Technical Journal from volume 1 issue 1 in July 1922 to the final issue published in December 1983, we are pleased to be able to open the vault of this knowledge to our global technical colleagues.