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Wireless Networking

Ma Bell Stifled Innovation, AT&T May Do the Same 354

An anonymous reader writes "AT&T recently announced it plans to acquire T-Mobile to create the largest wireless network in the US. If the deal is allowed to complete, it will create only three major players in the industry with Verizon being a close second and Sprint being a distant third. Sprint, along with consumer rights groups, have already cried foul. They argue that AT&T's proposed acquisition will stifle competition and innovation."
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Ma Bell Stifled Innovation, AT&T May Do the Same

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  • by jrmcferren ( 935335 ) <robbie.mcferren@gma i l . c om> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @11:11AM (#35653220) Journal

    I can name two really quick. Transistors and UNIX.

  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @11:23AM (#35653390) Homepage

    Here's a compiled list from a linked website. URL below.

    Data Networking

    Since the transmission of the first facsimile in 1925, Bell Labs has explored ways to use networks to deliver more than just voice traffic. In the late 1940s, researchers demonstrated the first long-distance remote operation of a computer by connecting a teletypewriter in New Hampshire with a computer in New York. Throughout the '80s and '90s, Bell Labs worked to increase modem speeds and pioneered the first trial of Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technology. Today, DSL is becoming a popular way to transform regular copper phone lines into high-speed data connections, giving consumers faster access to the Internet.

    The Transistor

    Developed 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. Today, billions of transistors are manufactured weekly.

    Cellular Telephone Technology

    In a paper in 1947 Bell Labs was the first to propose a cellular network. 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. Since then Bell Labs has continued to innovate in the wireless area, recently creating digital cellular telephone technology offering better sound quality, greater channel capacity, and lower cost.

    Solar Cells

    While there were theories and activities to harness the sun’s energy dating back to the 1800s, Bell Labs, in 1954, was the first to actually build a device that used the sun’s power to create practical amount of electricity.


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

    Digital Transmission and 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.

    Communications Satellites

    Bell Labs was the pioneer in communications satellites. In 1962 it built and successfully launched the first orbiting communications satellite (Telstar I). Telstar was unique in that it had the ability to receive a signal, amplify it, and then transmitted it back to elsewhere on earth . . . which is, after all, the core of what a communications satellite does. This technology allowed telephones calls to be bounced from coast to coast and around the world. The satellite was powered by Bell Labs solar cells and transistors – two other Bell Labs pioneering inventions.

    Touch-Tone Telephone

    First introduced by Bell Labs in 1963, touch-tone replaced rotary dials. This ushered in a new generation of telephone services and capabilities including voice mail and telephone call center applications. In a recent survey of Americans, touch-tone dialing was named the most important business communications advance of the last century.

    Unix Operating System and C Language

    The Unix operating system and the C programming language, closely intertwined in both origin a

  • by travisb828 ( 1002754 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @11:49AM (#35653746)
    That AT&T died in 2005 when it was bought by SBC. The new AT&T is SBC with the AT&T name, and Bell Labs was spun off in 1996 by the original AT&T to become Lucent. Lucent was then merged with Alcatel to become Alcatel-Lucent. Meanwhile the Bell Labs Holmdel Complex [wikipedia.org] is sitting vacant.
  • Nit (Score:5, Informative)

    by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @11:58AM (#35653872)
    The company called "AT&T" is not, was not, and has only a tenuous relationship with the entity "Ma Bell," American Telephone a Telegraph. The company called AT&T is actually the old SBC, Southwestern Bell Communications, one of the RBOCs, that took over AT&Ts name and trademarks after buying the AT&T Corporation in 2005.
  • by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @12:25PM (#35654282)

    The assertion that the Bell System was an "unnatural" monopoly is a bit of a straw man, nobody claims that AT&T came to run the whole system on its own. What's remarkable is that between Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt most of the progressive/populist pressure on the government was to nationalize the telephone system, as has been done in just about every other jurisdiction of the Earth. FDR rejected this, ironically considering his reputation today, and instead chose the cartel solution, such that there was still a nominal "private" company running the phone system for a profit, while it was protected from competition enough to do all the things the nationalized carriers were doing, like undertaking huge capital expenditures on undersea cables and trunks, and expanding telephony to rural areas where wired telephone service has never been profitable.

    Where all of these critiques fall flat is in the rigid line drawing around acts of corporations and the acts of state. A sufficiently influential company possesses statelike powers in any real-world society, and will always try to meld government policy to its design; any government powerful enough to defend property rights will perforce have the power to decide what is and what is not ownable, and this power will always be drawing arbitrary lines protecting business plan X from business plan Y. This is unavoidable and arguing as if this is "unnatural" is a bit of a con.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak