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A few months ago I ordered a book on a whim called "The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation." [0]

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how much I learned. There were amazing minds at Bell Labs who were given free reign to innovate (as a direct result of AT&T's huge monopoly and revenue stream) and ended up laying the groundwork for many ideas and concepts we take for granted today.

The book is so dense with information and anecdotes but I'd still consider it a page-turner. I highly recommend it.


sethbannon · 2017-05-14 · Original thread
For those interested in learning more about Bell Labs, I highly recommend "The Idea Factory". It's a history of Bell Labs, focusing both on the biographies of the engineers and also a meta story about how you create an organization that consistently produces impactful innovation.

derstander · 2017-04-14 · Original thread
I was working as my department's internal R&D director a couple years ago and I was interested in the first question as well. Note that that position probably sounds way more important than it actually was. Coincidentally, it was at one of the places Alan Kay mentions in an answer to the linked Quora question.

I pretty much focused on 3 different entities: DARPA, Xerox PARC, and Bell Labs. These are the books I read to try to answer that question:

[1] Dealers of Lightning. [2] The Department of Mad Scientists. [3] The Idea Factory.

I personally thought that having access to a diverse set of disciplines & skills and a reasonable budget were two of the more important things.

blueatlas · 2016-12-09 · Original thread
The book "The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation"[1] is a must read for those interested in Shannon and the history of Bell Labs.


SaberTail · 2016-06-29 · Original thread
I've read that the Bell Labs offices were designed in order to promote collaboration. It was laid out such that there'd be long hallways between the offices and things like restrooms and stairs, so that there'd be greater chances of colleagues bumping into each other and talking about work.

I don't have a copy of The Idea Factory[1], where I recall reading this handy, but that's my best recollection.


I read the same thing in this book! I'm from Holmdel NJ, the old location of bell labs. Really cool how they used to invent so much.
CodeSheikh · 2015-06-02 · Original thread
I suggest reading "The Idea Factory - The great age of American Revolution". The book talks about the experiences of all these exceptional engineers and scientists that were brought together under the umbrella of Bell Labs and as a result a plethora of technologies came out of it (digital computers, networks etc etc). What we need today is another similar revolution but in the field of bioengineering and health sciences.

blueatlas · 2015-01-22 · Original thread
The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner

sthu11182 · 2014-03-25 · Original thread
My point it is there can never be a Bell Labs again. Very few organizations have the resources to fund basic sciences and have all the talent they had under one roof.

Some argue that you can again, but I just don't see how it is possible. See, e.g.,

In reading The Idea Factory[1] it became incredibly clear that Bell Labs only released and licensed a great deal of this technology as the results of various antitrust settlements that plagued the company throughout its entire existence. Also, part of the role of the labs appears to have been to give the company something to "show off" whenever congress or the DOJ complained about the extraction of monopoly rents. I highly recommend the book, it was really fascinating to see the degree to which many of our assumptions about the functioning of the labs and its relationship with the corporation are in fact historically inaccurate.


mindcrime · 2012-06-22 · Original thread
The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation -

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