Bell Labs Org Chart

I've always been curious about the story of Bell Labs – how it was formed, why it was successful, its challenges and struggles, innovation engine, people, its organizational structure, operations, and its legacy. The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner is an excellent albeit slightly inaccurate summary of what, how, and why of Bell Labs. After finishing the book, I came across a curious listing on eBay. Without hesitation, I instantly purchased the Bell Labs Pictorial Directory of the Design Engineering Center (Dept 375) published on May 1, 1980. The cover design by itself is eye-catching with the good ol' Ma Bell logo on the top-right corner.

This pictorial directory gives an abstract glimpse into the operations of Bell Labs' "Idea Factory" simply through the titles of the departments and how they were organized. A few of these departments and teams are obsolete (e.g. Drafting group), nevertheless, there is much to learn/drool about.

I was curious – how does Big Tech research compare to Bell Labs? I can't name a single thing from Google X or Amazon 126, Apple or Microsoft Research departments. Perhaps a faint idea of drones deliveries, balloon weather projects, AR/VR tech, failed chat apps, quantum something, and a lot of PR. Listing Bell Labs' major inventions really put things into perspective: Laser, Solar-cells, Communications Satellites, Touch-tone telephones, Transistor, UNIX, C language, Digital Signal Processing (DSP), Cellular Telephones, Data Networking, Charge-coupled device (CCD), Information Theory, Television, Sound motion pictures, and a total of 8 Nobel Prizes in Physics.

Bell Labs was massive and operational for multiple decades, but it wouldn't hurt for the current Big Tech leadership to look back at the history and have a hard contemplation of what's going on with the current research. I think it would be difficult to replicate Bell Labs, if ever. Needless to say, I would kill to work at Bell Labs in the heydays, probably in the Precision Graphics and Computer Applications Group as I wear these shiny rose-tinted glasses. I want to work with all these super cool people of the bygone era.

Here is the entire Design Engineering Center org-chart. Mind you, this is just Dept 375. I don't know how many other departments existed at Bell Labs. It was just huge:

Original scans:

Bell Labs Pictorial Directory

Download as a PDF.

The end.


Edit 1: Big Bang Theory was actually not discovered at Bell Labs, but its discovery was facililated by Bell Labs. Thank you to Ray Osborne for the correction.

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