Before Google

Google seems like a revolutionary company in some respects. Google Labs is just being shuttered, but it’s been chock full of experimental tools and toys for years, all free. Very cool. Employees are encouraged (required?) to set ridiculous quarterly performance goals for themselves – point being that if you think small and incremental, that’s all you get. They want creativity and order-of-magnitude advances.

Know what was cool like that once upon a time? Bell Telephone Labs.

AT&T at midcentury did not demand instant gratification from its research division. It allowed detours into mathematics or astrophysics with no apparent commercial purpose. Anyway so much of modern science bore directly or indirectly on the company’s mission, which was vast, monopolistic, and almost all-encompassing.

That’s a snippet from The Information, which I’m just beginning to read, and with glee.

One more:

The transistor [1948] sparked a revolution in electronics, setting the technology on its path of miniaturization and ubiquity, and soon won the Nobel Prize for its three chief inventors. For the laboratory it was the jewel in the crown.

But it was only the second most significant development of that year….

 

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