We are a global leader in development and research drawing on an unparalleled 140-year heritage of creation and innovation.
More than 140 years ago, the first patent was filed to invent the telephone. Since that time AT&T Labs has been driving innovation – everything from bringing sound to motion pictures, to inventing the transistor radio to software development – and much more.
The Telephone – On March 10, 1876, the telephone was born when Alexander Graham Bell called to his assistant, "Mr. Watson! Come here! I want you!” beginning a revolution in communications and commerce that has helped accelerate economic development.
Claude Shannon Information Theory – Birth of the theory considered the Magna Carta of communication, Shannon's Information Theory, and was published three decades later in his 1948 Bell System Technical Journal paper "The Mathematical Theory of Communication."
The Bell Lab’s Voder (Voice Operating Demonstrator) – Developed by Homer Dudley, it was the first machine to create electronically synthesized human speech using keyboard and foot pedals to play the machine and emit speech. The Voder was demonstrated at the 1939-1940 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows in New York and the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco.
First Mobile Telephone Call – A Bell Labs team, including Alton Dickieson, D. Mitchell and future AT&T CEO H.I. Romnes, worked more than a decade to make the first mobile telephone call possible. On June 17, 1946, a driver in St. Louis, Mo., pulled out a handset from under his car's dashboard, placed a phone call and made history. By 1948, wireless telephone service was available in almost 100 cities and highway corridors. Customers included utilities, truck fleet operators and reporters. However, with only 5,000 customers making 30,000 weekly calls, the service was far from commonplace.
Transistor – Physicists John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, working under William Shockley, invented the transistor in 1947. As the first solid-state amplifier and switch of its time, it was a potential replacement for both vacuum tubes and electromechanical relays. The transistor was one of the top inventions of the entire 20th century and helped provide a foundation for all modern electronics.
Communications Satellites – Until the 1960s, voice communications between North America and other continents was possible but expensive. AT&T Labs launched Echo, a giant, experimental balloon off of which messages could be bounced. Two years later, Telstar was sent into orbit, the world's first active communications satellite. For the next two decades, communications satellites played a major role in expanding both international and domestic long distance calling and television transmission. Today most long distance calls are carried by fiber optics and submarine cable, but communications satellites play a role in television transmission, including direct broadcasts to home satellite dishes with digital television.
UNIX and the Internet – In reality, the internet was launched with the development of the UNIX operating system in 1969, and the internet itself would not exist today if it were not for telecommunications networks, the electronic gateway that connects you to the rest of the world. Over the past 30 years, AT&T Labs has made many contributions to the development of the internet and to computer software, including languages such as C and C++ developed at AT&T Labs.
Cellular Phones – AT&T Labs developed car phones in the 1940s and continued to seek improvements. Until recently, mobile telephones were rare, limited by a lack of available communications channels. The big breakthrough came when AT&T Labs divided wireless communications into a series of cells, then automatically switched callers as they moved so that each cell could be reused. This led to the development of cellular phones and made today's mobile communications possible.
HDTV – HDTV is a big leap forward from the 1951 broadcast standards, with color and visual clarity approaching that of 35mm film and with CD-quality sound. However, HDTV requires high-speed signal processing and a receiver with enough specialized computer power to decode and expand HDTV signals. AT&T Bell Labs with its experience in high-speed digital switching is working to make HDTV work, and to assemble a simulation system for showing to the FCC.
Voice Recognition Call Processing (VRCP) – VRCP, the first nationwide voice-enabled service, ushered in a new era of automated call center services for both AT&T and the telecom industry by automatically, reliably, and robustly automating a significant percentage of the ‘Operator Assisted’ 0+ calls in the AT&T network. It’s simple five-word vocabulary – “calling card, collect, third party, person-to-person, and operator” – lets customers use their voice instead of touch-tones to enter billing information.
Machine Learning – We pioneered a new breed of machine learning algorithms including Support Vector Machines and AdaBoost. These algorithms are the heart and soul of all machine learning research worldwide. Today, they are being commonly used as large-margin classifiers for natural language processing and data mining.
Video Recommendation System – AT&T researchers led a multi-national group that beat out thousands of other teams to win the $1M Netflix Prize, a competition to build the most accurate movie recommendation engine. The algorithms were used to build an internal TV program recommender engine for customers of our IPTV service, U-verse.
RCloud & Nanocubes – Two open source initiatives. RCloud is a software for data scientists, won an Infoworld Bossie award for Best Open Source Big Data tools, and Nanocubes a large-scale geo-spatial visualization tool. It was awarded a Gold Medal for Research and Business Optimization at the 2014 Edison Awards, highlighting excellence in innovation in the business community. Nanocubes also received a Gold Stevie for the Best New Product or Service of the Year.
ECOMP – We introduced ECOMP, the engine of our software-centric network, publicly through our whitepaper and John Donovan’s Open Networking Summit keynote. We also asked the industry to provide feedback on our platform and share interest in it being released into open source so people could contribute to the code and advance the platform.
Acumos – We collaborated with Tech Mahindra to build an open source artificial intelligence (AI) platform, Acumos, hosted by The Linux Foundation that makes it easy to build, share and deploy AI applications. The platform will provide a marketplace for accessing, using and enhancing those applications.