Patented: History of Inventions


Transistors & Telecommunication Satellites: Bell Labs

Season 1, Ep. 42

The transistor; solar panels; the first telecommunications satellite; cell phone networks; UNIX code; information theory. All these and more were invented in one place: Bell Labs.

Bell Labs was where the future, which is what we now happen to call the present, was conceived and designed. It was the research and development arm of AT&T, which had monopoly control of the American phone system for much of the 20th century, and had more than ten thousand employees in its heyday.

Why is Bell Labs not a household name?

How did the transistor chip come to be?

Which genius rode a unicycle around the office while smoking a cigar?

Our guest today is Jon Gertner, author of The Idea Factory as we explore the secret to Bell Labs’ success.

With thanks to AT&T Archives and History Center for the archive recordings.

The episode was produced by Freddy Chick


The senior producer is Charlotte Long


For more History Hit content, subscribe to our newsletters here.


If you'd like to learn even more, we have hundreds of history documentaries, ad-free podcasts, and audiobooks at History Hit - subscribe today!

More Episodes