How Bell Labs Missed the Microchip

The man who pioneered the transistor never appreciated its full potential

14 min read
Photo: AT&T Archives and History Center
Photo: AT&T Archives and History Center

img Flawed Hero: Jack A. Morton led Bell Labs’ effort to transform the transistor from a research curiosity into a commercial product. But his aversion to microchips would later cost AT&T dearly. Photo: AT&T Archives and History Center

At 4:15 a.m. on 11 December 1971, firemen extinguishing an automobile blaze in the New Jersey hamlet of Neshanic Station were shocked to discover a badly charred body slumped face-down in the back seat. It proved to be the remains of Jack A. Morton, the vice president of electronic technology at Bell Telephone Laboratories, in Murray Hill, N.J. He had last been seen talking with two men at the nearby Neshanic Inn just before its 2 a.m. closing—about 100 meters from the abandoned railroad tracks where his flaming Volvo sports coupe was spotted. Local police quickly arrested and booked the men for murder.

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What Is Wi-Fi 7?

Great capacity, less latency—here's how IEEE 802.11be achieves both

4 min read
A purple circle with the number 7 in the middle. Curved purple lines radiate out from the circle to the left and right.
Shutterstock

New generations of Wi-Fi have sprung onto the scene at a rapid pace in recent years. After a storied five-year presence, Wi-Fi 5 was usurped in 2019 by Wi-Fi 6, only for the latter to be toppled a year later in 2020 by an intermediate generation, Wi-Fi 6E. And now, just a couple years later, we’re on the verge of Wi-Fi 7.

Wi-Fi 7 (the official IEEE standard is 802.11be) may only give Wi-Fi 6 a scant few years in the spotlight, but it’s not just an upgrade for the sake of an upgrade. Several new technologies—and some that debuted in Wi-Fi 6E but haven’t entirely yet come into their own—will allow Wi-Fi 7 routers and devices to make full use of an entirely new band of spectrum at 6 gigahertz. This spectrum—first tapped into with Wi-Fi 6E—adds a third wireless band alongside the more familiar 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands.

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Video Friday: Robot Training

3 min read
A red bipedal robot with wheels for feet and hands stands upright at the top of steps with the city of Philadelphia in the background

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

IEEE ARSO 2022: 28–30 May 2022, LONG BEACH, CALIF.
RSS 2022: 21 June–1 July 2022, NEW YORK CITY
ERF 2022: 28–30 June 2022, ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
RoboCup 2022: 11–17 July 2022, BANGKOK
IEEE CASE 2022: 20–24 August 2022, MEXICO CITY
CLAWAR 2022: 12–14 September 2022, AZORES, PORTUGAL
CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today’s videos!

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