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The End of AT&T

Ma Bell may be gone, but its innovations are everywhere

15 min read
Technicians attach the 77-kilogram Telstar 1 satellite to a launching rocket for its journey into orbit in 1962.
Innovation Machine: Technicians attach the 77-kilogram Telstar 1 satellite to a launching rocket for its journey into orbit in 1962.
Photo: Lucent Technologies/Bell Labs

It’s 1974. Platform shoes are the height of urban fashion. Disco is just getting into full stride. The Watergate scandal has paralyzed the U.S. government. The new Porsche 911 Turbo helps car lovers at the Paris motor show briefly forget the recent Arab oil embargo. And the American Telephone & Telegraph Co. is far and away the largest corporation in the world

AT&T’s US $26 billion in revenues—the equivalent of $82 billion today—represents 1.4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. The next-largest enterprise, sprawling General Motors Corp., is a third its size, dwarfed by AT&T’s $75 billion in assets, more than 100 million customers, and nearly a million employees.

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IEEE President’s Note: Looking to 2050 and Beyond

The importance of future-proofing IEEE

4 min read
Photo of K. J. Ray Liu
IEEE

What will the future of the world look like? Everything in the world evolves. Therefore, IEEE also must evolve, not only to survive but to thrive.

How will people build communities and engage with one another and with IEEE in the future? How will knowledge be acquired? How will content be curated, shared, and accessed? What issues will influence the development of technical standards? How should IEEE be organized to be most impactful?

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The Device That Changed Everything

Transistors are civilization’s invisible infrastructure

2 min read
A triangle of material suspended above a base

This replica of the original point-contact transistor is on display outside IEEE Spectrum’s conference rooms.

Randi Klett

I was roaming around the IEEE Spectrum office a couple of months ago, looking at the display cases the IEEE History Center has installed in the corridor that runs along the conference rooms at 3 Park. They feature photos of illustrious engineers, plaques for IEEE milestones, and a handful of vintage electronics and memorabilia including an original Sony Walkman, an Edison Mazda lightbulb, and an RCA Radiotron vacuum tube. And, to my utter surprise and delight, a replica of the first point-contact transistor invented by John Bardeen, Walter Brittain, and William Shockley 75 years ago this month.

I dashed over to our photography director, Randi Klett, and startled her with my excitement, which, when she saw my discovery, she understood: We needed a picture of that replica, which she expertly shot and now accompanies this column.

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