Bell Laboratories (also known as Bell Labs) was established in 1925 as a research and development organization of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). At its peak (from mid 1940s to late 1980s) Bell Labs was considered the most prominent research institution in the world, having 30,000 staff with 4,000 Ph.Ds and an annual budget of US$3 billion. There have been seven Nobel Prizes awarded for work completed at Bell Labs.
For 90 years, Bell Labs has discovered or invented a wide range of revolutionary technologies in communication and computing. The most important discovery at Bell Labs is the transistor effect discovered by Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley in 1947. Transistors replaced vacuum tubes and ushered in the Modern Electronics Age. Bell Labs also invented many important semiconductor devices including the thyristor, HBT, JFET, silicon solar cell, MOSFET, IMPATT diode, and CCD. In addition, Bell Labs developed most of the basic semiconductor processing technologies including the zone refining, ion implantation, growth of single-crystal silicon, diffusion, oxide masking and molecular-beam epitaxy.
Dr. Sze was very lucky because his years at Bell Labs (1963-1989) were in the Golden Era of the company. Bell Labs provided a stimulating and challenging environment in which I was welcomed, inspired and abundantly assisted. My main contribution at Bell Labs was the discovery of the floating-gate memory effect with Dawon Kahng in 1967. This seminal discovery has given rise to a large family of memory devices including EEPROM and Flash memory. The floating-gate memory effect is probably the 2nd most important discovery in Bell Labs' history, because it has revolutionized the information-storage technology, ushered in the Digital Age, and brought unprecedented benefits to humankind.