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Bell Labs: 1942

Bell Labs: 1942

March 19, 1942, in the birthplace of the transistor. "Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, New Jersey. Drafting room. Voorhees, Walker, Foley & Smith, architect." Large-format acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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Milton Terry

I worked with Milton Terry in 1984 and 1985. Fascinating man...he taught me many things. I'd be happy to share some stories.


Did you perhaps know a Milton Terry? My grandfather worked there as well for 30 years.

Two questions:

What are behind those little doors to the left of each window? They look like breaker panels but there wouldn't be one at every window.

And what are the little inverted triangle signs?

Let there be light!

It must have been a glorious room to work in on the right day, with a view of the woods and a cool (or cooling) breeze. Nary a desk lamp in sight.

For the machine in the lower-left-hand corner, perhaps a motor-powered tabulator, sheet cutter, or inker of some kind? The motor perhaps works through a speed-reducing worm gear, turning the shaft that comes off its left side; above the motor-driven shaft is another with regularly spaced metal (I'd guess) wheels on it, either for slicing, cutting, or marking. That's my best guess!

Well Lit!

Between the open windows, and the lights, this room is well lit; understandable when you realize what small, precise details they were working on....

BTW - the machine in the lower left corner of the picture; any ideas/guesses what it might be?

Mixed progress

My oh my! Look at those drawing boards. CAD does have its advantages. As well as drawbacks.

- No more messing up a final drawing with a blot.
- Better control of interfaces.
- More designers in any given floor space.
- Easier to change designs without re-doing a complete sheet from scratch.
- Spilled coffee will ruin your keyboard, not your work.

- A propensity for sloppy work - quick, quick, finish and release it.
- Less thought going into a design before laboriously putting pen to paper, so to say.
- Less (spine friendly) work in different positions (sitting, standing, ...) unless the bosses spring for those electrically elevated desks.
- Less individual office space for each designer.
- Fewer professional and knowledgeable people on the shop floor. These days one has to add details to drawings which were part of the trade and common knowledge back then. Works both ways, though, fewer designers have that knowledge, too.


Wasting time gazing at the ceiling

Those diffuser light fixtures were popular for a long time. I remember my elementary school had those in the ceilings. I used to look up at them endlessly and think of them as molds for Jello or fancy cakes.

I remember this room!

I worked at Bell Labs in Murray Hill in the early 1980s, and I recognize the room - all divided up into cubicles, this was the word processing room. Don't understand why they have the windows open with snow on the trees, though.

[Because the room is hot. - Dave]

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