SHREWSBURY: RECONNECTING WITH BELL LABS

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It was Standing Room Only, when Jon Gertner came to the Green for a presentation on his book THE IDEA FACTORY: BELL LABS AND THE GREAT AGE OF AMERICAN INNOVATION…and on May 7, the author returns for an encore. (File photo by Trish Russoniello) 

In a 2012 feature that appeared here on redbankgreen, author Jon Gertner described Bell Labs as a facility that “operated like a national laboratory… a place that believed in the rich exchange of ideas.”

For his last appearance at a local library, the science, tech and business journalist found himself with an overflow crowd that forced a relocation to a municipal courthouse — where it was still an SRO affair. But then, Gertner’s The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation deals with some extraordinary subject matter — New Jersey’s (and Monmouth County’s) significant contributions to the ways in which information is collected, stored and transmitted in the 21st century, as well as Nobel-lauded work on the nature of the universe itself. And when the editor at Fast Company visits the Monmouth County Library Eastern Branch on Wednesday evening, he’s sure to draw some extraordinary attendees — many of them with a connection to a place of which Fair Haven’s own Bob Lucky was quoted as saying, “We had these people who were bigger than life back then…we don’t seem to have them anymore.”

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IN LITTLE SILVER, REDIALING OLD BELL LABS

Award winning tech and business journalist Jon Gertner visits the Little Silver Public Library Thursday to discuss his book THE IDEA FACTORY: BELL LABS AND THE GREAT AGE OF AMERICAN INNOVATION. (Photo by Leslie de la Vega/ Penguin Books)

By TOM CHESEK

It’s not at all hyperbole to suggest that in its heyday, Bell Labs was where The Future took shape.

The list of accomplishments claimed by the Murray Hill-based research and development arm of AT&T included some of the genuine building blocks of modern life (transistors, lasers), game-changing milestones of the Computer Age (the UNIX system, C programming language, Information Theory) and a whole lot of landmark work in the fields of radio astronomy, fiber optics, solar cells and satellite communications.

Close to home, its local connection — both via the company’s major presence in Monmouth County, and the caliber of people it attracted to this once relatively sleepy corner of New Jersey — impacts our lives in ways that are as here-and-now as the handheld mobile device that you may be reading this on, and as shrouded in wonder as the very origins of the universe.

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