Shannon Luminary Lecture Series

Zhenan Bao, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University

Zhenan Bao and Marcus Weldon, Bell Labs President, discuss skin-inspired research that she highlighted in her Shannon Luminary Lecture. Bao also reflected on how her experiences at Bell Labs influenced her career and research directions. Bao, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University and former Bell Labs researcher presented the first Shannon Luminary Lecture in the series about the world’s first development of a new skin-like material that can ‘feel’ pressure and would transmit a signal to the nervous system. 

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Innovation Timeline

Explore Bell Labs' nearly 100 year history of research and innovation through this interactive timeline. Learn more about the researchers and discoveries that changed our world.

Photo of Claude Shannon Web Exhibit

Claude Shannon Web Exhibit

Sift through over 100 archival documents, photographs and publications, that trace Shannon's career from 23 year-old Bell Labs intern to father of the digital age.

Innovation Stories: The Rise of C++

Bjarne Stroustrup’s elegant and efficient object-oriented programming language. C++ spread rapidly and became the dominant object-oriented programming language in the 1990s. The language remains one of the most widely used programming languages today.

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Innovation Stories

Charge Coupled Device

On Feb 1, 2017, in London, England, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, a global £1 million prize that celebrates ...

The Rise of C++

Bjarne Stroustrup was awarded the 2015 Senior Dahl-Nygaard Prize for the design, implementation and evolution of the C++ programming language.  ...

Quantum Cascade Laser

The quantum cascade laser (QCL) is a versatile and powerful light source which has been applied to many applications, including as ...

Future Impossible: A Bell Labs Series

This collection of short films highlights the brilliant minds who created the invisible nervous system of our society, a fantastic intelligent network of wires and cables undergirding and infiltrating every aspect of modern life.

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Future Impossible Video Series

Future Impossible, A Video Series

This collection of short films highlights the brilliant minds who created the invisible nervous system of our society, a fantastic intelligent network of wires and cables undergirding and infiltrating every aspect of modern life. The most stunning technological achievement of our time is the network — the incredibly sophisticated boxes and the endless miles of cable and wire that connect them, and the millions of radios that wirelessly animate our digital lives. In this series, we meet the Nobel Laureates, inventors and geeks at the legendary Bell Labs that look at the limitations of known physics and think, “We can do better.”

The Shannon Limit

Meet the Einstein of the digital information age and today’s researchers inspired by his genius. In 1948, Claude Shannon discovered that all communication channels have a fundamental limit in the capacity they can transmit. This law – later known as the Shannon Limit – radically changed the trajectory of communication theory. Researchers have spent decades trying to achieve, then go beyond, this limit. This is the story of a eureka moment. The best minds from different fields coming together to test the limits of Shannon’s theory for optical transmission, and in so doing, bringing this visionary into the present to define the future again.

The Many Lives of Copper

In the rush to find the next generation of optical communications, we moved away from that old standby, copper cabling. But we already have miles and miles of the stuff under our feet and over our heads. What if instead of laying down new optical fiber cable everywhere, we could figure out a way to breathe new life into copper? This is the puzzle that Bell Labs’ engineers solve in this short film. A team of researchers save copper from the scrapheap using a machine called H.O.P.E. and improve data speeds by a million-fold since the first dial-up modem, effectively turning copper into communications gold.

The Story of Light

Alexander Graham Bell harnesses the power of a “sunbeam,” and his descendants follow in his footsteps. When Bell discovered that sound could be carried by light, he never could have imagined the millions of written text and audio and video communications that would one day be transmitted around the world every second on a single strand of fiber with the dimensions of a human hair. We follow the journey of a single text message zipping around the globe at the speed of light, then meet the researchers that have taken up Bell’s charge. These innovators dare to uncover new ways to move light around the world with ever increasing sophistication and speed across a massive network of optic cables.

The Network of You

Soon every human will be connected to every other human on the planet by a wireless network. We’ve become nodes in the global communications network. But what happens when we connect everything, from driverless cars to smart homes, to the wireless network? Soon the stuff of modern life will all be part of the network, and it will unlock infinite opportunities for new ways of talking, making and being.  The network will be our sixth sense, connecting us to our digital lives.  In this film, we ponder that existence and how it is enabled by inventions and technologies developed over the past 30 years, and the innovations that still lie ahead of us.