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AT&T Labs' Brain Drain

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the flux-is-constant dept.

Education 347

Frisky070802 writes "The Newark Star-Ledger has an article on the brain drain at AT&T Labs, which laid off close to half its researchers two years ago this month, another good fraction last spring, and has lost many of the rest through voluntary departures. The article claims that only Microsoft might have the money to fund basic research as Bell Labs did years ago, though many (including me) would put IBM in the same camp. It cites problems at AT&T, ranging from researchers paying their own way to present at conferences to a loss of free espresso and bottled water. Many luminaries, such as Lorrie Faith Cranor, Avi Rubin, and Bjarne Stroustrup, are quoted --- with Stroustrup saying the lab was "mugged" by Wall Street. (Rumor has it that the losses haven't stemmed, with more top-notch researchers going to academia in the coming months.)" (Non-registration ZIP and age demographic collection.)

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Remember... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629483)

When its hot outside and your hemmoroids are even
hotter, just look to the cool relief of Preparation-H
to get you on your way.

toast (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629484)

toast

testing 123 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629485)

testing

For those about to rock, we salute you! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629486)

Talent leak drains AT&T think tank Once a bastion of cutting-edge research, it's lost its star power Sunday, March 21, 2004 BY KEVIN COUGHLIN Star-Ledger Staff When AT&T Labs was carved from Bell Labs in the 1995 breakup of AT&T , the telecom giant set lofty goals for its new research arm. "Our mission, in my view, is to invent the future of communications," proclaimed Alexander "Sandy" Fraser, who pushed to create AT&T Labs. Today, many of AT&T's top scientists still chase that dream -- somewhere else. They strive to invent the future in the shiniest ivory towers and hottest tech companies, from MIT to Microsoft, from the Pentagon to Google. Some 200 scientists -- nearly half the core research staff -- were let go from AT&T Labs in Florham Park in January 2002 amid sweeping corporate cuts throughout AT&T. Since then an all-star collection of researchers has bolted from the labs. The fate of AT&T Labs mirrors changing fortunes at AT&T, an American icon squeezed by bad investments and bad timing. More importantly, some scientists say, it raises tough questions about the direction of industrial research and America's future as an innovator. At AT&T Labs, the brain drain is so severe, observed Michael Kearns, now at the University of Pennsylvania, that his former employer's motto should be "404 Not Found" -- the error message that greets many searches on the labs' Web site. Defectors point to the loss of esteemed colleagues, cuts in long-range research and restrictions on travel, media contacts and publication of scholarly articles. The place has had three different vice presidents of research within the past year. For some researchers, the last straw was having to pay their own way to present scientific papers at prestigious conferences. For others, it was the elimination of free espresso and bottled water at the leafy Florham Park campus, once the estate of Vanderbilt descendants. Yet many remember the brief heyday of AT&T Labs, during the euphoria of the Internet boom, as the most thrilling time of their careers. For them, the exodus is a tragedy. "We had a national gem," said Avi Rubin, who exposed flaws in electronic voting systems last year as a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University. "To see it melt away is very painful," said Andrew Odlyzko, who sensed trouble brewing in 2001 and left to head a digital technology center at the University of Minnesota. While turmoil at AT&T Labs is a bonanza for places like Columbia University and the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, scientists say it underscores the decline of "blue-sky" research -- science for science's sake -- at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, IBM, General Electric and the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Gone from AT&T Labs, or nearly so, are groups highly regarded for their long-term studies in artificial intelligence and machine learning, network security and cryptography, algorithms and theoretical computer science, and statistics. AT&T research operations in Cambridge, England, and at the University of California, Berkeley are gone, too. The National Science Foundation says federal support for basic science has waned, as well, since 1980. "It's an open question where the next big ideas and discoveries will come from," said Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future. A former adviser to AT&T Labs, Saffo warned that corporate America's "relentless race for short-term value is killing our future ... AT&T Labs was a national crown jewel -- and it's been terribly devalued." "If you're focusing on research that's short-term, to impact products in a year or two, there are all kinds of world-changing discoveries that you simply miss," said Maria Klawe, president of the Association for Computing Machinery and dean of engineering at Princeton University. Princeton has cherry-picked at least two AT&T Labs scientists since 2002; Klawe interviewed another this month. The university even created an institute for materials sciences last year specifically to "help fill a national void" left by declining resources of industrial research labs. For its part, AT&T says fierce competition has forced a shift from basic science to business-driven research. Projects now must improve the bottom line within months, not years, as AT&T morphs from a phone company to a supplier of business networking services. When AT&T finally shed about $100 billion of cable TV and wireless ventures -- disastrous investments meant to satisfy Wall Street during the tech boom --it also shed prime areas for research. "We are playing to win," AT&T Labs President Hossein Eslambolchi told industry analysts in February. Labs spokesman Michael Dickman called the downsized AT&T Labs a "lean, mean networking machine," focused on ensuring the reliability of AT&T's vast data network. Partnerships with universities will play a bigger role going forward, he said, declining to tout anyone still at AT&T Labs. "We had the names, the celebrities. That was then. This is now. We don't have people like that. Even if we did, it goes against our strategy to highlight them," said Dickman. Among prominent names to bail recently: # Lorrie Faith Cranor. Named one of the world's top 100 young innovators last year by MIT's Technology Review, the Internet privacy expert left in December to teach at Carnegie Mellon University. # Matt Blaze. The cryptographer has exposed flaws in everything from common locks to the Clinton administration's "Clipper Chip"; he left in December for the University of Pennsylvania. # Peter Shor. A pioneer in "quantum computing" -- he showed how it might crack the most secure encryption someday -- the MacArthur Fellow quit last summer to become a math professor at MIT. Others have gone to Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science and to Microsoft Research -- maybe the only shop rich enough to support basic research as Bell Labs did in the Cold War, when AT&T's telephone monopoly paid the bills. Not surprisingly, AT&T Labs patterned itself after Bell Labs, birthplace of the transistor and winner of 11 Nobel Prizes. More startling was AT&T's decision to launch a new lab at all. When AT&T was split up in 1995, Lucent Technologies inherited its equipment-making business -- and Bell Labs. Sandy Fraser, a genteel British researcher from Bell Labs, helped convince AT&T, now strictly a services company, it still needed a lab. "It was very courageous in a way for a services company to embrace the idea of having its own research organization," said Ron Brachman, an expert in artificial intelligence who followed Fraser from Bell Labs to AT&T Labs. (Both left in 2002: Fraser started a research firm, and Brachman joined the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency.) Lucent kept most of the chemists, physicists and materials scientists. AT&T vied for Bell Labs computer scientists, mathematicians and, especially, speech recognition experts. It was messy. Lucent kept the libraries of Bell Labs; AT&T got the librarians. "We like to think we stayed with it, the parent lab," said Ron Graham, a Bell Labs math star whose jump to AT&T Labs inspired others to follow. He left for the University of California, San Diego, in 1999. AT&T Labs named its Florham Park headquarters for Bell Labs legend Claude Shannon. Researchers even tried juggling on a unicycle, as Shannon once did, said Michael Littman, now a Rutgers professor. About 80 percent of research involved projects with an eight- to 10-year window. Now, turnaround targets are 18 to 24 months, said Dickman, the AT&T Labs spokesman. Early on, the diverse talent mix surpassed the most elite schools, former researchers said. Brainstorming was encouraged in lounges called "bump spaces." Mathematician Eric Rains (now at the University of California, Davis) joined the quantum computing group thanks to a discussion overhead during his job interview. Cryptographer Rebecca Wright, now at the Stevens Institute of Technology, said rounding up dozens of computer security experts used to be easy at AT&T Labs. They were galvanized by Fraser, who spoke of a digital "Renaissance Network," and David Nagel, a former Apple Computer executive who once designed cockpits for NASA. Nagel, the first president of AT&T Labs, now is CEO of PalmSource Inc. "I used to think I had the best possible job," said Avi Rubin, who envisioned a long career at AT&T Labs. He compared it to a great university -- without the hassles of grading exams and chasing grants. Research was eclectic. AT&T Labs tried teaching computers to learn from mistakes. Researchers designed intelligent scheduling devices, smart antennas and wireless delivery of local phone service. They dabbled with Internet delivery of music before Napster, and with Internet video phones. Computer scientists were widely quoted in debates about instant messaging, privacy and security. That last topic struck close to home: David Smith unleashed the Melissa virus in 1998, when he was a contractor for AT&T Labs in Florham Park. About 300 researchers work there now, roughly half the number from the late 1990s, estimated Dickman. Another 6,000 people -- mostly in development, not research -- work at a mammoth complex in Middletown. That's down by about 1,500 from its peak, Dickman said. A hundred or so researchers are based in Menlo Park, Calif., and about 30 more staff a lab in Nice, France, he said. As the air whooshed from the tech bubble, AT&T slashed spending on research and development from $550 million in 1999 to $254 million in 2002, according to Schonfeld & Associates, a business research firm. Free espresso was among the casualties. "That's real penny-pinching," said Jim Reeds, snapped up by the Institute for Defense Analyses in Princeton after the 2002 layoffs. Lorrie Faith Cranor, who paid her own way to deliver a paper at a Florida conference last spring, said life grew confusing at AT&T Labs. "There was a lot of pressure to tie everything to the immediate impact on the business. At the same time, they told us they understood the importance of doing research not directly tied to the business," said Cranor, whose husband Chuck, a networking researcher, also left AT&T Labs. Rubin said "baby sitters" from public relations were assigned to all media interviews. He said he struggled for permission to publish a research paper about the Postal Service's vulnerability to cyber attacks. When a co-worker was laid off, he resolved to split. Peter Shor said he felt so isolated after all the departures that he had to leave. "Nowadays, I don't know what the mission is" at AT&T Labs, he said. Others said AT&T Labs had no choice but to downsize. "We soldiered on as well as we could, quite competently. And we got mugged -- by Wall Street," said Bjarne Stroustrup, inventor of a popular programming language. Stroustrup left AT&T Labs last year for Texas A&M but retains ties to the labs. He doubts universities can pick up the slack from corporate research labs. "They don't have the size or the culture or the reward mechanisms or the management experience. Universities don't operate on the scales that Bell Labs and AT&T Labs did" in focused areas, said Stroustrup. The president of AT&T Labs insists the organization is helping AT&T's bottom line. Technology from the labs foiled the Slammer worm last year, Hossein Eslambolchi told industry analysts in February. He praised advances in speech recognition, natural language understanding and artificial intelligence for automating customer service. He promised more advances in high-speed data over wireless networks and power lines, and technology to aggregate voice and e-mail messages. Eslambolchi, who holds four job titles, compared AT&T Labs to a big league ball team. "It is the talent of the players ... that differentiates teams," he told the analysts. "AT&T has the winning players, and we are playing to win. ... This is our story, and we are sticking with it." Copyright 2004 The Star-Ledger. Used by NJ.com with permission.

Re:For those about to rock, we salute you! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629572)

Reduntant? My Aunt Fanny!

This needs to be heard.

Talent leak drains AT&T think tank Once a bastion of cutting-edge research, it's lost its star power Sunday, March 21, 2004 BY KEVIN COUGHLIN Star-Ledger Staff When AT&T Labs was carved from Bell Labs in the 1995 breakup of AT&T , the telecom giant set lofty goals for its new research arm. "Our mission, in my view, is to invent the future of communications," proclaimed Alexander "Sandy" Fraser, who pushed to create AT&T Labs. Today, many of AT&T's top scientists still chase that dream -- somewhere else. They strive to invent the future in the shiniest ivory towers and hottest tech companies, from MIT to Microsoft, from the Pentagon to Google. Some 200 scientists -- nearly half the core research staff -- were let go from AT&T Labs in Florham Park in January 2002 amid sweeping corporate cuts throughout AT&T. Since then an all-star collection of researchers has bolted from the labs. The fate of AT&T Labs mirrors changing fortunes at AT&T, an American icon squeezed by bad investments and bad timing. More importantly, some scientists say, it raises tough questions about the direction of industrial research and America's future as an innovator. At AT&T Labs, the brain drain is so severe, observed Michael Kearns, now at the University of Pennsylvania, that his former employer's motto should be "404 Not Found" -- the error message that greets many searches on the labs' Web site. Defectors point to the loss of esteemed colleagues, cuts in long-range research and restrictions on travel, media contacts and publication of scholarly articles. The place has had three different vice presidents of research within the past year. For some researchers, the last straw was having to pay their own way to present scientific papers at prestigious conferences. For others, it was the elimination of free espresso and bottled water at the leafy Florham Park campus, once the estate of Vanderbilt descendants. Yet many remember the brief heyday of AT&T Labs, during the euphoria of the Internet boom, as the most thrilling time of their careers. For them, the exodus is a tragedy. "We had a national gem," said Avi Rubin, who exposed flaws in electronic voting systems last year as a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University. "To see it melt away is very painful," said Andrew Odlyzko, who sensed trouble brewing in 2001 and left to head a digital technology center at the University of Minnesota. While turmoil at AT&T Labs is a bonanza for places like Columbia University and the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, scientists say it underscores the decline of "blue-sky" research -- science for science's sake -- at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, IBM, General Electric and the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Gone from AT&T Labs, or nearly so, are groups highly regarded for their long-term studies in artificial intelligence and machine learning, network security and cryptography, algorithms and theoretical computer science, and statistics. AT&T research operations in Cambridge, England, and at the University of California, Berkeley are gone, too. The National Science Foundation says federal support for basic science has waned, as well, since 1980. "It's an open question where the next big ideas and discoveries will come from," said Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future. A former adviser to AT&T Labs, Saffo warned that corporate America's "relentless race for short-term value is killing our future ... AT&T Labs was a national crown jewel -- and it's been terribly devalued." "If you're focusing on research that's short-term, to impact products in a year or two, there are all kinds of world-changing discoveries that you simply miss," said Maria Klawe, president of the Association for Computing Machinery and dean of engineering at Princeton University. Princeton has cherry-picked at least two AT&T Labs scientists since 2002; Klawe interviewed another this month. The university even created an institute for materials sciences last year specifically to "help fill a national void" left by declining resources of industrial research labs. For its part, AT&T says fierce competition has forced a shift from basic science to business-driven research. Projects now must improve the bottom line within months, not years, as AT&T morphs from a phone company to a supplier of business networking services. When AT&T finally shed about $100 billion of cable TV and wireless ventures -- disastrous investments meant to satisfy Wall Street during the tech boom --it also shed prime areas for research. "We are playing to win," AT&T Labs President Hossein Eslambolchi told industry analysts in February. Labs spokesman Michael Dickman called the downsized AT&T Labs a "lean, mean networking machine," focused on ensuring the reliability of AT&T's vast data network. Partnerships with universities will play a bigger role going forward, he said, declining to tout anyone still at AT&T Labs. "We had the names, the celebrities. That was then. This is now. We don't have people like that. Even if we did, it goes against our strategy to highlight them," said Dickman. Among prominent names to bail recently: # Lorrie Faith Cranor. Named one of the world's top 100 young innovators last year by MIT's Technology Review, the Internet privacy expert left in December to teach at Carnegie Mellon University. # Matt Blaze. The cryptographer has exposed flaws in everything from common locks to the Clinton administration's "Clipper Chip"; he left in December for the University of Pennsylvania. # Peter Shor. A pioneer in "quantum computing" -- he showed how it might crack the most secure encryption someday -- the MacArthur Fellow quit last summer to become a math professor at MIT. Others have gone to Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science and to Microsoft Research -- maybe the only shop rich enough to support basic research as Bell Labs did in the Cold War, when AT&T's telephone monopoly paid the bills. Not surprisingly, AT&T Labs patterned itself after Bell Labs, birthplace of the transistor and winner of 11 Nobel Prizes. More startling was AT&T's decision to launch a new lab at all. When AT&T was split up in 1995, Lucent Technologies inherited its equipment-making business -- and Bell Labs. Sandy Fraser, a genteel British researcher from Bell Labs, helped convince AT&T, now strictly a services company, it still needed a lab. "It was very courageous in a way for a services company to embrace the idea of having its own research organization," said Ron Brachman, an expert in artificial intelligence who followed Fraser from Bell Labs to AT&T Labs. (Both left in 2002: Fraser started a research firm, and Brachman joined the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency.) Lucent kept most of the chemists, physicists and materials scientists. AT&T vied for Bell Labs computer scientists, mathematicians and, especially, speech recognition experts. It was messy. Lucent kept the libraries of Bell Labs; AT&T got the librarians. "We like to think we stayed with it, the parent lab," said Ron Graham, a Bell Labs math star whose jump to AT&T Labs inspired others to follow. He left for the University of California, San Diego, in 1999. AT&T Labs named its Florham Park headquarters for Bell Labs legend Claude Shannon. Researchers even tried juggling on a unicycle, as Shannon once did, said Michael Littman, now a Rutgers professor. About 80 percent of research involved projects with an eight- to 10-year window. Now, turnaround targets are 18 to 24 months, said Dickman, the AT&T Labs spokesman. Early on, the diverse talent mix surpassed the most elite schools, former researchers said. Brainstorming was encouraged in lounges called "bump spaces." Mathematician Eric Rains (now at the University of California, Davis) joined the quantum computing group thanks to a discussion overhead during his job interview. Cryptographer Rebecca Wright, now at the Stevens Institute of Technology, said rounding up dozens of computer security experts used to be easy at AT&T Labs. They were galvanized by Fraser, who spoke of a digital "Renaissance Network," and David Nagel, a former Apple Computer executive who once designed cockpits for NASA. Nagel, the first president of AT&T Labs, now is CEO of PalmSource Inc. "I used to think I had the best possible job," said Avi Rubin, who envisioned a long career at AT&T Labs. He compared it to a great university -- without the hassles of grading exams and chasing grants. Research was eclectic. AT&T Labs tried teaching computers to learn from mistakes. Researchers designed intelligent scheduling devices, smart antennas and wireless delivery of local phone service. They dabbled with Internet delivery of music before Napster, and with Internet video phones. Computer scientists were widely quoted in debates about instant messaging, privacy and security. That last topic struck close to home: David Smith unleashed the Melissa virus in 1998, when he was a contractor for AT&T Labs in Florham Park. About 300 researchers work there now, roughly half the number from the late 1990s, estimated Dickman. Another 6,000 people -- mostly in development, not research -- work at a mammoth complex in Middletown. That's down by about 1,500 from its peak, Dickman said. A hundred or so researchers are based in Menlo Park, Calif., and about 30 more staff a lab in Nice, France, he said. As the air whooshed from the tech bubble, AT&T slashed spending on research and development from $550 million in 1999 to $254 million in 2002, according to Schonfeld & Associates, a business research firm. Free espresso was among the casualties. "That's real penny-pinching," said Jim Reeds, snapped up by the Institute for Defense Analyses in Princeton after the 2002 layoffs. Lorrie Faith Cranor, who paid her own way to deliver a paper at a Florida conference last spring, said life grew confusing at AT&T Labs. "There was a lot of pressure to tie everything to the immediate impact on the business. At the same time, they told us they understood the importance of doing research not directly tied to the business," said Cranor, whose husband Chuck, a networking researcher, also left AT&T Labs. Rubin said "baby sitters" from public relations were assigned to all media interviews. He said he struggled for permission to publish a research paper about the Postal Service's vulnerability to cyber attacks. When a co-worker was laid off, he resolved to split. Peter Shor said he felt so isolated after all the departures that he had to leave. "Nowadays, I don't know what the mission is" at AT&T Labs, he said. Others said AT&T Labs had no choice but to downsize. "We soldiered on as well as we could, quite competently. And we got mugged -- by Wall Street," said Bjarne Stroustrup, inventor of a popular programming language. Stroustrup left AT&T Labs last year for Texas A&M but retains ties to the labs. He doubts universities can pick up the slack from corporate research labs. "They don't have the size or the culture or the reward mechanisms or the management experience. Universities don't operate on the scales that Bell Labs and AT&T Labs did" in focused areas, said Stroustrup. The president of AT&T Labs insists the organization is helping AT&T's bottom line. Technology from the labs foiled the Slammer worm last year, Hossein Eslambolchi told industry analysts in February. He praised advances in speech recognition, natural language understanding and artificial intelligence for automating customer service. He promised more advances in high-speed data over wireless networks and power lines, and technology to aggregate voice and e-mail messages. Eslambolchi, who holds four job titles, compared AT&T Labs to a big league ball team. "It is the talent of the players ... that differentiates teams," he told the analysts. "AT&T has the winning players, and we are playing to win. ... This is our story, and we are sticking with it." Copyright 2004 The Star-Ledger. Used by NJ.com with permission.

And...... the Poll....... (-1, Offtopic)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629488)

Who's the hottest editor?

Cum Taco [calcgames.org] [calcgames.org]
Michael [calcgames.org] [calcgames.org]
Timothy [calcgames.org] [calcgames.org]
CowboyNeal [calcgames.org] [calcgames.org]
Other [calcgames.org] [calcgames.org]

What do you expect? (3, Insightful)

mark99 (459508) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629491)

They laid off two-thirds of the company. It would be odd if Research wasn't similarly decimated (triated?).

I wonder if the "Open Source" is picking up the slack in basic research these days. I don't think Universitys have been too productive in my lifetime.

Re:What do you expect? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629514)

With spelling like that, it doesn't look like primary schools have been too productive in your lifetime either.

Re:What do you expect? (5, Insightful)

godIsaDJ (644331) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629529)

I wonder if the "Open Source" is picking up the slack in basic research these days. I don't think Universitys have been too productive in my lifetime.

Now that's way too much to expect. If research was easy surely everyone would win nobel prizes??
You cannot really expect research to spring up from nowhere just like open source software, the background needed is completely different.
While becoming a *very* competent developer/architect etc. is withing reach of most smart people around with sweat and hard work, becoming a research is definitely not! Not many people got what it takes and the willpower to gather the knowledge you need just to get started...
My 2 cents...

Re:What do you expect? (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629571)

If research was easy surely everyone would win nobel prizes??

Your question ignores the very limited number of Nobel prizes available.

Regardless of how many poeple may produce very significant work, only a handful will be recognized by the Nobel comittee every year.

-jcr

Re:What do you expect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629697)

The key difference is that you can learn developer/architect skills on the job-the learning pays for itself. You can't get an entry level research job and work your way up-entry level research is graduate study. Anyone who can't get into or afford a good grad school probably won't have a way to learn research.

GNU/OPEN SOURCE ONLY COPIES, NEVER CREATES (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629538)

I challenge any of you to name something that is original and open source. Open source projects are crappy copies of commercial software. If that fat turd RMS gets his way and everything open source software innovation is going to go in the shitter.

Re:GNU/OPEN SOURCE ONLY COPIES, NEVER CREATES (3, Insightful)

DuctTape (101304) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629604)

Ah, I guess Bill Gates really does post as an AC.

DT

Re:GNU/OPEN SOURCE ONLY COPIES, NEVER CREATES (1)

shis-ka-bob (595298) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629605)

Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. ..nuff said

Re:GNU/OPEN SOURCE ONLY COPIES, NEVER CREATES (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629608)

I challenge any of you to name something that is original and open source.

Mosaic?

Goodly siad. (-1, Flamebait)

lemon parties (761941) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629618)

It's a known fact that Linux is nothing more than a regurgitation of AT&T Labs' Unix. No wonder so many were layed off this year; think of how many jobs the Open Sores movement stripped away from the hard workers over at AT&T Labs...

Re:Goodly siad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629652)

its called capitalism.

so guess what, you can't compete, you fail.

and thats GOOD.

Re:GNU/OPEN SOURCE ONLY COPIES, NEVER CREATES (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629624)

I challenge any of you to name something that is original and open source.

TeX

Re:GNU/OPEN SOURCE ONLY COPIES, NEVER CREATES (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629639)

I challenge any of you to name something that is original and open source.

Tron. Do I get a prize?

Re:GNU/OPEN SOURCE ONLY COPIES, NEVER CREATES (2, Insightful)

richieb (3277) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629665)

Let's see. How about the Internet? Email? Web server and web browser....

Re:What do you expect? (3, Interesting)

archonit.net (762880) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629568)

But is open source really 'picking up the slack' that fully blown, say again **paid** research is?

Most people who contribute to open source have other jobs and can't spend huge amounts of time with the project they start/help out at. And when they move on to other projects someone else has to play catchu-up and figure out the source before any more progress is made.

Open source projects need a constant revenue stream and the model needs to acknowledge that as donations don't seem to crack the honey-pot enough. If companies like AT&T, IBM, AOL and, heaven forbid, Microsoft supported the open-source initiative and gave projects a certain amount of funding then of course more people would support it. But the real question is 'how do you get that sort of funding?' (You can't... it's generosity)

Now what if those projects who have an open-source root, like Poseidon UML just off the top of my head, all donate a portion of THEIR earnings to a generic project each month? Again, another reliance on generosity.

I don't mind the idea of commercial versions of Open-source software as well as free versions, it makes sense - but the advantage is that she's not only a revenue stream but in addition it's one that gives you money thats an indication of how much effort you put into good ideas. ... and at least it will help support Open-Source stay afloat.

On the other hand, since generosity is hard to come by... what about commitment?

Firefox/Thunderbird, TightVNC, AngBand, Apache, MySQL+MySQL Front, PHP and most definetly Open Office - the top 7 things I love about free source - all staying afloat and continuing their 'good work'. All Free, All being updated regularly enough to keep people happy with.

But when you go to sourceforge and see 'Stage 1 - planning: December 2001' (and nothing put out since then) it makes me wonder whether some people are REALLY dedicated to what they do.

And oh bugger.. it didn't take even nearly long enough to write this up... /me goes back to watching Mozilla compile...Only 30 minutes to go!!!!

Re:What do you expect? (3, Insightful)

Rinikusu (28164) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629619)

It depends. Bell Labs has been, historically, one of the premier research centers in the WORLD. The kind of prestige that brings by constantly pushing envelopes, by constantly being published, by constantly attracting the best and brightest in the industry to your research facilities is almost priceless. These best and brightest also create the foundations of your future product lines, patent licensing income, etc etc. Without products and constant innovation, it could be argued that you no longer become viable (or as viable). Dell is a huge exception to this, as they indirectly benefit from the huge R&D Intel and others invest into their own product lines. But imagine if Intel and the others just sat back and waited for someone else to innovate so they could roll those new ideas into their product line. Dell would quickly stagnate, as would the others. (To be fair, Dell does spend quite a bit on R&D, but overall it's just a tiny fraction of their total income, unlike folks like IBM or Apple, who rely upon their R&D to provide innovative ideas to push the envelope, to use the parlance of our times). (As an aside, I wonder if their R&D expenses also include their packaging/distribution innovations? Dell certainly has "revolutionized" the "Just In Time" manufacturing techniques that everyone indirectly benefits from). What I'm getting at, is if everyone were to do things the Dell (or even Walmart) way, then the world would quickly become stagnated and..bland.

I'd think that R&D might take a hit, but you don't get rid of your best minds or make conditions unbearable for them just to save on salaries. They provide the long term product line that your future profits will rely upon.

Re:What do you expect? (3, Insightful)

GGardner (97375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629691)

These best and brightest also create the foundations of your future product lines, patent licensing income, etc etc.

If this were true, Bell Labs wouldn't be shutting down. The truth is, none of the world-class pure research labs (Xerox PARC, Bell Labs, TJ Watson, etc.) do a good job of helping their parent companies in the long run. How much money did Bell Labs directly make on the transistor? The Laser? The C programming Language? C++? Unix succeeded in large parts despite the efforts of USL. Look at how successful Xerox PARC made Apple, but not Xerox. Very few companies now do much pure research for this very reason.

Many other companies (and society in general) tend to benefit from the breakthroughs in pure research from these labs, but the orginal companies usually have the biggest difficulties managing this.

Re:What do you expect? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629732)

I rather create something than make something better.

But perhaps we need some sort of balance between the two.

Maybe it should be outsourced (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629497)

Outsource it to India. However, since India dares to have better workers than Americans, you'll get the anti-outsourcing Pat Buchanan's racing their pitchfork and bloviating about white racial purity and other rot.

What a bunch of winers.... (-1)

twoslice (457793) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629498)

For some researchers, the last straw was having to pay their own way to present scientific papers at prestigious conferences. For others, it was the elimination of free espresso and bottled water at the leafy Florham Park campus, once the estate of Vanderbilt descendants.

Welcome to the world of OSS development boys...

At&t labs, great contributer to computing. (5, Informative)

rkz (667993) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629503)

It is very sad to see AT&T labs whittle away like this, over the years they were responsible for a number of great inventions:
  1. VNC - which is a multiplatform Remote administration tool. [att.com]
  2. Text to speach. [att.com]
  3. Multimodal data access
  4. Handwriting recognition.
  5. Wlan technologies
Probably many more which I cant even remember.

Re:At&t labs, great contributer to computing. (5, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629535)

Well, let's not forget the original point-contact germanium transistor (granted it was called Bell Laboratories back then.) Pretty much set off the entire solid-state revolution in electronics, which after nearly half a century has culminated in that paragon of technological debauchery known as Slashdot. But seriously, Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley would no doubt be hurt not to have their brainchild included in your list of great inventions.

Re:At&t labs, great contributer to computing. (5, Informative)

irokitt (663593) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629558)

Ah, you forgot to mention the Unix operating system, the C programming language, and all of the immense contributions surrounding those two developments alone.
Unfortunately, I don't see Microsoft pursuing research quite like Bell/AT&T Labs has. And IBM is making contributions to software (Linux) and hardware (The processor in the Mac G5) but is not going to devote research to the breadth of things AT&T has focused on.
The good news is that most of the people leaving the Labs are going into academia, so quite a few CS departments are going to be improved.

Re:At&t labs, great contributer to computing. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629659)

why does everyone here think they only did CS work at the lab. They did many things in many areas of physical science, not just IT.

Re:At&t labs, great contributer to computing. (5, Insightful)

AtrN (87501) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629680)

I don't see Microsoft pursuing research quite like Bell/AT&T Labs has.

In the CS area they are certainly very active. Check it out. [microsoft.com]

Re:At&t labs, great contributer to computing. (1)

Laser Lou (230648) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629584)

But seriously, Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley would no doubt be hurt not to have their brainchild included in your list of great inventions

That shows how common interest in electronic circuits and components (besides microprocessors) have dropped in the past few years.
What a shame.

Re:At&t labs, great contributer to computing. (3, Informative)

crimson30 (172250) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629565)

What about Unix?

When I think of Bell Labs, I think Unix and the transistor and yet you skipped those, oddly enough.

Re:At&t labs, great contributer to computing. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629581)

"Text to speach"

It's too bad the department fell apart before their amazing new web-based spellchecking system was finished...

Re:At&t labs, great contributer to computing. (4, Funny)

jcr (53032) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629606)

But doesn't C++ just about make it a wash?

-jcr

Yes Many More.. (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629716)

Must not forget C, Unix, telecommunication networks, even the practical transistor was a product of the lab.

With out old Ma-Bell, we wouldnt be sitting here discussing anything...

KERRY 2004 (-1, Troll)

JohnKerry (troll) (763875) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629504)

This "brain drain" is a direct result of the lies of the Bush administration. Once I ascend to the presidency of this great country, I will ensure that America follows Europe's historic lead in living on the sweat of others. Now is the time to make South America police the world.

Would you like Ketchup with that? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629518)

I'll take one order of long-faced anti-Vietnam activist with that. One big f***ing order.

John "Eff-ing" Kerry (-1, Offtopic)

John 'Eff-ing' Kerry (764117) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629616)

Since quitting the Navy six months early at age 27 so he could run for Congress on an antiwar platform, John Kerry has built a political career on his service in Vietnam. His unsuccessful 1970 congressional bid lasted only a month, during which it proved impossible for even he to get to the left of the winner, Robert Drinan, but it forged a conflicting political persona - one hammered out between his combat medals earned in the Mekong delta and the common cause he made with the enemy upon his return home.

Now, at age 60, the junior Democratic senator from Massachusetts is milking his veteran status once again in an effort to show that he's tougher and more patriotic than the man he seeks to replace, President George W. Bush. And, as unrepentant as ever for his pro-Hanoi activism, he is just as conflicted in 2004 as he was in the 1960s.

If there is any consistency in Kerry's political career, it is his in-your-face use of that four-month stint in Vietnam. He enlisted like many other young men of privilege, trying to serve without going to the front lines. When in 1966 it looked like his draft number was coming up during his senior year at Yale University, and already having spoken out in public against the war, Kerry signed up with the Navy under the conscious inspiration of his hero, the late President John F. Kennedy. As a lieutenant junior grade, Kerry skippered a CTF-115 swift boat, a light, aluminum patrol vessel that bore a passing resemblance to PT-109. He thought he'd arranged to avoid combat. "I didn't really want to get involved in the war," he later would tell the Boston Globe. "When I signed up for the swift boats, they had very little to do with the war. They were engaged in coastal patrolling, and that's what I thought I was going to do."

Soon, however, Kerry was reassigned to patrol the Mekong River in South Vietnam, a formative experience for his political odyssey. The official record shows that he rose to the occasion. It was along the Mekong where he first killed a man, aggressively fighting the enemy Viet Cong and reportedly saving the lives of his own men, earning a Bronze Star, a Silver Star for valor, and three Purple Hearts in the process.

Kerry opted for reassignment to New York City, where - as a uniformed, active-duty officer - he reportedly began acting out the antiwar feelings he had expressed before enlisting. Press reports from the time say that he marched in the October 1969 Moratorium protests - a mass demonstration by a quarter-million people that had been orchestrated the previous summer by North Vietnamese officials and American antiwar leaders in Cuba (see sidebar, p. 27). Kerry had found his purpose in life. The New York Times reported on April 23, 1971, that at about the time of the Moratorium march, Lt. Kerry had "asked for, and was given, an early release from the Navy so he could run for Congress on an antiwar platform from his home district in Waltham, Mass."

For Kerry, politicizing the nation's war effort for partisan purposes was the right thing to do, in contrast to the violent revolutionary designs of colleagues who were out to destroy the system. Kerry didn't want to take down the establishment. He wanted to take it over. His aborted, monthlong 1970 congressional campaign was a victory for him politically, as it landed him on television's popular Dick Cavett Show, where he came to the attention of some of the central organizers of the antiwar/pro-Hanoi group known as Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW).

VVAW was a numerically small part of the protest movement, but it was extremely influential through skillful political theater, the novelty of uniformed combat veterans joining the Vietniks, and a ruthless coalition-building strategy that forged partnerships with the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), its Trotskyite rival, the Socialist Workers Party, and a broad front that ranged from pacifists to supporters of the Black Panthers and other domestic terrorist groups.

Kerry signed on as a full-time organizer and member of the VVAW's six-member executive committee. By early 1971 he had become one of the antiwar movement's principal figureheads, lending a moderate face to a movement that championed, and was championed by, imprisoned murder conspirator Angela Davis and actress Jane Fonda.

The young former and future political candidate acted as one of the main leaders of a massive, five-day April protest in Washington and other cities. Kerry's partner, Jan Crumb, read a list of 15 demands. According to the CPUSA paper Daily World, the VVAW demands were, "Immediate, unilateral, unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. armed forces and Central Intelligence Agency personnel from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand," plus "full amnesty" to all "war resisters" and draft dodgers, and "withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Latin America, Africa, Asia and elsewhere in the world."

Kerry was the star of the political theater that historic week, angry that the law forbade political protests at veterans' graves in Arlington National Cemetery and angrier that President Richard Nixon enforced the law and that the Supreme Court upheld it. He led an illegal encampment of veterans and people who dressed as veterans on the Mall in downtown Washington and used the services of Ramsey Clark - a former Johnson administration attorney general who by that time openly was supporting the enemy in Hanoi - to fight a federal order to disperse. According to the Daily World, which published a page-one photo of Kerry passing Clark a note during the march, the protesters converged on the White House chanting, "One, Two, Three, Four - We Don't Want Your F- - - - - - War."

Kerry's establishment model was working where the home-baked revolutionaries were failing. The activist bumped into William Fulbright, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at a party and landed himself in the spotlight as a witness in a hearing held the last day of the weeklong march. There, he made his infamous exaggerated and untruthful allegations that his fellow servicemen, not merely the commanders, deliberately were committing widespread atrocities against innocent Vietnamese civilians (see sidebar, p. 26). Afterward, he joined a dramatic political-theater display at the Capitol steps, where hundreds of vets took a microphone and, one by one, stated their name, identified their combat medals and flung them over a police fence on the steps. Kerry renounced his Bronze Star, his Silver Star and his three Purple Hearts. (Later, as a politician, he would give ever-changing versions of the story.)

He seemed to want it both ways in the protest movement. While claiming to "hate" the communists, he decried any attempt to marginalize them within the movement. Once, when questioned about his political alliance with supporters of the enemy, Kerry said that any attempts to push out Hanoi supporters might result "in seriously dividing and weakening the movement, and making it less effective."

That didn't sit well with some VVAW members beyond the Washington Beltway. Back in Massachusetts, VVAW state coordinator Walker "Monty" Montgomery, a Tennessee native, publicly differed with Kerry. The Boston Herald-Traveler reported that Montgomery "was considerably more candid than Kerry about the problems posed by revolutionary communists inside an antiwar organization."

"You can quote me," said Montgomery, "as one who believes that the revolutionary communists in our organization are detrimental to the organization."

Kerry had trouble discerning the line between legitimate dissent and collaboration with the enemy. In the summer of 1971, he spoke at a VVAW news conference in Washington, assailing President Nixon for not accepting an enemy propaganda initiative - a Viet Cong statement in Paris that Hanoi would guarantee the release of American prisoners of war once the last U.S. troops left Vietnam. Featuring a photo of Kerry in the July 24 Daily World, the CPUSA said Kerry "asked President Nixon to accept [a] seven-point peace proposal of Vietnamese patriots."

Kerry traveled the country that fall, trying to breathe new life into a sagging college antiwar movement. The protest spirit was coming alive, he said. "It isn't withering," he told a reporter at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. "The feeling is there. I do seriously believe there's beginning to be a turning away from the tear-it-down mentality. The movement is turning toward electoral politics again."

Covering his antiwar campaign, the National Observer reported at the time, "He wants the Vietnam Veterans [Against the War] to move quickly and strongly into grass-roots electoral politics." He sought to organize like-minded veterans to become delegates at the upcoming 1972 presidential conventions. "Though the veterans are, for the record, nonpartisan," the Observer said, "what this really means is whether the [George] McGovern Commission reforms for the Democratic Convention are implemented and enforced. Most antiwar veterans laugh at the idea of getting anything started in the Republican Convention."

Yet for all his want of the spotlight, Kerry avoided public debates with other veterans. On seven occasions, by July 1971, he had refused to allow other veterans to challenge him publicly on television, even when CBS and NBC offered to host formal debates. He relented only when Dick Cavett, who had made him a national figure not long before, agreed to terms Kerry found advantageous. Even then, with Kerry holding all the advantages, Boston Globe political columnist David Nyhan observed, his "scrappy little" opponent, John O'Neill, "was all over Kerry like a terrier, keeping the star of the Foreign Relations Committee hearings ... off balance."

Kerry couldn't hope to take over the political establishment without the political organization skills, mobilization abilities and support networks of those radical groups that supported the enemy against U.S. troops. He needed to latch on to those in the establishment who funded them.

The New York Times reported on a millionaire's gathering in East Hampton, Long Island, in August 1971. Many of the attendees had participated in "fund-raising affairs for the Black Panthers" and other extremist causes. With fellow VVAW leader Al Hubbard, Kerry sought a less radical position, but he showed parts of a full-length film containing testimony of 125 alleged veterans who said they had witnessed U.S. atrocities in Vietnam, "before a request for funds sent everyone scrambling for pens and checkbooks."

As with Kerry's Senate testimony, which contained wild and unsubstantiated allegations of deliberate U.S. atrocities throughout the ranks, many of them disproved, the mission outweighed the truth. His VVAW sidekick Hubbard identified himself as an Air Force captain, a pilot, when in reality he was an ex-sergeant who had never served in Vietnam. Kerry was content to stand by VVAW's claims that it had 12,000 members in 1971. Massachusetts VVAW coordinator Montgomery was more open about the figures. He said that only 50 to 75 members in the entire state were really active and that the official statewide membership of 1,500 Vietnam vets was just a "paper membership."

The angry young veteran's political ambition shone through his public earnestness. The 1970 congressional race that had propelled him into national politics also undercut his credibility, exacerbated by his drive to run for office again. Many saw him as exploiting the war for political gain. "Angry wives of American prisoners of war [POWs] lashed out yesterday at peace advocate John Kerry of Waltham, Mass., accusing him of using the POW issue as a springboard to political office," the Associated Press (AP) reported on July 22, 1971. "One of the women accused Kerry of 'constantly using their own suffering and grief' for purely political reasons."

Patricia Hardy of Los Angeles, whose husband had been killed in 1967, told reporters, "I think he couldn't care less about these men or these families." Cathi and Janice Ray, whose stepbrother was a POW, accompanied her. (Official records show that only one U.S. serviceman named Hardy was killed in the war, Marine Lance Cpl. Frank Earle Hardy, whose platoon was ambushed in Quang Tri on May 29, 1967. His name appears on panel 21E, row D14, of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.)

The wife of Air Force Col. Arthur Mearns, a pilot missing since he was shot down in 1966, protested Kerry with them. Her husband later was declared killed in action. His name appears on panel 12E, row 055, of the wall.

"Mr. Kerry, when asked if he planned to run again for political office, said only that he was committed to political change and that he would use whatever forum seemed best at the time," according to AP. "He did not rule out mounting another political campaign." At the time, "I was totally consumed with the notion of going to Congress," Kerry later told the Washington Post. AP hinted that Kerry already held presidential ambitions. A Boston newspaper agreed: "The gentle cloak of idealism and dignity which Kerry had worn during his televised testimony in Washington now appeared to be stitched together with threads of personal ambition and political expediency. Was this to be the payoff for one of the finest and most moving chapters of the counterculture antiwar movement? Just another slick Ivy League phrasemaker ego-freak political hustler with a hunger to see his name on campaign posters and his face on national television?"

By 1972, Massachusetts' third congressional seat was firmly held by radical Robert Drinan. Kerry, now 28, left Waltham and bought a house in Worcester, anticipating a run for Congress from the 4th District. But when President Nixon picked the congressman representing the 5th District for an ambassador's post, Kerry leased out his house and moved to the dying old mill city of Lowell to run for the soon-to-be-vacated seat there. The Boston Phoenix, an alternative newspaper whose reporter traveled with Kerry on the 1972 campaign, profiled the candidate in a story headlined, "Cruising with a Carpetbagger."

"Kerry, media superstar, suddenly found himself having to deny that he had political plans lest he be accused of ripping off the veterans by using them as a bow for the arrow of his ambition," the Phoenix reported. "John Kerry is burning with desire to be a congressman, but he has to keep paying off that loan from the Vietnam Veterans [VVAW] by seeming to be cool and indifferent to personal gain, and this underlying dilemma produces an uncomfortable tension around him."

The candidate had trouble balancing himself between Kerry the patriot and Kerry the minion of Hanoi's agitprop apparatus. He tried to distance himself from his brand-new book, The New Soldier. According to a major newspaper in the district, the Lowell Sun, the book cover "carried a picture of three or four bearded youths of the hippie type carrying the American flag in a photo resembling remarkably the immortal photo by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal of U.S. Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima after its capture from the Japanese during World War II. The big difference between the two pictures, however, is that the photo on John Kerry's book shows the flag being carried upside down in a gesture of contempt."

The book was hard to come by at the time, according to the newspaper, but a rival in the Democratic primary found one in Greenwich Village and tried to publish the cover as an advertisement in the Sun. Kerry tried to cover it up. "Things began to get hot as the old pressure went on to prevent publication of the advertisement showing the cover of the book," the Sun's editors wrote on Oct. 18, 1972. "Permission from the publisher of the book, Macmillan Co. of New York, to reproduce the cover, granted by Macmillan in a telegram on the day publication of the ad was scheduled, was quickly withdrawn hours later by Macmillan with the explanation that the approval of the author, John Kerry, would be required before the cover could be reproduced in a political advertisement. So that killed the ad."

Kerry said it wasn't he who blocked publication. According to the Sun, "Subsequently, efforts were made to obtain Mr. Kerry's okay to reproduce the famous book cover, but Mr. Kerry now says he doesn't have the right to give this permission because the copyright on the book cover belongs to a coeditor of the book, one George Butler." The Sun couldn't locate Butler.

When the book had come out the year before, Macmillan sent a review copy to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), requesting an endorsement. Byrd wrote back, "I say most respectfully to you, I threw it in the wastebasket after leafing through it."

Having lost the primary in humiliation - his brother had been caught trying to wiretap an opponent's office - Kerry went to Boston College Law School. Later, he was appointed assistant district attorney, then was elected lieutenant governor under Mike Dukakis in 1982. Two years later, he ran for the U.S. Senate - dusting off his veteran's credentials by standing in front of the black Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington to shoot a TV campaign ad, defying regulations that the memorial not be used for political purposes. The ad "was filmed illegally against the wishes of the National Park Service," according to the Boston Globe. Kerry authorized its broadcast anyway.

Kerry's campaign only stirred up long-smoldering embers from the war. Retired Maj. Gen. George S. Patton III, who had commanded combat troops in Vietnam, said that, medals or no medals, by the nature of his wartime protests Kerry gave "aid and comfort to the enemy" in the style of Ramsey Clark and Jane Fonda. "Mr. Kerry probably caused some of my guys to get killed," Patton said, even as he self-deprecatingly acknowledged shortcomings of his own as a commander. "And I don't like that. There is no soap ever invented that can wash that blood off his hands."

Responding to controversy over his remarks, Patton wrote in the Worcester Evening Gazette, "The dissent against our efforts in that unhappy war, as exemplified by Mr. Kerry, and of course others, made the soldier's duties even more difficult. ... These incidents caused our opponent, already highly motivated, to fight harder against us and our Vietnamese allies. Hence the comment made by me which included the provision of 'aid and comfort to the enemy' by Mr. Kerry."

Under relentless attack from the pro-Kerry Boston press, Patton received strong veteran support. Robert Hagopian, past commander of the Massachusetts division of the Disabled American Veterans, spoke for many about the general's views, telling reporters, "I agree with everything he said."

The Lowell Sun ran a cartoon of Kerry trying fruitlessly to wash his blood-covered hands. An accompanying editorial said, "During his antiwar years, John Kerry was about the closest thing to a male Jane Fonda in the U.S. anybody could find - and Ms. Fonda came as close to treason to her country as anybody ever could without being convicted of it."

To no avail. Massachusetts voters elected Kerry that year to join Ted Kennedy in the United States Senate.

Re:John "Eff-ing" Kerry (-1, Offtopic)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629656)

Dude - I assume you have a similar rant about George "I am too high on coke to finish my National guard service" Bush.

Re:John "Eff-ing" Kerry (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629663)

1. YHBT

2. There is no proof that George Bush skipped his service except for poor records that do not suggest anything either way and a commander that has been diagnosed with Alzheimers.

Re:John "Eff-ing" Kerry (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629684)

I know that you're a troll, but this "argument" has come up often and I want to say something. Kerry's being criticized for trying to pick a non-combat role. However, who the hell was begging to be front line?

Re:John "Eff-ing" Kerry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629701)

YHBT YHL HAND

Re:John "Eff-ing" Kerry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629690)

I smell a slimy f*ing "off topic" a*hole troll behind a misleading email address.

Is this plain enough for you?

Great Tactics (3, Informative)

RobertTaylor (444958) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629507)

"We are playing to win," AT&T Labs President Hossein Eslambolchi told industry analysts in February.

Interesting way to go about it!

My Auction: Pan Tilt Ethernet Webcam For Sale [ebay.co.uk]

Re:Great Tactics (2, Insightful)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629600)

"We are playing to win," AT&T Labs President Hossein Eslambolchi told industry analysts in February.

If you ask a researcher, a coder, a sysadmin, a lawyer, and a businessman what the definition of "winning" is, you'll probably get five different answers, one for each. Or a doctor, or a plumber, etc. ad infinitum.

Too bad they didn't mug... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629508)

Stroustrup made C++. Stroustrup should be shot.

Re:Too bad they didn't mug... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629533)

People Who Should Be Shot Twice In The Back Of The Head [freeserve.co.uk]
He's not on the list. I think his crimes against humanity are about the same as everybody elses'.

Re:Too bad they didn't mug... (-1, Troll)

yanestra (526590) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629610)

Stroustrup made C++. Stroustrup should be shot.
Sorry Sir, his brain was already dead when he started about C++.

boose (-1, Offtopic)

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Bjarne already went (5, Interesting)

plorqk (134858) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629512)

He's an endowed prof at my alma mater www.tamu.edu. Hope this improves the CS program there.

Your endowed prof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629527)

"He's an endowed prof"

Did you find this out the first time you attended class? Or did he wait to expose himself at one of those off-campus parties?

Re:Your endowed prof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629578)

He's the only one "endowed" on the whole Aggie campus. Kinda a pyrihic victory though, kinda like being the prettiest girl in College Station.

Re:Your endowed prof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629635)

well, you're obviously an aggie, since you can't fucking spell

Re:Your endowed prof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629648)

thank god I'm going to UT-Dallas this fall...

Pecker size (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629683)

"thank god I'm going to UT-Dallas this fall"

where the professors have huge peckers.

ATT is not the only one (4, Informative)

alphakappa (687189) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629513)

The brain drain from Industry to Universities has been going on for some time. For the past few years, the focus of Industry has been on developing marketable technologies, as would justify the investment of venture capitalists. Also with smaller companies working on bringing products to market faster, the pressure on bigger companies to preferentially fund tangible research has been more.
I don't know if research has suffered because of this - most basic research at American universities are funded by defense projects, and they are funded well. I'm not sure if this will produce the kind of innovative stuff that came out of Bell labs, but at least fundamental research is alive!

Re:ATT is not the only one (5, Insightful)

metlin (258108) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629643)

Actually it has been going on both ways - people moving from the industry to the academia and from the academia to the industry.

Just as an example, think of Jerry Yang and David Filo [yahoo.com] , Larry Page and Sergey Brin [google.com] , Leonard Bosack and Sandra Lerner [cisco.com] , Scott McNealy and Bill Joy - just to mention a few - all these people could have remained in the academia but chose to go to the industry instead. [sun.com]

I'm not sure if this will produce the kind of innovative stuff that came out of Bell labs, but at least fundamental research is alive!


That is the problem - the kind of monolithic no-holds-barred and no-questions-asked environment that Bell Labs provided is gone - that is what the article sought to mention towards the end. Sure, you can do something at the Universities, but not at the scale that it happened at Bell Labs.

So, it really brings us back to the question - Is fundamental research really happening, or is all research now being funded solely based on what Wall Street wants?.

It looks more and more like the days of research for the sake of in and itself are slowly coming to an end.

Re:ATT is not the only one (2, Insightful)

lsdino (24321) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629706)

It looks more and more like the days of research for the sake of in and itself are slowly coming to an end.

Our Civilization's Golden Age has ended. So say our analysts...

It figures. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629655)

The brain drain from Industry to Universities has been going on for some time.

I guess that's why there are no flying cars yet.

Sad Really... (2, Insightful)

Nimrangul (599578) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629523)

While it is a shame to see one of the companies that started this whole mess breaking apart, I am a little on the apathetic side to this.

Don't get me wrong, the loss of jobs anytime is a bad thing. But Bell Labs doesn't really hold some amazing power over the world. It's not like it's needed to help me get by and it surely hasn't given a great deal to me or improved my standard of living lately.

Re:Sad Really... (2, Funny)

saddino (183491) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629641)

it surely hasn't given a great deal to me

Yeah, the invention of the transistor, the laser, UNIX and C hasn't helped me a whit either.

2 words that shouldn't be together (2, Funny)

DrDoombender (681389) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629528)


Labs spokesman Michael Dickman called the downsized AT&T Labs...

Anybody else think that Dickman and downsized are two words that shouldn't be used anywhere near each other?

IBM (4, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629530)

IBM does a LOT of research, but only a small percentage of it is the type of basic research that leads to BIG jumps in technology. In other words they do process refinement and some materials science research but very little basic science research that leads to the kinds of discoveries that brought about optical lasers, the transistor, etc.

Re:IBM (2, Interesting)

Frisky070802 (591229) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629593)

I have to disagree here. Especially in storage (look at IceCube [ibm.com] as an example), there's all sorts of good things going on, and that have gone on in the past (like magnetic disks).

Re:IBM (2, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629642)

IceCube is EXACTLY what I was talking about, that is process refinement, putting a bunch of HDD's with embeded systems into a cluster is not new science, it's refinement of existing ideas and technologies. Giant Magneto Resistance was a basic science breakthrough that happened to have a practical application to HDD technology, but the research scientists kind of knew that when they started researching in that direction. The guys at Bell Labs used to get company grants to do research that might never have led to usefull products for AT&T, I don't believe that IBM is willing to do that. Of course MS is even LESS likely to do it =) Unfortunatly that leaves the goverment as the sole provider of basic science grants in the U.S. and since politics invariably gets involved there it means that there is usefull basic science research that is not being done becuase someone doesn't like bunnies being harmed or doesn't believe in evolution, etc.

Re:IBM (2, Informative)

jabberjaw (683624) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629661)

Ahem, although it was a bit ago, IBM researchers did develop the Scanning Tunneling Microscope.

oh man, hit this guy's tripod site plz! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629536)

He needs to hit his bandwidth cap. http://members.tripod.com/~videtur/ [tripod.com] thanks!

http://members.tripod.com/~videtur/k5screw.txt

damn you! (3, Funny)

segment (695309) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629537)


I blame it on Carrot Top and his annoying 1-800-CALL-ATT commercials. Heartless bastard

AT&T Labs? (2, Interesting)

Fizzlewhiff (256410) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629544)

Bell Labs was the brain power of AT&T and they went to Lucent when the company spun those business off several years ago. Did I miss AT&T picking them back up or something?

Re:AT&T Labs? (2, Informative)

Jonathan (5011) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629588)

The part that went to Lucent is called Bell Labs [bell-labs.com] -- the part that stayed is called AT&T Labs [att.com]

Re:AT&T Labs? (5, Insightful)

yukio (457122) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629596)

It's the Carly Fiorina touch.

I'm sure she offed much of the Labs because there was no short-term sales potential for a lot of what they were doing. And as a sales dweeb, that's all she can understand.

(See also Compaq, Alpha CPUs, HP, Itaniuam servers, the HP 3000 series etc)

I swear that woman and Celine Dion are the evillest twins on earth.

The real tragedy... (5, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629549)

...isn't any one company or research centre closing or being made ineffective. Single institutions grow, evolve and die - they have their golden eras and their stagnant eras. When they're no longer useful or vibrant a new research centre crops up. Innovative scientific progress comes in jumps and spurts and doesn't follow a project plan.

The real tragedy is rather that with the .COM bust there's not been any funding for new research centres. There is therefore no chance for a new centre to have its creative spurt, and nowhere for today's creative minds to go.

I don't think we should be trying to revive dying scientific centres at all, or singling out individual ones. Instead money should be going into research and development in general based on the merits of the research. Fix the general problem and give our best thinkers the chance to do their stuff.

Academia (4, Insightful)

metlin (258108) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629551)

As the article points out, a lot of people are also moving into the academia, not necessarily back into the industry. Perhaps they're happier working in academic environments - atleast that way, they get to have their knowledge and findings out in the open.

However, what the article fails to mention is that a lot of corporate researchers like this guy [washington.edu] are increasingly looking at the industry as a means of getting their research done.

This is an issue not just with AT&T, but lots of other research labs out there. If you look at some of the top conferences on AI, Graphics and the like (SIGGRAPH for instance) - you have an alarmingly high percentage of people performing cutting edge work from Microsoft Research.

So, it does look like MS-R is becoming a destination for a lot of good researchers out there - however, the collective prowess of other places like IBM, Intel and Xerox might just be able to bring in a balance.

The good thing is that this brings money for research and researchers. The bad thing is that all the patents of tomorrow in a lot of the cool technologies will be 0wnzer0ed by MSFT - where would that lead OpenSource in terms of a future - if all the technology that is to come is patented?

Its a double edged sword.

Re:Academia (0, Flamebait)

irokitt (663593) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629632)

AI, Graphics and the like (SIGGRAPH for instance)...cutting edge work from Microsoft Research
So for AI, we have Microsft Bob (Clippy).
And for graphics, we have..um...Luna? (the Windows XP interface).
And for innovative products, we have the Tablet PC?

I'm sorry about the negativity, but I really don't see anthing truly innovative having come out of Microsoft in the past, and something tells me that things will remain that way for quite some time. It takes a long time for research to begin to pay off, and Microsoft is still new at that realm of computing. Oh well, $0.02.

Re:Academia (2, Interesting)

metlin (258108) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629685)

If you noticed, I had said Microsoft Research - not Microsoft itself.

You don't have to believe me - look at Microsoft Research's Publications page [microsoft.com] - that should give you an idea :)

The thing is that what business wants is not necessarily today's research - that is precisely my point. At this moment, sure, what MSR patents may not be quite important - but tomorrow, it could be the basis of a whole lot of things.

Microsoft has done some really really cutting edge work in Natural Language Processing, Graphics, Knowledge and Data Mining, HCI and Ubiquitous Computing - in fact, its hard to go without seeing atleast one or two publications by MSR in any respectable conference/journal that deals in these areas.

But - its not all out in the open - and thats what you should be worried about. Because Microsoft has NO need to bring it out in the open, until it has to. Hidden knowledge is more potent.

Re:Academia (4, Informative)

Keeper (56691) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629698)

If you're going to make fun of the work being done at Microsoft Research [microsoft.com] , you might want to do some 'research' yourself first. They're doing real research, as opposed to doing feature work for existing products.

Common in a lot of industries (5, Insightful)

TrentL (761772) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629553)

Well, this is a very common problem. I remember when I went for interviews in 2000...all the reps at Raytheon and Boeing were saying how a huge part of their workforce was going to retire, and all that knowledge was going to walk right out the door.

Clearly, your hiring patterns have to be continuous. You can sit out economic cycles, but you can't sit out entire generations.

Everyone has their own research division... (5, Insightful)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629575)

It's a nice idea - every company has their own pure research division to solve all those interesting problems, and the IP stays within the company... except, very few companies can afford to do this.

Then again, look at what's come out of these sorts of pure research labs: C, UNIX, WIMP interfaces, etc., even Java, to some extent, could well be considered the output of such a process.

These aren't technologies you can bottle and sell. The value of these sorts of things is the productivity gains they provide. That's not to say the bottle and sell it approach hasn't been tried, but in the end the real meat is often in the abstract ideas, and even with the current patent system you can't patent purely abstract concepts. That is, all these ideas have been cloned, reinvented, or otherwise copied in one form or another.

Which brings me to my point - if you can't bottle it and sell it, if your competitors are just going to end up making a near duplicate anyway, why are you trying to fund this research lab all by yourself? No one doubts the quality of the work that can come out of these places, so why aren't there more cases of a group of various companuies banding together to fund a research group*? I'm not even talking about joining up with your direct competition - surely it wouldn't be that hard to have a group of companies that are not directly competing yet are all interested in managing to bring about a new, better, computer interface etc.

This "go it alone" attitude is sinking a lot of potentially incredibly valuable research simply because companies don't seem to be able to cooperate.

Jedidiah

* Note, for instance, that OSDL is exactly this sort of thing. A research group funded by a wide range of backers all interested in pushing forward computing. And it seems to be a model that's working well!

Good news! (4, Insightful)

PissingInTheWind (573929) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629577)

At least the research in university isn't (as) tainted as in the industry. If we can get the top researcher to make great and open contributions to the science, it's all the better.

Researchers are Paying Their Own Way (3, Informative)

robbyjo (315601) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629579)

Well, researchers are often paying their own way except if they are one of the chairs, which they are offered some complimentary registration fee. Some of bonafide conferences actually pay their expenses if they are invited.

Honestly, researcher communities (especially the academic ones) are disdainful to the "achievements" of "industrial research". The reject rates on industrial papers have been pretty high (usually more than 50%). This is because that the "innovations" of industrial "research" are more or less either one or some of the following: rehashing old ideas, implementing old ideas with new looks / new aspects / into new problems which often not worth mentioning, combining several old ideas in some obvious ways.

Well, this is not to say that industrial papers are crap, but of course there are some excellent industry researchers, which are usually ex-professors which are already well known before they enter the industries. However, research is like a big gamble: either you win big or you lose big. Given the current situation of the economy, it's more likely you lose big because of "lack of genuinely new ideas" and you can never get a guarantee that your research group is actually producing the great useful results for your company. It's a whole lot better for the company to actually scour the conferences, spot the prominent person with the right ideas, and then "steal" them so that they can implement the said idea for your company. This is exactly what Microsoft has been doing in the past years.

Since I never attended trade/business oriented conferences, I can't comment on those. Moreover, these conferences are usually way more expensive than the academia ones (thousands of $$ vs hundreds of $$).

testing posting (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629591)

does this p0rxy work?

Re:testing posting (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629625)

does this p0rxy work?
NO

maybe i'm the only one... (1)

Alkivar (25833) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629602)

but I dont understand why the shift from industrial research to university research is necessarily a bad thing?

most of the newest and brightest ideas are coming from the younger generation who is more able to "think outside the box." I mean just look at the ideas from the previous story on high school kids. these kids are obviously not going directly into a company braintrust but to a university.

Re:maybe i'm the only one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629709)

There's more money in industry.

Seriously, that's about all it boils down to. More money means more bleeding edge research being done. The problem is that Wall Street believes in ROI, which isn't always clear when dealing with research.

Short-sightedness is causing a lot of problems these days..

business had no need for research anymore... (0)

quonsar (61695) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629637)

once they renamed radio as "wireless" and everything else as "digital" and discovered they can just keep selling the same old shit forever.

No such thing as a Brain Drain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629649)

Adjusted for population, the number of Brains remains shockingly constant. Rather than a 'Brain Drain' this is merely a brain redeployment or 'rebraining' for short.

AT&T's Advanced Speech Recognition, c. 2004 (2, Funny)

poptones (653660) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629651)

Laid out of work due to a chronic sinus infection, fearless leader calls information for a recommended Dr's phone number...

<cough...> dialing...

AT&T operator assistance... if you need a phone number, please press or say "one" now...

"One"

Thank You. What City?

<Hoarsley...> "Atlanta"

Thank You. What State?

"Georgia"

Thank You. Please hold for the number..

<Cough...>

Thank You. Goodbye!

Oh yeah... they're really making progress in natural language processing and speech recognition!

How will we compete in the next decades ? (2, Insightful)

johnjaydk (584895) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629668)

This is plain horrible. How will we compete in the international marketplace in the decades to come ?

It's obvious that manufactoring is not the way. Labour is so much cheaper in the developing world. We have to be ahead of the curve and do the development and research to stay in the front.

I see a terrible future ahead where research and production take place outside the western world. We will be left as consumers and hairdressers.

Re:How will we compete in the next decades ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629705)

How will we compete in the international marketplace in the decades to come ?

By learning to say 'Would you like fries with that?' in more than one language.

Whine and moan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629712)

"I see a terrible future ahead where research and production take place outside the western world. We will be left as consumers and hairdressers"

There are two things you can do to deal with the "problem" of 3rd World workers being better. We can whine about it, or we can work better.

Lucent relationship? (0, Redundant)

-tji (139690) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629673)

Wasn't the group that was spun off as Lucent originally part of AT&T Labs? If so, that had to be a huge change when they went on their own. How did they decide what stayed in AT&T and what went to Lucent?

IBM Research (5, Interesting)

Ray Radlein (711289) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629674)

I remember, back in 1987 or so, getting a good look at a computer industry study that showed gross revenues, margins, and so forth for pretty mich all of the companies in what one would consider "the computer industry" of the time. It also showed how much they spent on R&D.

Sperry spent a decent amount; so did Cray, and Hewlett Packard, and AT&T, and NCR, and so forth.

IBM spent more on R&D than the rest of them put together.

In fact, IBM spent more on R&D than the gross revenues of the second-largest company. Not the profits, mind you -- the gross revenues.

That was the single most gobsmacking business statistic that I heard until the one a couple of years ago about how Microsoft could purchase the airline industry out of its cash reserves -- twice .

not much really (0, Troll)

oogoody (302342) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629676)

For all that money, for all those years,
for all those people, the list of accomplishments
doesn't seem that compelling.

Are we beyond the fundamental research stage? (4, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629679)

AT&T did contribute a lot to research, but perhaps we're beyond the stage where organisations like AT&T can provide meaningful reasearch.

Like aerospace and military, the telecoms industry did push early days computers. However it has been the industrial sector and since then the consumer sector which has driven the smaller, faster and cheaper computing.

For example, one might argue that modems were a spin off from Rockwell aerospace. However, that would have left us with 300 baud modems the size of a PC. It took the comsumer age to drive us to 56k Compact Flash format modems.

We have a lot to thank the pioneers for, but after a while they get beyond their usefulness/effectiveness.

Patent myth? (1)

moviepig.com (745183) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629699)

Long ago, many viewed Bell Labs as the quintessential patent-juggernaut, able virtually to own the world's technological future. If that view was at all valid then, wouldn't it apply nowadays to AT&T Labs?

And, if it does apply, is there anything to be learned from the lab's current demise, i.e., with respect to characterizing patents as a mere agent of dominance for Big Industry?

The president of AT&T Labs is clueless (1)

fatboy (6851) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629707)

The president of AT&T Labs insists the organization is helping AT&T's bottom line. ...........He promised more advances in high-speed data over wireless networks and power lines, and technology to aggregate voice and e-mail messages.

Let's see how they will notch out my KW on 40 meters with their BPL technology when they don't have any *GOOD* engineers left.

Physics vs. Software (4, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629711)

I was at conference at Bell Labs/Lucent not too long ago and I think part of what is happening is a natural shift in what matters in corporate research. I got the sense that Bell Labs was shifting slightly from its physics/hardware roots to math/algorithms/software future. They still do physics, but they also do proportionally more R&D in the idea/software space. (Disclaimer: I didn't see any budget figures or top secret stuff, so who knows what they really goes on in Murray Hill)

I'm not saying that we should stop R&D on hardware, solid state physics and materials, only that new software and software-related tools would help everyone get the most out of the current portfolio of hardware technologies. Given that we just discussed "Why Programming Still Stinks" [slashdot.org] and have not discussed "Why Hardware Still Stinks," I would suggest that the bigger research opportunites are in software.

I also suspect that software is more commercialization-friendly. If you look at research advances in hardware/materials it takes 20 years before it makes it out of the lab. By the time a fundamentally new invention is in mass-production its is off-patent. I know BellLabs invented the transistor and the laser, but I wonder what fraction of semiconductor and laser industry's profits actually went to BellLabs/AT&T. In contrast, software can be more self contained and follow a much faster adoption curve.

In summary, I would say that scientists and engineers already have a reasonably good handle on atoms and that the real R&D opportunities are in getting better with bits.

Article text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8629727)

Talent leak drains AT&T think tank Once a bastion of cutting-edge research, it's lost its star power Sunday, March 21, 2004 BY KEVIN COUGHLIN Star-Ledger Staff When AT&T Labs was carved from Bell Labs in the 1995 breakup of AT&T , the telecom giant set lofty goals for its new research arm. "Our mission, in my view, is to invent the future of communications," proclaimed Alexander "Sandy" Fraser, who pushed to create AT&T Labs. From Our Advertiser Today, many of AT&T's top scientists still chase that dream -- somewhere else. They strive to invent the future in the shiniest ivory towers and hottest tech companies, from MIT to Microsoft, from the Pentagon to Google. Some 200 scientists -- nearly half the core research staff -- were let go from AT&T Labs in Florham Park in January 2002 amid sweeping corporate cuts throughout AT&T. Since then an all-star collection of researchers has bolted from the labs. The fate of AT&T Labs mirrors changing fortunes at AT&T, an American icon squeezed by bad investments and bad timing. More importantly, some scientists say, it raises tough questions about the direction of industrial research and America's future as an innovator. At AT&T Labs, the brain drain is so severe, observed Michael Kearns, now at the University of Pennsylvania, that his former employer's motto should be "404 Not Found" -- the error message that greets many searches on the labs' Web site. Defectors point to the loss of esteemed colleagues, cuts in long-range research and restrictions on travel, media contacts and publication of scholarly articles. The place has had three different vice presidents of research within the past year. For some researchers, the last straw was having to pay their own way to present scientific papers at prestigious conferences. For others, it was the elimination of free espresso and bottled water at the leafy Florham Park campus, once the estate of Vanderbilt descendants. Yet many remember the brief heyday of AT&T Labs, during the euphoria of the Internet boom, as the most thrilling time of their careers. For them, the exodus is a tragedy. "We had a national gem," said Avi Rubin, who exposed flaws in electronic voting systems last year as a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University. "To see it melt away is very painful," said Andrew Odlyzko, who sensed trouble brewing in 2001 and left to head a digital technology center at the University of Minnesota. While turmoil at AT&T Labs is a bonanza for places like Columbia University and the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, scientists say it underscores the decline of "blue-sky" research -- science for science's sake -- at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, IBM, General Electric and the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Gone from AT&T Labs, or nearly so, are groups highly regarded for their long-term studies in artificial intelligence and machine learning, network security and cryptography, algorithms and theoretical computer science, and statistics. AT&T research operations in Cambridge, England, and at the University of California, Berkeley are gone, too. The National Science Foundation says federal support for basic science has waned, as well, since 1980. "It's an open question where the next big ideas and discoveries will come from," said Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future. A former adviser to AT&T Labs, Saffo warned that corporate America's "relentless race for short-term value is killing our future ... AT&T Labs was a national crown jewel -- and it's been terribly devalued." "If you're focusing on research that's short-term, to impact products in a year or two, there are all kinds of world-changing discoveries that you simply miss," said Maria Klawe, president of the Association for Computing Machinery and dean of engineering at Princeton University. Princeton has cherry-picked at least two AT&T Labs scientists since 2002; Klawe interviewed another this month. The university even created an institute for materials sciences last year specifically to "help fill a national void" left by declining resources of industrial research labs. For its part, AT&T says fierce competition has forced a shift from basic science to business-driven research. Projects now must improve the bottom line within months, not years, as AT&T morphs from a phone company to a supplier of business networking services. When AT&T finally shed about $100 billion of cable TV and wireless ventures -- disastrous investments meant to satisfy Wall Street during the tech boom --it also shed prime areas for research. "We are playing to win," AT&T Labs President Hossein Eslambolchi told industry analysts in February. Labs spokesman Michael Dickman called the downsized AT&T Labs a "lean, mean networking machine," focused on ensuring the reliability of AT&T's vast data network. Partnerships with universities will play a bigger role going forward, he said, declining to tout anyone still at AT&T Labs. "We had the names, the celebrities. That was then. This is now. We don't have people like that. Even if we did, it goes against our strategy to highlight them," said Dickman. Among prominent names to bail recently: # Lorrie Faith Cranor. Named one of the world's top 100 young innovators last year by MIT's Technology Review, the Internet privacy expert left in December to teach at Carnegie Mellon University. # Matt Blaze. The cryptographer has exposed flaws in everything from common locks to the Clinton administration's "Clipper Chip"; he left in December for the University of Pennsylvania. # Peter Shor. A pioneer in "quantum computing" -- he showed how it might crack the most secure encryption someday -- the MacArthur Fellow quit last summer to become a math professor at MIT. Others have gone to Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science and to Microsoft Research -- maybe the only shop rich enough to support basic research as Bell Labs did in the Cold War, when AT&T's telephone monopoly paid the bills. Not surprisingly, AT&T Labs patterned itself after Bell Labs, birthplace of the transistor and winner of 11 Nobel Prizes. More startling was AT&T's decision to launch a new lab at all. When AT&T was split up in 1995, Lucent Technologies inherited its equipment-making business -- and Bell Labs. Sandy Fraser, a genteel British researcher from Bell Labs, helped convince AT&T, now strictly a services company, it still needed a lab. "It was very courageous in a way for a services company to embrace the idea of having its own research organization," said Ron Brachman, an expert in artificial intelligence who followed Fraser from Bell Labs to AT&T Labs. (Both left in 2002: Fraser started a research firm, and Brachman joined the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency.) Lucent kept most of the chemists, physicists and materials scientists. AT&T vied for Bell Labs computer scientists, mathematicians and, especially, speech recognition experts. It was messy. Lucent kept the libraries of Bell Labs; AT&T got the librarians. "We like to think we stayed with it, the parent lab," said Ron Graham, a Bell Labs math star whose jump to AT&T Labs inspired others to follow. He left for the University of California, San Diego, in 1999. AT&T Labs named its Florham Park headquarters for Bell Labs legend Claude Shannon. Researchers even tried juggling on a unicycle, as Shannon once did, said Michael Littman, now a Rutgers professor. About 80 percent of research involved projects with an eight- to 10-year window. Now, turnaround targets are 18 to 24 months, said Dickman, the AT&T Labs spokesman. Early on, the diverse talent mix surpassed the most elite schools, former researchers said. Brainstorming was encouraged in lounges called "bump spaces." Mathematician Eric Rains (now at the University of California, Davis) joined the quantum computing group thanks to a discussion overhead during his job interview. Cryptographer Rebecca Wright, now at the Stevens Institute of Technology, said rounding up dozens of computer security experts used to be easy at AT&T Labs. They were galvanized by Fraser, who spoke of a digital "Renaissance Network," and David Nagel, a former Apple Computer executive who once designed cockpits for NASA. Nagel, the first president of AT&T Labs, now is CEO of PalmSource Inc. "I used to think I had the best possible job," said Avi Rubin, who envisioned a long career at AT&T Labs. He compared it to a great university -- without the hassles of grading exams and chasing grants. Research was eclectic. AT&T Labs tried teaching computers to learn from mistakes. Researchers designed intelligent scheduling devices, smart antennas and wireless delivery of local phone service. They dabbled with Internet delivery of music before Napster, and with Internet video phones. Computer scientists were widely quoted in debates about instant messaging, privacy and security. That last topic struck close to home: David Smith unleashed the Melissa virus in 1998, when he was a contractor for AT&T Labs in Florham Park. About 300 researchers work there now, roughly half the number from the late 1990s, estimated Dickman. Another 6,000 people -- mostly in development, not research -- work at a mammoth complex in Middletown. That's down by about 1,500 from its peak, Dickman said. A hundred or so researchers are based in Menlo Park, Calif., and about 30 more staff a lab in Nice, France, he said. As the air whooshed from the tech bubble, AT&T slashed spending on research and development from $550 million in 1999 to $254 million in 2002, according to Schonfeld & Associates, a business research firm. Free espresso was among the casualties. "That's real penny-pinching," said Jim Reeds, snapped up by the Institute for Defense Analyses in Princeton after the 2002 layoffs. Lorrie Faith Cranor, who paid her own way to deliver a paper at a Florida conference last spring, said life grew confusing at AT&T Labs. "There was a lot of pressure to tie everything to the immediate impact on the business. At the same time, they told us they understood the importance of doing research not directly tied to the business," said Cranor, whose husband Chuck, a networking researcher, also left AT&T Labs. Rubin said "baby sitters" from public relations were assigned to all media interviews. He said he struggled for permission to publish a research paper about the Postal Service's vulnerability to cyber attacks. When a co-worker was laid off, he resolved to split. Peter Shor said he felt so isolated after all the departures that he had to leave. "Nowadays, I don't know what the mission is" at AT&T Labs, he said. Others said AT&T Labs had no choice but to downsize. "We soldiered on as well as we could, quite competently. And we got mugged -- by Wall Street," said Bjarne Stroustrup, inventor of a popular programming language. Stroustrup left AT&T Labs last year for Texas A&M but retains ties to the labs. He doubts universities can pick up the slack from corporate research labs. "They don't have the size or the culture or the reward mechanisms or the management experience. Universities don't operate on the scales that Bell Labs and AT&T Labs did" in focused areas, said Stroustrup. The president of AT&T Labs insists the organization is helping AT&T's bottom line. Technology from the labs foiled the Slammer worm last year, Hossein Eslambolchi told industry analysts in February. He praised advances in speech recognition, natural language understanding and artificial intelligence for automating customer service. He promised more advances in high-speed data over wireless networks and power lines, and technology to aggregate voice and e-mail messages. Eslambolchi, who holds four job titles, compared AT&T Labs to a big league ball team. "It is the talent of the players ... that differentiates teams," he told the analysts. "AT&T has the winning players, and we are playing to win. ... This is our story, and we are sticking with it."

It all starts at the top (4, Interesting)

Barleymashers (643146) | more than 10 years ago | (#8629734)

As a former labs person, one who was included in last years outsourcing, it is not a surprise to see this happen. For right or wrong the new management has chosen this path and they are succeeding in an alarming rate. What they are succeeding at I have no idea beside the destruction of the Labs and the company as a whole. Am I a bitter ex-employee? sure... but that doesn't change the fact that that it is happening.

The president of the labs is to credit or blame as you see fit. He has a strategy and he is going about it quickly. Is it a good strategy? Time will tell, but it is not one I believe in, nor do I believe in their president, even when I was a loyal employee. He is downsizing research and development and trying to buy off the shelf products for a company that really has no peer in size. Let's face it, the reason why AT&T had to develop all of their own stuff internally was because there was no one on the outside developing towards that market and could achieve the quality that was desired. They have special needs that outside vendors, for the most part, can't fill, but they try and stick the square peg into the round hole.
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