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Bell Labs: Life in the Crown Jewel [Gekürzte Ausgabe] [Englisch] [Audio CD]

Narain Gehani


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THIS WAS ONE of the remarks made by a manager while welcoming me to Bell Labs. Lesen Sie die erste Seite
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Amazon.com: 3.2 von 5 Sternen  10 Rezensionen
14 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
1.0 von 5 Sternen Anecdotal, disorganized and poorly written. 4. Februar 2006
Von Jeff - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I can't remember reading a more poorly written book since grade school. I read the whole book solely so I could write this review honestly. Mr. Gehani appears to have slapped together every single moment he can remember about his time at BL, inserted 9 chapter headings at random, and called it a book. His sentence structure is consistent with a 7th grade reading level (7th grade by US standards, so basically, a normal 8 year old). I found myself frequently saying, "What the hell is the point of this?" after each chapter.

There have been many brilliant scientists at BL; Mr. Gehani does not shed any light on the fascinating scientific culture that produced so many Nobelists. He does however, shed light on each and every mundane managerial decision he had to make. Again, I found myself frequently saying, "What the hell is the point of this?" after each chapter.

It's truly sad that this book exists. So many other writers could have done a better job and added something to libraries around America. I wouldn't even use this book for a grade school book report. It truly is that worthless.

My review of this book has since been critized. As PhD student in computational physics and chemistry, my failure to "get" this book is not for lack of understanding of the research that went on at Bell Labs, but perhaps a lack of understanding of why anyone would write this poorly about mundane events.
15 von 16 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen An insider's look at an honored institution 3. Januar 2003
Von Thomas G. Farley - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
SHORT REVIEW
What happened to Bell Labs? This book answers that question. Gehani shows how the Labs survives but struggles. He thinks Bell Labs can continue but only by quickly changing culture and direction.
Throughout his book Gehani provides fresh and important information. We get a rare look into Bell Labs' life, the tremendous freedom to pursue independent, high quality research. Even more so than academia, where tenure provides a backstop, publish or perish was a constant watch phrase. Do your research, whatever that may be, but make sure the scientific community recognizes it and accepts it. Published papers, not profit, was the expectation. As the emphasis changes to helping Lucent's business units the Labs cannot retain its old character, indeed, the old Labs is probably gone forever. Glory can come back to Bell Labs but it will probably be in a different way, helping Lucent first, then society at large. Reinventing itself may prove the Labs most difficult project, still, it may surprise us, as its discoveries and inventions have surprised us for more than seventy five years. Let's hope.
DETAILS
Bell Labs: Life in the Crown Jewel, chronicles Narain Gehani's twenty three years at Bell Laboratories. It is a welcome and needed addition to telephone history. Gehani started work in 1978, when the Labs was fully subsidized and owned by AT&T. He left in 2001, after the Lab switched parent companies, split apart many times, and researchers reduced two-thirds.
AT&T's telephone monopoly generously funded Bell Labs from its 1925 creation until the Bell System's 1984 divestiture. Each customer's bill sent something to the Labs; slightly higher rates subsidizing research and development. This excellent arrangement lasted nearly sixty years, Bell Labs contributing mightily to building the world's best telephone system. After1984 AT&T no longer had guaranteed revenue; Bell Labs withered as its parent wandered and floundered financially. Lucent's recent control has not helped.
Chapter 1, I Have A Job For Life!, summarizes Gehani's Labs' career, Laboratory accomplishments, its history, and the desire researchers felt to work there. Chapter 2, The Crown Jewel, describes the Labs' confusing ownership, spin-offs, and name changes. Gehani details relations and history between the Labs and Lucent, Bellcore, Telecordia, NCR, Avaya, and Agere. After explaining the Labs external structure, he lays out its internal structure in Chapter 3, Life at Murray Hill. We learn how researchers, managers, and development people get along. Chapter 4, Looking For Dung But Finding Gold reveals how often pure research leads to important discoveries.
Gehani's writing turns from Old Labs to New, as Lucent ownership and funding demanded change from pure to applied research. In Chapter 5, Do We Work For The Same Company?, corporate culture differences between Lab researchers and Lucent business people block cooperating. Chapter 6, What Are You Doing For Us?, finds researchers struggling to pioneer science while producing relevant work for Lucent. Chapter 7, Bell Labs Goes West, details the well intended but doomed expansion into Silicon Valley. Chapter 8, Maps On Us, describes a successful web development project between Labs researchers and Lucent business units. It points to a collaborative direction the Labs may have to take. Chapter 9, Most Fantastic Place! recaps Bell Labs bygone university like atmosphere and the changes needed to transform the Labs into something quite different: a market oriented research institution.
Bell Labs: Life in the Crown Jewel by Narain Gehani, Silicon Press, 2003, 258 pages, hardcover, ISBN 0-929306-27-9. Consecutively numbered, descriptive endnotes. Good index. No photographs. Minor, first edition layout problems. Easily read type with plenty of white space. Recommended .
9 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Mildly interesting 6. September 2003
Von Shannon Gaw - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Crown Jewels describes the evolution of Bell Labs from the gravy-train days under the Ma Bell monopoly to its struggling to stay alive under the faltering Lucent. Aside from back and forth chronology that confused me at times, I found the book to be well-written. However, I don't know that the material is worthy of a book. The entire volume is really summed up in one sentence: Life at Bell Labs was like academia until after the divestiture, and then no one at either Bell Labs, AT&T, the RBOCs, or Lucent really knew how to harness its energy. As somewhat of an industry insider, I was hoping for more details of its products and innovations, but such information was hit-and-miss -- the author talked about "MapsOnUs" in detail, but quickly blew over other products like VoIP and Softswitch.
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Corporate greed, insularity, and pointless anecdotes 29. März 2009
Von Dan tdaxp - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
At one point, listening to this book while running on an eliptical, I wanted to throw the remote control at the television.

In a way, comparing Bell Lab: Life in the Crown Jewel with other stories of innovation engines (such as Where Wizards Stay Up Late and Dealers of Lightning) leads to the same comparison of The Man Who Stayed Behind and I Chose China. Both of these latter two books concern American Jews who went to China in the early post-War years, aligned themselves with the Communist Party, and witnessed Maoism first-hand over a period of decades. However, while The Man Who Stayed Behind is carefully organized, I Choose China is a collection of reminiscences that go nowhere in particular. Bell Labs: Life in the Crown Jewel is a collection of reminiscences that go nowhere in particular. The tenacity with which Narain repeats that there is a conflict between basic and applied research is impressive, but ultimately pointless.

Bell Labs: Life in the Crown Jewel appears to want to be a popular business book. I say this because technical and research skills are regularly mocked, but little is learned from a research perspective, either. For instance, in one anectdoe, Gehani disputes whether a colleague actually saved a Business Unit a large amount of money through some new technique. The colleague, the colleague's manager, and the Business Unit all assert that he did. Gehani's "test" -- to see whether the Business Unit would grant a bonus of a large amount of money, because that employee might again be so productive the next year, ends the anecdote as an example of Gehani's cleverness. The technical details of what this innovation might have been are not discussed. But neither is any business thinking exhibited. Questions of headcount, corporate fiefdoms, and the such aren't even raised. Instead, in this anecdote and others, the reader is intended to exist with a sense of Gehani's unique cleverness.

The book is a nauseating example of how corporate lawfare retards actual innovation. For instance, in a sickening passage, Narain discusses how he "invented" and patented co-browsing, and urged Bell Labs' general counsel to sue others who use this "invention." These ridiculous patents exist only because corporate corporations attempt to use the law to club possible competitors. None of these "inventions" are any more impressive than, say, "A Method to Repair Shoe Laces with Scotch Tape in the Event they Break Instead of Buying New Shoelaces." However, large companies that hire lawyers are able to cause enough problems litigating these pattens (that they get by flooding the underfunded USPTO with applications) that they are able to carve out de facto monopolies contrary to the intent of U.S. law. A search on the Patent Office's website indicate that Gehani's first patent was granted in 1995, considerably after he joined Bell Labs. My obvious conclusion is that Bell Labs, ever closer to its decapitation by Lucent, began generating patents in order to force competitors to "license" obvious methods, or else face hundreds of thousands in legal bills. This is not discuss.

The tragedy of Bell Labs: Life in the Crown Jewel is that it might have been one of the best case-studies of an innovation engine written. Perhaps Narain Gehani will still write that book. He is no longer with Bell Labs, and currently serves as the Chairman of the Computer Science Department at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. His publication list is impressive, and Google Book Search brings up numerous other works written or co-written by Dr. Gehani. I hope that I will have a chance to read a more complete first-person perspective, perhaps titled Bell Labs: Decline and Fall, sometime soon. Narain could structure such as book as follows.

Introduction: What Went Wrong
Chapter One: My Early Life
Chapter Two: From a Professor to a Researcher
Chapter Three: (Mis)Adventures with the Unix Team
Chapter Four: Concurrent C/C++
Chapter Five: The Object Database Environment
Chapter Six: Years of Transition
Chapter Seven: The Columbus GPS System
Chapter Eight: Maps On Us
Chapter Nine: Cell Center Capers
Chapter Ten: Commuting from Jersey to the Valley (by Jet)
Chapter Eleven: From a Researcher to a Professor:
Epilogue: What Went Right

Such a book would be a wonderful read, a great "technical autobiography" of a man, and a first-person history of Bell Labs. It would explain obviously important parts of Narain's career which are discussed but never described, such as his database and C/C++ systems. Additionally, it would provide a coherent chronology and frames of reference, that do not exist in the current book.
3.0 von 5 Sternen I was there, too 30. Oktober 2012
Von John F. Bell - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
There are movies like M*A*S*H and books like "Torch Of Honor" that document, celebrate, and ridicule the way governments can be dysfunctional.
Corporations can be dysfunctional, too.
One of my favorites is a book called "Rivethead" about a guy working on a GM assembly line.
I have been waiting for one about AT&T... the "old", "classic" AT&T, that spun off a bunch of subsidiaries, and then was purchased by one of them.
This wasn't that book.
I was there, too.
For 23 years from 1981 until 2004.
At Bell Laboratories.
If you want to stop reading here and just walk away with a general sense of who I am and where I was, think "Dilbert", only more so.
The terrible thing I remember, however was the sense of a wasted opportunity.
When I joined, Personal Computers were just getting launched into the marketplace.
Just like NASA was the organization to be a part of in the 60's, Bell Labs (or Silicon Valley) felt like the place to be ~1980:

NASA in the 60's put man on the moon?
OK, nice job.
Bell Labs detects the origin of the universe while they are fiddling with noise levels on a microwave dish.
We p*ss patents and sh*t Nobel prizes.
Here's a pat on the back, NASA, now go back to launching our communications satellites, rocket boys.
(Not to knock NASA, but that's how I felt about the company I was joining.)

Now, take that technology swagger and attitude and look at what happened.
Ouch!
*That* is the story of the failure of Bell Labs to adapt and to capitalize on its strengths.
Such a waste.
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