Bell Laboratories Transistor Water Tower – Holmdel, New Jersey - Atlas Obscura

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Bell Laboratories Transistor Water Tower

This water tower commemorates the invention of the transistor on this site in 1947. 


This water tower commemorates the invention of the transistor in 1947. The transistor was invented by William Shockley with his assistants John Bardeen and Walter Brattain.

Bell Labs immediately recognized how important the transistor was. It was more dependable than the vacuum tube, produced less heat, and was cheaper. AT&T immediately began replacing its vacuum tubes with new devices, allowing clearer conversations with less static, and more dependable components.

Early computers like the ENIAC with its 18,000 vacuum tubes were down almost half the time due to tube failures. New minicomputers could now be made and IBM, a calculating machine and tabulating company started building computers.  Radios could now be made portable and car radios became common. The transistor also became the heart of the integrated circuit and of the computers and mobile devices we use today.

Bell Labs was famous as an innovator in the 20th century. The Linux operating system, Google Android, MacOS, and iOS are all based upon the Unix operating system created here in the 1970s. The Big Bang was discovered here. Information Theory was developed here.

Bell Labs was split between AT&T and the seven Bell Operating Companies when AT&T was broken up. It passed through several ownerships and Alcatel, the owner of Lucent which was previously known as Bell Labs sold the complex in 2013. The tower was built in 1961. The famed Eero Saarinen-designed headquarters built at the same time is up the road.

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December 3, 2021

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