I heard about Bell Labs from someone who had a summer job a couple of years earlier.  He said the people were smart and dedicated, and it was not a place where everybody went home at 5PM (that was an understatement!).  One of my professors knew someone there and gave them a call, so an interview was set up.  It was about a 2 hour drive from my home outside of Philadelphia, so I left three hours before the interview, ran into some traffic, and then got horribly lost (oh for a GPS!).  I got to the interview an hour and 15 minutes late and talked to an HR person who said, in effect, "It's a shame you came in today.  We hardly hire anyone, and we've already hired everyone we need for the summer.  But since you're here, we've arranged for your to have lunch with one of our busy researchers..."   I had a 2-hour lunch with Tom Crowley, and we really hit it off.  Tom then took me around and introduced me to people as "This is Steve who will be working with us this summer...".   Then he took me back to HR, where they effectively repeated their earlier message.  It was my first, but far from my last, experience with organizational incoherence.   But in any case, I got the job.  After the first summer, I was hooked...

It's probably worth pointing out that Xerox PARC soon became a serious competitor for computing talent, with almost no overlap with the labs in the computer area--they were a lisp shop and WYSIWYG text processing and such.  I had some very spirited discussions with PARC folks at conferences that were a lot of fun and very stimulating.  In the compiler area, IBM Yorktown Heights also did work much different from the Labs, and lead to lively debates at conferences.


----- Original Message -----
"Larry McVoy" <lm@mcvoy.com>

"The Eunuchs Hysterical Society" <tuhs@tuhs.org>

Wed, 28 Nov 2018 09:17:25 -0800
[TUHS] stories

Ken's story got me thinking about stuff I would still like to learn
and his comment about "when I got to Bell Labs"... made me wonder
how did Ken, Dennis, Brian, Joe and the rest of the crew make their
way to Bell Labs?

When I was just starting out, Sun was sort of the Bell Labs of the
time (not that Sun was the same as Bell Labs but it was sort of
the center of the Unix universe in my mind). So I wanted to go
there and had to work at it a bit but I got there.

Was Bell Labs in the 60's like that? If you were a geek was that
the place to go? I was born in '62 so I don't have any memory of
how well known the Labs were back then.

So how was it that so many smart - and somewhat like minded it seems -
people end up there?