Technology History in New Jersey

From my travels, November 27, 2019.

This post is a continuation of the trip I started with the Ten Crucial Days.

On the far side of the square in Princeton, there is a monument to Albert Einstein, who worked at the Institute for Advanced Study after fleeing Nazi Germany. I actually drove past the house that he lived in for the rest of his life. The road trip had now turned to the realm of technology history.

The monument to Albert Einstein in Princeton. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The monument to Albert Einstein in Princeton. – Photo by the author

Skillman, NJ

About 20 minutes from Princeton is a very small town – in fact, that’s even generous. There is an intersection and a post office, as well as a large Johnson & Johnson complex nearby that lists its address as being in Skillman, NJ.

I honestly don’t know too much about how it came to be – there are some accounts in the family lore – but they must have some truth to them. I know that my family first came to this country through the New York / New Jersey area, so it makes sense that my family would have a connection here.

Selfie at the Skillman, NJ post office. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Selfie at the Skillman, NJ post office. – Photo by the author

I stopped by the post office and got a selfie, as well as a few postmarked slips of paper inside as souvenirs. The lady working the desk was very kind when I told her of my family connection to this place. One day, I need to find a reason to bring my boys here.

Bell Labs – Murray Hill, NJ

The entrance to Bell Labs. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The entrance to Bell Labs. – Photo by the author

This is one of those stops that the technology nerd in me had been dreaming about for some time. It’s hard to overstate just how important Bell Labs was. This was the “silicon valley” of its day. The modern world was basically invented in this building.

Prior to the breakup of the Bell System, a small portion of every phone bill in America went to fund technology research here. They basically just hired a ton a really smart people across an array of disciplines, and put them in a building together hoping that magic would happen that would be useful to the phone system. So many inventions – and Nobel prizes – came out of their efforts.

In recent years, it has gone through multiple owners, and the most recent, Nokia, has announced that they no longer need this building and will be leaving in a few years. I hope that something of it can be preserved. It’s an incredible feeling to be inside that structure.

The small museum here: the “Bell Labs Technology Showcase”, really gives a sense of the impact of all these brilliant people working together in the “Idea Factory“. I took a bunch of photos, with the highlights below.

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