Archives:BBN computing history: A Culture of Innovation


David Walden and Raymond Nickerson, editors, with chapters by Nineteen Long-time BBN People

Waterside Publishing, East Sandwich, Massachusetts, 2011

Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. (now Raytheon BBN Technologies) has been a significant player in information science, computing/computer research and development, and the application of computers since the mid-1950s. In 2011 we (editors and 19 authors) produced a book about the company's history of work in computing. Here is a PDF of the book. At the time of the posting of this web page in September 2020, hard copies of the book may be bought at Amazon and other bookstores around the world that offer online sales.

From the book's Preface. Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) was originally a partnership and then a public corporation, Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. As a public company, BBN went through several other organizational and name transitions. Starting in the 1990s, it became a part of a couple of big telephone companies; and then (2003–2009) it operated as BBN Technologies, a privately held corporation. Today (2011) it operates as Raytheon BBN Technologies. Throughout these incarnations, BBN has been a notable (we might claim renowned) science and engineering innovator in, first, the acoustics field and, later, the computer field. BBN’s role in the development of the Internet may be its most widely known innovative involvement, but it has made equally important contributions to other, less widely known, areas of the application of computers. This book covers BBN’s history of work in the computer field, as well as more general discussion of BBN’s culture and management, told by people who were deeply involved in these activities for many years (some to the present day). Thus, we have titled this book A Culture of Innovation: Insider Accounts of Computing and Life at BBN. The raw material for the book was originally pulled together mostly in the early to mid-2000s, covering the period up to the early 1990s. Some, but not a lot, of more recent history has been added. Thus, the coverage in this book of BBN’s computer history is increasingly thin for the years moving forward from the mid-1990s.

The book's table of Contents

PART I: Founders and Early Days in Computing

01 Founding a Culture of Engineering Creativity
02 A Sketch of the Life of Richard Henry Bolt (1911–2002)
03 The ABC's of BBN
04 Early Years of Basic Computer and Software Engineering

PART II: Culture, Business, and Management

05 The Way We Were: Aspects of the Culture of BBN
06 The History of Technology Transfer at BBN
07 Leading a Top Notch R&D Group

PART III: Applying Computer Technology

08 Psychology at BBN from the mid 1960s
09 Control Systems R&D at BBN
10 Fifty Years of Acoustic Signal Processing for Detection
11 DataProbe and ADCAP
12 Medical Applications of Computers
13 Educational Technology at BBN
14 Speech Processing at BBN
15 Natural-Language Understanding at BBN
16 Artificial Intelligence (AI) at BBN

PART IV: Developing Computer Technology

17 Data Networking @ BBN
18 Distributed Computing at BBN
19 Networked E-mail
20 SIMNET: A Revolution in Distributed Team Training
21 Later Years of Basic Computer and Software Engineering

22 Epilog