August 17th, 2005


Bell Labs Unix Group Disbanded

A news item on Slashdot says that the original Bell Labs Unix group (with guys like Rob Pike, Kernighan, Thompson, Ritchie, McIlroy) has been disbanded - most of the researchers have left the lab, some to become university Professors, others to work in companies like Google. There have been lots of interesting user comments - many of which bemoan the demise of great research groups. It's a fact that most `research' that goes on today is oriented towards bettering the next quarter's profit - there seems to be a distinct lack of focus on long term objectives. Such research will never produce stuff like the transistor or the laser.

It seems that our arch enemy, MS, has a research department with some real great scientists *not* doing product R&D but basic research in areas like Algorithmics - hats off to Bill.G if he is really doing this.

Indian companies like Infosys, Wipro etc are minting money - why don't they hire a group of smart guys and put them to work on say inventing new algorithms and stuff of that sort. It would be difficult to get such a group of `smart guys', but I am sure with sincere effort, these companies would be able to set up research establishments like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) where people do *real* research rather than write stupid Java/Cobol/C/XYZ code.

People like Narayan Murthy, Premji etc had the vision to build up an entire industry from scratch - they shouldn't stop at that - they now have a chance to give to India an AT&T or a XEROX PARC; will they try?