In 1909, top executives at AT&T decided to commit themselves to a challenge: building a transcontinental phone line that could connect a call between New York and San Francisco. The problem was one that required not just engineering skill but advances in pure science. They needed, among other things, to create a repeater or amplifier for the electric signals so that they would not attenuate after a few miles. Thus was the seed planted for a new collaborative industrial organization — teaming up theoreticians, experimentalists, material scientists, metallurgists, engineers and even telephone pole climbers — that eventually became Bell Labs. Jointly owned by AT&T and its affiliated equipment maker, Western Electric, Bell Labs went on to invent the transistor and make major contributions to the field of lasers and cellular telephony.