Newswise — While at Bell Labs, William Shockley helped invent the transistor, for which he shared the 1956 Nobel Prize. Another idea he had at Bell Labs is much less well known: Shockley patented a device for guiding bombs automatically to their targets. He hoped the heart of his guidance mechanism, an artificial eye of sorts, along with other electronic innovations of the time, would usher in an era of factory automation using humanoid robots. This idea was, however, just too much ahead of its time for Shockley to advance it commercially, despite his best attempts. It was nevertheless influential, because it motivated Shockley to abandon Bell Labs for California, where he helped plant the seeds for what was later to become Silicon Valley.

For a faxed copy of the article (“Shockley’s Robot Dream,” by David C. Brock, IEEE Spectrum, December 2013) or to arrange an interview, contact: Nancy T. Hantman, 212-419-7561, [email protected].