In 1927, Warren Morrison of Bell Labs developed the first quartz crystal clock. The timepiece relied on the natural oscillations within the quartz crystal to keep time, rather than mechanical pendulums or gears. This invention ended up spinning off a timepiece division of AT&T, Frequency Control Products, that ended up becoming Vectron International—still in business today, as a separate company.
There were other uses for quartz, communications-wise—taking advantage of quartz' piezoelectric qualities (quartz creates electrical charges when compressed). But natural quartz, of the pure qualities needed for mass production of electronics components utilizing quartz, was far too expensive. So Bell Laboratories engineers set to work creating artificial quartz crystals in 1946.
By 1956, they had perfected a hydrothermal process that produced pure quartz plates. This film also chronicles upscaling that process to a more mass, production-scale, which was done at the Merrimack Works in Massachusetts. The Bell System was the largest consumer of quartz in the U.S. at that time.
Written and directed by Jeri Sopanen
Music by Louis and Bebe Barron
Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ