Some call him a genius, others a charlatan; but even his critics agree that Huang's optical computers are unsurpassed

HOLMDEL, N.J.--Absent was the cautious reserve usually adopted by scientists in formal presentations. In its place was Alan Huang's characteristic approach to the scientific briefing: machine-gun bursts of excited speech, highly animated hand gestures, all in support of the virtues of Huang's passion - optical computers, whose circuits run on light rather than electricity.

Huang, who heads the Optical Computing Research Department of AT&T Bell Laboratories, was speaking about his work to an official delegation of top-flight research scientists from Bellcore, Bell Communications Research Inc. Suddenly, Stuart Personick, a Bellcore vice president, stood up, interrupting the talk. Huang was spouting nonsense, Personick declared, and his conduct was damaging his reputation, Bell Labs, and science itself. Huang, Personick asserted, was either incredibly stupid or deliberately misleading those present. With that, Personick stalked...

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