Traditional high-tech industry rivals IBM and AT&T compete in many spheres—from selling personal computers to garnering Nobel Prizes. But an area of particular fascination for scientists is their ongoing competition in basic and applied research. In 1987, the two titans again went head-to-head. They both, for example, went all out in pursuing high-temperature superconducting ceramic oxides and new technology leading to improved semiconductors.

But there were significant differ- ences in their concentration of research activities as well.

IBM scientists focused on the study of material surfaces and solid-liquid interfaces using scanning tunneling microscopy (invented by IBM scientists Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer), on ion-beam etching of silicon, and on the use of polycrystalline silicon for bipolar transistors.

AT&T scientists took a keen interest in several areas relating to quantum-well structures, perhaps the most active field of current semiconductor research. IBM, too, was active in researching quantum wells, but not to...

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