Ratting Bell Labs

Ooooh, Bell Labs is full of smart guys. Smart enough to invent the laser. Smart enough to invent the transistor. Smart enough to win the Nobel Prize! Smart enough to...let a rat poison company beat them to the Web name BellLabs.com?

Yes, really. Try to get the latest information on fiber-optic networks and you'll be whisked to the home page of Madison (Wis.)-based Bell Laboratories Inc., a $30 million company that registered the domain name in 1995. Bell Labs parent AT&T (now Lucent Technologies), dithered, so the geniuses make do with Bell-Labs.com. "I'm sure they would like to have it, but we aren't going anywhere," says Linda Hughes, a spokeswoman for Bell Laboratories Inc. With Midwestern helpfulness, she offers, "We forward their e-mail to them."

Lucent says the situation hasn't caused them any problems. Dateline NBC, alas, can't say the same. During a hard-hitting 1997 investigative piece on UFOs, the show illustrated a book's claims that little green men really invented transistors by cutting to a shot of Bell Labs' home page--and got the wrong one. Seekers of laser-powered mouse zappers no doubt felt they were in the right place.