An electrical engineer, Joel had a fascination with telephones — and patents — all his life, and made his career at the venerable telephone R&D company, Bell Labs. It was Joel who figured out how to automate the billing of long distance calls; it took more than 500 pages to describe for the resulting patent, one of more than 70 awarded to him. But he's best known for an invention patented in 1972: the system that allows a wireless phone call to be handed from one tower to the next without disrupting the call — which was needed to make cell phones workable. "Without his invention, there wouldn't be all these people walking around with cellphones," said Frank Vigilante, one of Joel's supervisors at Bell Labs. "He really allowed that business to form and to be a business." Joel retired in 1983, and inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007. He died October 25, at 90.

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