The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics: Kao, Boyle and Smith
Seems nobody saw this coming but the importance of optical fibers and CCDs is obvious. It's also interesting that Indian physicist Narinder Kapany's name is not on the list. I am not completely familiar with the history but from what I know Kapany was one of the early pioneers in fiber optics.
It's no small irony that the CCD research was done in 1969 at Bell Labs. With this Bell Labs may well be the most productive basic industrial research organization in history, and yet today it is less than a mere shadow of itself. The CCD research was done 40 years back and the time in which it was done seems disconnected from the present not just temporally, but more fundamentally. The research lab that once housed six Nobel Prize winners on its staff can now count a total of four scientists in its basic physics division.
The 80s and indeed most of the postwar decades before then seem to be part of a different universe now. The Great American Industrial Research Laboratory seems like a relic of the past. Merck, IBM, Bell Labs...what on earth happened to all that research productivity?