Dr. Cyrus Mody - a grad of Cornell and presently a program manager at the Chemical Heritage Foundation's Center for Contemporary History and Policy, recently wrote a wonderful paper detailing many of the more interesting dynamics that occurred during the development of the AFM & STM. Fascinating read and very well written, mostly from an academic perspective, with a wonderful historical overview rarely seen in one paper.
Read the fascinating paper "Instruments of Commerce and Knowledge: Probe Microscopy, 1980-2000" at the National Bureau of Economic Research's Science & Engineering Workforce Project
For some insight into the dynamics and major milestones, one can list the Topographiner dying on the vine at NIST, IBM's large almost skunkworks effort to develop the STM; Virgil Elings effective focus on making a reliable and practical instrument with the initial thrust in applying DSP(digital signal processing) to SPM - with numerous milestones in the instrument technology - Tapping Mode - Liftmode, LFM, excellent topography decoupled MFM that took the disk drive industry by storm, and many more; the development of microfabricated cantilevers largely by the Quate Group of Stanford; Hansma's invention of the laser beam deflection sensing technique for AFM cantilevers, Fluid cells, Rapid imaging with small Cantilevers and many more from the beehive of creativity at Hansma's UCSB labs.
There is more coming in the near future, notably some day we will see massively parallel SPM imaging commercialized, like that prototyped in the Quate lab by Minne (likely to be commercialized by Zeiss through the PRONANO European project I will write about later ).
In the nearer term we have seen the active levers from Veeco / Nanodevices speed up imaging, and advances in low noise, low drift imaging spearheaded by the brilliant team at Asylum Research - Drs. Proksch and Cleveland, with highly skilled talented founding teammates Bocek, Day and Callahan. The notable Asylum advance was Proksch's brilliant insight into an otherwise limiting sensor effect. Kudos to Roger and his magnetic wisdom !!!