Big achievements included room-size computers


1916--"The Great Telephone Banquet," attended by Alexander Graham Bell, Orville Wright and Thomas Edison, celebrates MIT's work in telephony. It broadcasts the banquet's speeches via telephone to alumni clubs all over the country.

1923--Norbert Wiener, in his paper "Differential Space," provides the mathematical foundations for the modern theory of stochastic processes, which has many applications to control theory, filtering and prediction theory. He uses these ideas later in his book "Cybernetics."

1937-38--Vannevar Bush's research on analog computers leads to his papers pointing the way to a program on digital technology. One of his students is "the father of information theory," Claude Shannon.

1938--Shannon's master's thesis, "A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits," lays the theoretical foundation on which all modern computers are built.

1940--MIT's Radiation Laboratory develops microwave radar.

1945--Vannevar Bush's landmark paper, "As We May Think," is published. It correctly predicts many technological advances and describes apparatus for achieving the functions today incorporated into personal computers and the World Wide Web.

1946--The Research Laboratory for Electronics, a spinoff of the Radiation Lab, is established. It translates Shannon's and Wiener's theories on control, communication and computation into practical applications and becomes a world leader in information theory. Its work creates or leads to the development of the LISP programming language, optical networking, digital audio, the Global Positioning System, cellular phones, and the integrated circuits behind fiber optic communication.

Late 1940s--The Whirlwind I project, headed by Jay Forrester of the Servomechanisms Lab, introduces the first major digital computer able to operate in real time. Magnetic core memory, developed by Forrester, is a key component of Whirlwind.

1961--Marvin Minsky publishes "Steps Toward Artificial Intelligence."

1962--Lincoln Lab transmits the first television image via communications satellite: the letters "MIT."

1966--Larry Roberts of Lincoln Lab leads the development of ARPAnet, a nationwide packet network for resource sharing. It becomes the first functioning wide-area computer network by 1969 and later becomes the prototype and central backbone for today's Internet.

1968--Apollo 8 circumnavigates the moon with a guidance, navigation and control system developed by Charles Stark Draper's Instrumentation Lab at MIT (now Draper Lab). The system performs flawlessly in all subsequent Apollo missions, including the 1969 moon landing.

1975--David Clark and a team from MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) implement Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol or TCP/IP for personal computers, resulting in tremendous growth of the Internet.

1977--Ronald L. Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman invent the first workable public key cryptographic system. The code, based on the use of very large prime numbers, allows secret communication between any pair of users.

1983--MIT Project Athena deploys a large network of engineering workstations and servers for undergraduate educational use. Developments include a centralized workstation management scheme today known as the "network PC," the Kerberos authentication system and the X-Window System (developed in cooperation with LCS).

1986--Stephen Benton and his students at the Media Laboratory invent the alcove hologram that projects a computer-generated 3-D image--an automobile "parked" in mid-air--into space. The ability to present 3-D computer data in space enhances visualization in areas as diverse as medicine, design and communications.

1989--HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) were invented for the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee, now a senior research scientist at LCS and head of the World Wide Web consortium, formed at LCS in 1994.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 21, 2003.


Topics: History, History of MIT

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