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Busy Beavers: 10 things MIT computer scientists have given the world

Celebrating 50 years of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by remembering some of the many ways its faculty, students, researchers and alums have contributed to the discipline

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Last month, MIT officially marked 50 years of computer science at the institute with two days of celebrations. While computer research was going on at MIT as early as the 1930s, the celebration marked the beginning of Project MAC (Mathematics and Computation) in July 1963. Project MAC eventually led to the founding of the Laboratory for Computer Science and the Artificial Intelligence lab (now combined into the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, CSAIL) and to the creation of an official computer science curriculum at MIT. Here are 10 of the many things that MIT computer science faculty, researchers, students and alums have given the world.


Core memory

MIT’s famous Lincoln Laboratory was founded in 1951 with federal funds to develop a national air defense system. Existing computer systems weren’t able to process data fast enough to support collecting and analysing information from multiple radar installations and allow real-time response. MIT’s Jay Forrester, who had earlier developed the Whirlwind computer, came up with the idea of using an array of magnetic cores to store information. Magnetic core memory enabled the development of the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air-defence system and became the dominant form of random access memory until the development of large-scale integration circuits in the 1970s.

  • Core memory
  • Shooter video games
  • Networked email
  • Graphical user interfaces
  • Ethernet
  • Text-to-speech
  • TCP/IP
  • Electronic spreadsheets
  • 'Free/open source software'
  • The World Wide Web



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