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From Whirlwind to MITRE: The R&D Story of the SAGE Air Defense Computer

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This book presents an organizational and social history of one of the foundational projects of the computer era: the development of the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) air defense system, from its first test at Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1951, to the installation of the first unit of the New York Air Defense Sector of the SAGE system, in 1958. The idea for SAGE gr This book presents an organizational and social history of one of the foundational projects of the computer era: the development of the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) air defense system, from its first test at Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1951, to the installation of the first unit of the New York Air Defense Sector of the SAGE system, in 1958. The idea for SAGE grew out of Project Whirlwind, a wartime computer development effort, when the U.S. Department of Defense realized that the Whirlwind computer might anchor a continent-wide advance warning system. Developed by MIT engineers and scientists for the U.S. Air Force, SAGE monitored North American skies for possible attack by manned aircraft and missiles for twenty-five years.Aside from its strategic importance, SAGE set the foundation for mass data-processing systems and foreshadowed many computer developments of the 1960s. The heart of the system, the AN/FSQ-7, was the first computer to have an internal memory composed of "magnetic cores," thousands of tiny ferrite rings that served as reversible electromagnets. SAGE also introduced computer-driven displays, online terminals, time sharing, high-reliability computation, digital signal processing, digital transmission over telephone lines, digital track-while-scan, digital simulation, computer networking, and duplex computing.The book shows how the wartime alliance of engineers, scientists, and the military exemplified by MIT's Radiation Lab helped to transform research and development practice in the United States through the end of the Cold War period.


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This book presents an organizational and social history of one of the foundational projects of the computer era: the development of the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) air defense system, from its first test at Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1951, to the installation of the first unit of the New York Air Defense Sector of the SAGE system, in 1958. The idea for SAGE gr This book presents an organizational and social history of one of the foundational projects of the computer era: the development of the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) air defense system, from its first test at Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1951, to the installation of the first unit of the New York Air Defense Sector of the SAGE system, in 1958. The idea for SAGE grew out of Project Whirlwind, a wartime computer development effort, when the U.S. Department of Defense realized that the Whirlwind computer might anchor a continent-wide advance warning system. Developed by MIT engineers and scientists for the U.S. Air Force, SAGE monitored North American skies for possible attack by manned aircraft and missiles for twenty-five years.Aside from its strategic importance, SAGE set the foundation for mass data-processing systems and foreshadowed many computer developments of the 1960s. The heart of the system, the AN/FSQ-7, was the first computer to have an internal memory composed of "magnetic cores," thousands of tiny ferrite rings that served as reversible electromagnets. SAGE also introduced computer-driven displays, online terminals, time sharing, high-reliability computation, digital signal processing, digital transmission over telephone lines, digital track-while-scan, digital simulation, computer networking, and duplex computing.The book shows how the wartime alliance of engineers, scientists, and the military exemplified by MIT's Radiation Lab helped to transform research and development practice in the United States through the end of the Cold War period.

33 review for From Whirlwind to MITRE: The R&D Story of the SAGE Air Defense Computer

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nick Black

    I'm not sure how one can take a story involving the Golden Era of early computer design, MIT/DARPA/USAF and national defense, and make it the most dull, boring book I've read in months...but there you go. Not recommended unless you're absolutely fascinated with the history of computing, and have already read the basics (A Few Good Men from UNIVAC, Computing in the Middle Ages, Calculating Engines, all that good stuff). ---- Amazon third-party 2009-03-19. Listed in the source material for Wikipedia I'm not sure how one can take a story involving the Golden Era of early computer design, MIT/DARPA/USAF and national defense, and make it the most dull, boring book I've read in months...but there you go. Not recommended unless you're absolutely fascinated with the history of computing, and have already read the basics (A Few Good Men from UNIVAC, Computing in the Middle Ages, Calculating Engines, all that good stuff). ---- Amazon third-party 2009-03-19. Listed in the source material for Wikipedia's SAGE entry, and looks fascinating.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Erickson

    Pretty dry and dull. Mostly about the schedules, project management, politics and some people from the mid-50s. , little about the fascinating technology. The words Nike missile was mentioned once, the reference to Ken Olson, roots of Digital, the numerous spinoffs, only briefly in the epilogue. Mitre gets only mentioned.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I'm on chapter 14 with much to go. This is a top-notch book which details the birth story of the digital computer. I'm on chapter 14 with much to go. This is a top-notch book which details the birth story of the digital computer.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nate

  5. 5 out of 5

    Subhajit Das

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bill Bryson

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cobrachen

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marcin Wichary

  9. 4 out of 5

    Corinne

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elwood Dowd

  11. 5 out of 5

    James

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sebastien Fage

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul Holloway

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence

  15. 5 out of 5

    Martin Bloom

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ray Nowell

  19. 4 out of 5

    Slavi

  20. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Wolfson

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ross Mohn

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

  23. 5 out of 5

    D Sibilant

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gwi von Galois

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cmuzzini

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Prosser

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chris Plume

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael Martelle

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bmw5261

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris Newton

  31. 5 out of 5

    Barry

  32. 5 out of 5

    Abram

  33. 4 out of 5

    Dan Cohen

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