Archival History of Computing at MIT, 1950–62
The MIT Digital Humanities Programs, together with the MIT Libraries Department of Distinctive Collections, have digitized and contextualized the majority of archived documents relating to the history of the
MIT Computation Center
from the 1950s and early 1960s.
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Behind the Scenes
How did undergraduates in 2019 immerse themselves in computation of the 1950s? Find out more here.
Announcement of the IBM 704
In December of 1955, MIT and IBM collaborated in a joint press release to announce that the university would be receiving its own IBM 704 computer. This new device was very advanced for its time, and would significantly impact many fields of study.
One might presume that the primary issue with the computers of the 1950’s was that they were slow. But lack of processing power was not necessarily the bottleneck here.
Qualifications of a 704 Programmer
The idea of a programmer today is much different than what is was 60 years ago in the time of the IBM 704. Instead of your typical college educated, introverted programmer, the MIT Computation Center sought out a different type of demographic.
Beginnings of CS at MIT
Today, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is the biggest department at MIT, and the CS portion makes up the majority of it. To many, it would seem like this has always been the way of MIT, but that was not the case. CS at MIT is a rather recent development that had humble beginnings.
Cost of Using a Supercomputer
With an infinite amount of problems to solve and only one supercomputer, time usage for the Whirlwind 1 was limited. To actually use it, one would have to request time at rates up to $250/hour or $2400/hour when adjusted for inflation.