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Guide to the Collection of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computing Projects
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Collection of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computing Projects
    Dates: 1947-1994
    Bulk Dates: 1950-1975
    Collection number: X3495.2006
    Collection Size: 9 linear feet 8 boxes
    Repository: Computer History Museum
    Mountain View, CA 94043
    Abstract: The Collection of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computing Projects is comprised of technical notes, reports, correspondence and miscellaneous documentation relating to the development of the Whirlwind, TX-0 and T-X2 computers as well as Project MAC (Multiple-Access Computer) at MIT. Included as well are a number of other technical reports relating to computing projects at MIT. The documents span 1947 to 1994.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    The Computer History Museum can only claim physical ownership of the collection. Users are responsible for satisfying any claims of the copyright holder. Permission to copy or publish any portion of the Computer History Museum's collection must be given by the Computer History Museum.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of Item], 1947-1994, Collection of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computing Projects , X3495.2006, Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California.


    The provenance is unknown for the Collection of MIT Computing Projects. The Collection was originally acquired from a variety of sources in the 1980s and 1990s when the Computer History Museum, then known as The Computer Museum, was located in Boston. At that time, all documents were arranged alphabetically by originating institution or company. Many of the Whirlwind documents most likely were donated to the Museum in 1982 as part of lot X115.82. In 2006 all the MIT materials that were shelved with the Company Collection of Computing Manuals and Marketing Materials were given the "found in collection" lot number of X3495.2006 and processed by Paula Little.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Collection of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computing Projects at the Computer History Museum consists of technical reports and notes; guides and manuals; project summaries; schematics and design drawings; correspondence; assembly programs; computer log and maintenance books; and other miscellaneous documents chiefly from two project divisions within the University: Lincoln Laboratory and Project MAC (Multiple-Access Computer).
    The collection is arranged into six record series: Project Summaries, Hardware, Software Applications, Technical Reports General, Theses, and General MIT Documentation. Some series have associated sub-series. Folders are arranged chronologically from earliest to latest date within each series.
    Project Whirlwind was born in 1946 at MIT's Servomechanisms Laboratory to construct a high-speed digital computer. The most far reaching computing technology to emerge from Project Whirlwind was the random-access, magnetic-core storage element, the standard memory device for all high-speed computers for the next twenty years. Jay Forrester, who had directed the intellectual course of the Project, was granted a patent for a Magnetic Core Memory Device in 1956.
    Another Project Whirlwind development was one of the earliest uses of a visual display as a computer input/output device based on a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor. With the use of a "light gun" an individual could interact with the CRT display from which the computer could capture, store and use this new user input.
    Project Whirlwind laid the foundation for the subsequent development of technologies behind the TX-0 and TX-2 computers. The documentation dealing with Project Whirlwind and its subsequent projects comprises the majority of the collection, approximately 6 linear feet, spanning 1948 through 1970. Technical notes and reports from the Whirlwind, TX-0 and TX-2 computers, focus on the various creation, design and programming components.
    Project MAC was formally established in 1963 by MIT. The acronym for Project MAC was derived from Machine-Aided Cognition, the broad objective, and Multiple-access Computer, the principle tool for obtaining this objective. Project Mac's primary goal was the development of the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS). The operating system Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service) was created jointly by Project Mac and a number of partners. The commercial version would become known as UNIX.
    Project MAC's time-sharing operating system applications, which ran on various hardware platforms, including the IBM 709, 7090, 7094 and the DEC PDP-1, span the late 1950s through the early 1980s. The documentation, about 1.5 linear feet, consists primarily of Project MAC technical reports.
    Approximately two linear feet of the collection deals with General MIT Documentation, this includes staff rosters, promotional materials, internal and external correspondence concerning various aspects of Projects Whirlwind and MAC, as well as subsequent associated technology developments.
    Unusual items in the collection document the first computer-written Western drama script for television (box M4). The program, Tomorrow: The Thinking Machine aired October 26, 1960 on CBS and highlighted the TX-0 computer and the technological advancements of Artificial Intelligence developed by MIT.
    • Series 1. Project Summaries (1951-1974)
    • Series 2. Hardware (1947-1975)
    • Series 3. Software (1950-1973)
    • Series 4. Technical Reports General (1951-1987)
    • Series 5. Theses (1950-1974)
    • Series 6. General MIT Documentation (1948-1994)

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Computation Center
    Computer input-output equipment
    Lincoln Laboratory - Massachusetts
    Whirlwind computer - Massachusetts
    Compatible time-sharing system (Electronic computers)
    PDP computers
    Time-sharing computer systems
    Project MAC (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)