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Milestone-Proposal:Whirlwind Computer

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{{ProposalEdit|a1=Whirlwind Computer|a2a=Cambridge MA|a2b=Boston Section|a3=1944  to 1959|a4=ABSTRACT
 
{{ProposalEdit|a1=Whirlwind Computer|a2a=Cambridge MA|a2b=Boston Section|a3=1944  to 1959|a4=ABSTRACT
The Whirlwind I computer was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) between 1945 and 1952 in a project directed by Jay Forrester. The project was first carried out in the Servomechanisms Laboratory. Later it separated to become the Digital Computer Laboratory and Lincoln Laboratory, Division 6, and testing continued through 1958. Jay Forrester served as director of both laboratories until 1956, and Robert Everett as associate director, then director. A key part of the Whirlwind I design was the high-speed and highly reliable magnetic core memory for the computer storage system, replacing electrostatic storage tubes. Jay Forrester was issued a patent for the magnetic core memory, and it was used successfully and widely in large computers.
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The Whirlwind I computer was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) between 1945 and 1952 in a project directed by Jay Forrester. The project was first carried out in the Servomechanisms Laboratory. Later it separated to become the Digital Computer Laboratory and Lincoln Laboratory, Division 6, and testing continued through 1958. Jay Forrester served as director of both laboratories until 1956, and Robert Everett as associate director, then director. A key part of the Whirlwind I design was the high-speed and highly reliable magnetic core memory for the computer storage system, replacing electrostatic storage tubes. Jay Forrester was issued a patent for the magnetic core memory, and it was used successfully and widely in large computers. (1).
  
 
HISTORICAL NOTES
 
HISTORICAL NOTES
 
The development of Whirlwind, one of the first large-scale high-speed computers, began during World War II as part of a research project to develop a universal flight trainer that would simulate flight (the Aircraft Stability and Control Analyzer project). It was initiated by the Office of Naval Research and began at the MIT Servomechanisms Laboratory in 1944. Eventually the focus of the grant, a flight simulator, using an analog computer, changed to developing a high-speed digital computer. While building the computer, researcher Jay W. Forrester invented random-access, coincident-current magnetic storage, which became the standard memory device for digital computers.  Prior to Forrester's discovery, electrostatic storage tubes were used. The introduction and change to magnetic core memory provided high levels of speed and of reliability.
 
The development of Whirlwind, one of the first large-scale high-speed computers, began during World War II as part of a research project to develop a universal flight trainer that would simulate flight (the Aircraft Stability and Control Analyzer project). It was initiated by the Office of Naval Research and began at the MIT Servomechanisms Laboratory in 1944. Eventually the focus of the grant, a flight simulator, using an analog computer, changed to developing a high-speed digital computer. While building the computer, researcher Jay W. Forrester invented random-access, coincident-current magnetic storage, which became the standard memory device for digital computers.  Prior to Forrester's discovery, electrostatic storage tubes were used. The introduction and change to magnetic core memory provided high levels of speed and of reliability.
A public announcement was made in late 1951 that the computer known as Whirlwind I was operational and available for scientific and military research. In 1951 Project Whirlwind was detached from the Servomechanisms Lab to become the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Digital Computer Laboratory. Unclassified research projects using the Whirlwind I computer were managed by the Digital Computer Lab staff on the MIT campus, where Whirlwind I occupied the Barta Building (N42), which had been acquired in 1947 to provide sufficient space for the computer as it was designed and constructed. In 1952 staff working on classified projects left to be part of the newly organized Lincoln Laboratory off campus, to form Division 6, Digital Computer Division. Although their projects were classified, the Whirlwind computer itself was not, and remained in the Barta Building. Jay Forrester served as director of both the Digital Computer Laboratory and Division 6, Lincoln Laboratory until 1956, when he became a member of the MIT faculty pursuing interests in system dynamics in management. Robert Everett served as associate director of both labs until he succeeded Forrester as director.
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By late 1951, the computer Whirlwind was operational and made available for scientific and military research. Unclassified research projects using the Whirlwind computer were managed by the Digital Computer Lab staff on the MIT campus, where Whirlwind occupied the Barta Building (N42), which had been acquired in 1947 to provide sufficient space for the computer as it was designed and constructed. In 1952 staff working on classified projects left to be part of the newly organized Lincoln Laboratory off campus, to form Division 6, Digital Computer Division. Although their projects were classified, the Whirlwind computer itself was not, and remained in the Barta Building. Jay Forrester served as director of both the Digital Computer Laboratory and Division 6, Lincoln Laboratory until 1956, when he became a member of the MIT faculty pursuing interests in system dynamics in management. Robert Everett served as associate director of both labs until he succeeded Forrester as director.
The U.S. Air Force provided substantial financial support for Whirlwind applications and it was a key component in the design of the Air Force's SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) air defense system in the 1950s.  
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The U.S. Air Force provided substantial financial support for Whirlwind applications and it was a key component in the design of the Air Force's SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) air defense system in the 1950s. Whirlwind computer was shut down on May 29, 1959. It was disassembled and moved out of the Barta building in the spring of 1960. (1)
 
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Whirlwind computer was shut down on May 29, 1959. It was disassembled and moved out of the Barta building in the spring of 1960.  
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REFERENCES AND SOURCES
 
REFERENCES AND SOURCES
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http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/Magnetic-Core_Memory
 
http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/Magnetic-Core_Memory
 
3. IEEE Global History Network "Magnetic-Core Memory".  
 
3. IEEE Global History Network "Magnetic-Core Memory".  
http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/Magnetic-Core_Memory
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http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/Magnetic-Core_Memory|a5=By 1947, Forrester and collaborator Robert Everett completed the design of a high-speed stored-program computer for the project.  Most computers of the era operated in "bit-serial" mode, using single-bit arithmetic and feeding in large words, often 48 or 60 bits in size, one bit at a time. This was simply not fast enough for their purposes, so Whirlwind included sixteen such math units, operating on a complete 16-bit word every cycle in "bit-parallel" mode. Ignoring memory speed, Whirlwind was essentially sixteen times as fast as other machines. Today almost all CPUs do arithmetic in "bit-parallel"; some CPUs extend the idea to larger 32- or 64-bit words.  This helped the Whirlwind compute at an impressive speed.
 
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By 1947, Forrester and collaborator Robert Everett completed the design of a high-speed stored-program computer for the project.  Most computers of the era operated in "bit-serial" mode, using single-bit arithmetic and feeding in large words, often 48 or 60 bits in size, one bit at a time. This was simply not fast enough for their purposes, so Whirlwind included sixteen such math units, operating on a complete 16-bit word every cycle in "bit-parallel" mode. Ignoring memory speed, Whirlwind was essentially sixteen times as fast as other machines. Today almost all CPUs do arithmetic in "bit-parallel"; some CPUs extend the idea to larger 32- or 64-bit words.  This helped the Whirlwind compute at an impressive speed.
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Whirlwind's signature piece was its magnetic-core memory, first installed in August 1953. This topic is well described in an article named "Magnetic-Core Memory"  in the IEEE  Global History Network. 3 A summary of this article follows:
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Whirlwind's signature piece was its magnetic-core memory, first installed in August 1953 for the pre-SAGE project entitled the Cape Cod System. The topic of magnetic-core memory is addressed in an article in the IEEE  Global History Network. (3) Extracts from this article follows next:
  
 
"The magnetic-core, a wire mesh of ferrite rings and metal wire, created a location where binary information could be recorded and retrieved magnetically. The ability to pinpoint specific intersections or addresses within the core rings, from which information could be stored and then recalled at random, created an unparalleled innovation in computing. The computer’s central processing unit and its memory of stored data, procedures and programs, could now be operated interactively. This interactivity boiled down to one major innovative gain: speed. Random-access memory was born.
 
"The magnetic-core, a wire mesh of ferrite rings and metal wire, created a location where binary information could be recorded and retrieved magnetically. The ability to pinpoint specific intersections or addresses within the core rings, from which information could be stored and then recalled at random, created an unparalleled innovation in computing. The computer’s central processing unit and its memory of stored data, procedures and programs, could now be operated interactively. This interactivity boiled down to one major innovative gain: speed. Random-access memory was born.
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"Although increased computing speed was always a goal, it was not terribly feasible in the early systems that relied on tape drives for memory access. Magnetic-core memory changed this technological bottleneck. . . . The system required real-time reaction and lightening-speed access to binary bits of stored memory. The Whirlwind computer became the first digital computer with a magnetic-core memory that could operate in real, interactive time."
  
"Although increased computing speed was always a goal, it was not terribly feasible in the early systems that relied on tape drives for memory access. Magnetic-core memory changed this technological bottleneck. . . . The system required real-time reaction and lightening-speed access to binary bits of stored memory. The Whirlwind computer became the first digital computer with a magnetic-core memory that could operate in real, interactive time.
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"... But the greatest legacy that Whirlwind, Forrester and magnetic-core memory left lies in the conceptualization of random-access memory and the instantaneous speed of real-time processing. Where would we be today if we could not withdraw money from the ATM, buy gas, or have our checking accounts updated in real time? Or make a hotel or plane reservation? Or sit down with our laptops and work online while our personal computers encompass storage, memory, real time and networking all in one immediately gratifying package? Magnetic-core memory spawned the birth of the random-access era; its anniversary is one worth noting."|a6=The Whirlwind computer project was well funded, had  great leaders, and was manned by a staff of great scientists, technicians, software and hardware engineers.  
  
"... But the greatest legacy that Whirlwind, Forrester and magnetic-core memory left lies in the conceptualization of random-access memory and the instantaneous speed of real-time processing. Where would we be today if we could not withdraw money from the ATM, buy gas, or have our checking accounts updated in real time? Or make a hotel or plane reservation? Or sit down with our laptops and work online while our personal computers encompass storage, memory, real time and networking all in one immediately gratifying package? Magnetic-core memory spawned the birth of the random-access era; its anniversary is one worth noting."
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Obstacles were encountered and resolved  during Whirlwind's first live-on-stage performance when the Cape Cod System came into being. The Cape Cod System is considered a landmark electrical project,  worthy of its  own IEEE Milestone. This is covered elsewhere.|a7=Whirlwind was built and operated in MIT's Barta Building at 211 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge. The computer operated and remained at that location throughout its lifetime. The building is now MIT building N42.
|a6=The Whirlwind computer project was well funded, had  great leaders, and was manned by a staff of great scientists, technicians, software and hardware engineers.
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Obstacles were encountered and resolved  during Whirlwind's first live-on-stage performance when the Cape Cod System came into being. The Cape Cod System is considered a landmark electrical project,  worthy of its  own IEEE Milestone. This is covered elsewhere. |a7=Whirlwind was built and operated in MIT's Barta Building at 211 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge. The computer served and remained at that location throughout its lifetime. The building is now MIT building N42.
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The Section will seek approval from MIT President's Office to mount the plaque(s) at that location.|a8=Yes|a9=The original building where Whirlwind  was housed is  located at 211 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge. The plaque would be readily visible to pedestrians walking on the public sidewalk along this major street in Cambridge.|a10=MIT|a11=Yes|a12=Boston Section with support by one or more Society Chapters.|a13name=Bruce Hecht|a13section=Boston|a13position=2010 Chair|a13email=Bruce.Hecht@analog.com|a14name=Robert Alongi|a14ou=Boston Section|a14position=Section Business Manager|a14email=sec.boston@ieee.org|a15Aname=Gilmore Cooke|a15Aemail=gilcooke@ieee.org|a15Aname2=later|a15Aemail2=later|a15Bname=c/o Robert Alongi|a15Bemail=sec.boston@ieee.org|a15Bname2=later|a15Bemail2=later|a15Cname=Gilmore Cooke|a15Ctitle=PE retired|a15Corg=Boston Section Committee|a15Caddress=8 Canvasback, W Yarmouth MA 02673|a15Cphone=617-759-4271|a15Cemail=gilcooke@ieee.org}}
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The Section will seek approval from MIT's President's Office to mount this milestone plaque on that building, alongside other IEEE plaques that may be awarded.|a8=Yes|a9=The original building where Whirlwind  was housed is  located at 211 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge. The plaque would be readily visible to pedestrians walking on the public sidewalk along this major street in Cambridge.|a10=MIT|a11=Yes|a12=Boston Section with support from local Society Chapters.|a13name=Bruce Hecht|a13section=Boston|a13position=2010 Chair|a13email=Bruce.Hecht@analog.com|a14name=Robert Alongi|a14ou=Boston Section|a14position=Section Business Manager|a14email=sec.boston@ieee.org|a15Aname=Gilmore Cooke|a15Aemail=gilcooke@ieee.org|a15Aname2=later|a15Aemail2=later|a15Bname=c/o Robert Alongi|a15Bemail=sec.boston@ieee.org|a15Bname2=later|a15Bemail2=later|a15Cname=Gilmore Cooke|a15Ctitle=PE retired|a15Corg=Boston Section Committee|a15Caddress=8 Canvasback, W Yarmouth MA 02673|a15Cphone=617-759-4271|a15Cemail=gilcooke@ieee.org}}

Revision as of 19:45, 6 December 2010

This Proposal has not been submitted and may only be edited by the original author.