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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=The Whirlwind I computer was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 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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{{Proposal
HISTORICAL NOTES 1
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|docketid=2010-11
The development of Whirlwind I, 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 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 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. For this he was granted a patent in 1956. 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.
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|a11=Yes
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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|a3=1944  to 1959
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. Research projects at Lincoln Laboratory resulted in the further development of two additional computers, the MTC (memory test computer) and TX-0 (transistor computer), by Group 63 of Lincoln Lab, Division 6.
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|a1=Whirlwind Computer
Whirlwind I computer, was shut down on May 29, 1959. It was leased by the Navy to the Wolf Research and Development Corporation of Massachusetts, and was disassembled and moved out of the Barta building in the spring of 1960. Computer artifacts from Whirlwind I and related Whirlwind projects are held by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum and the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California.
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|a2b=Boston Section
 
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|IEEE units paying={{IEEE Organizational Unit Paying
 
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|Unit=Boston Section
REFERENCES AND SOURCES
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|Senior officer name=Robert Alongi
1. Project Whirlwind Collection, MC 665, box _. Institute Archives and Special Collections, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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|Senior officer email=sec.boston@ieee.org
2. Wikipedia. ":Whirlwind ( http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/47556#
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}}
 
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|IEEE units arranging={{IEEE Organizational Unit Arranging
 
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|Unit=Boston Section
FURTHER READING
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|Senior officer name=Robert Alongi
Redmond, Kent, and Thomas Smith. Project Whirlwind: The History of a Pioneer Computer. Bedford, MA: Digital Press, 1980.
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|Senior officer email=sec.boston@ieee.org
Everett, Robert R. A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century, chapter on Whirlwind. Academic Press, 1980.
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}}
 
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|IEEE sections monitoring={{IEEE Section Monitoring
Wildes, Karl, and Nilo Lindgren. A Century of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, 1882-1982, chapter 17 "From Whirlwind to SAGE,” 280-301. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985, pages 280-301.|a5=TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION
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|Section=Boston Section
 
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|Section chair name=Bruce Hecht
By 1947, Forrester and collaborator Robert Everett completed the design of a high-speed stored-program computer.  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.
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|Section chair email=Bruce.Hecht@analog.com
 
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}}
The word size was selected after some deliberation. The machine worked by passing in a single address with almost every instruction, thereby reducingFact|date=April 2008 the number of memory accesses. For operations with two operands, adding for instance, the "other" operand was assumed to be the last one loaded. Whirlwind operated much like a reverse Polish notation calculator in this respect; except there was no operand stack, only an accumulator. The designers felt that 2000 words of memory would be the minimum usable amount, requiring 11 bits to represent an address, and that 16 to 32 instructions would be the minimum for another 5 bits -- and so it was 16-bits. Nevertheless the small word size led John von Neumann to conclude the machine would be worthless.
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|Milestone proposers={{Milestone proposer
 
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|Proposer name=Gilmore Cooke
The Whirlwind design incorporated a control store driven by a master clock. Each step of the clock selected a signal line in a diode matrix that enabled gates and other circuits on the machine. A special switch directed signals to different parts of the matrix to implement different instructions. The design inspired Maurice Wilkes to develop the concept of microprogramming.
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|Proposer email=gilcooke@ieee.org
 
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}}
Construction of the machine started the next year, an effort that employed 175 people including 70 engineers and technicians. Whirlwind took 3 years to build and first went online on April 20, 1951. The project's budget was $1 million a year, and after three years the Navy had already lost interest. The USAF picked up the work under "Project Claude".
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|a2a=Cambridge MA
 
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|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.
the core of the machine
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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.
 
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|a8=Yes
Speed of the original design (20 KIPS) turned out to be too slow to be very useful, and most of the problem was attributed to the fairly slow speed of the Williams tubes (or, more accurately, Williams-Kilburn tubes) used for main memory of 256 words. Forrester started looking at replacements, first using magnetic tape formed into spirals, even at one time considering using a 3-D array of neon lamps, and eventually creating core memory. Speed was roughly doubled (40 KIPS) as a result of using core when the new version was completed in 1953. The addition time was 49 microseconds and the multiplication time was 61 microseconds (before the main memory was converted to magnetic core).
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|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.
 
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|a10=MIT
After the magnetic core memory was installed, the Whirlwind became the fastest computer of its time. With the change it had an addition time of 8 microseconds, a multiplication time of 25.5 microseconds, and a division time of 57 microseconds (excluding memory access time). The access time had been about 16 microseconds for the CRT memory which was reduced to only 8 microseconds with the magnetic core.
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|a4=ABSTRACT
|a6=|a7=|a8=No|a9=|a10=|a11=No|a12=|a13name=|a13section=|a13position=|a13email=|a14name=|a14ou=|a14position=|a14email=|a15Aname=|a15Aemail=|a15Aname2=|a15Aemail2=|a15Bname=|a15Bemail=|a15Bname2=|a15Bemail2=|a15Cname=|a15Ctitle=|a15Corg=|a15Caddress=|a15Cphone=|a15Cemail=}}
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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
 +
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.
 +
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. 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)
 +
REFERENCES or SOURCES USED
 +
1. Project Whirlwind Collection, MC 665, box _. Institute Archives and Special Collections, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
 +
http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/research/collections/collections-mc/mc665.html
 +
2. Wikipedia.
 +
|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.  
 +
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.
 +
|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 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_computer bit-serial mode], using single-bit arithmetic.
 +
|submitted=No
 +
|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=
 +
|a15Aemail2=
 +
|a15Bname=c/o Robert Alongi
 +
|a15Bemail=sec.boston@ieee.org
 +
|a15Bname2=
 +
|a15Bemail2=
 +
|a15Cname=Gilmore Cooke
 +
|a15Ctitle=PE retired
 +
|a15Corg=Boston Section Executive Committee
 +
|a15Caddress=8 Canvasback, W Yarmouth MA 02673
 +
|a15Cphone=617-759-4271
 +
|a15Cemail=gilcooke@ieee.org
 +
}}

Latest revision as of 13:19, 18 July 2012

Docket #:2010-11

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone Nomination

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on "Edit with form", check the "Submit this proposal for review" box at the bottom, and save the page.


Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old?


Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s fields of interest? (e.g. “the theory and practice of electrical, electronics, communications and computer engineering, as well as computer science, the allied branches of engineering and the related arts and sciences” – from the IEEE Constitution)


Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity?


Was it of at least regional importance?


Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)?


Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony?


Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated?


Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an Electrical Engineering Milestone? Yes


Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:

1944 to 1959

Title of the proposed milestone:

Whirlwind Computer

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:


In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

Boston Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: Boston Section
Senior Officer Name: Senior officer name masked to public

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: Boston Section
Senior Officer Name: Senior officer name masked to public

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Boston Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Section chair name masked to public

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Proposer's name masked to public
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Cambridge MA

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need.

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. 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.

Are the original buildings extant?

Yes

Details of the plaque mounting:


How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

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.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

MIT

A letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property:


A letter or email from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application:


What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

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. (1) 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. 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. 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) REFERENCES or SOURCES USED 1. Project Whirlwind Collection, MC 665, box _. Institute Archives and Special Collections, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/research/collections/collections-mc/mc665.html 2. Wikipedia.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

The Whirlwind computer project was well funded, had great leaders, and was manned by a staff of great scientists, technicians, software and hardware engineers. 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.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

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.

References to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or citations to pages in scholarly books. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article.


Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to ieee-history@ieee.org. Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.