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A Black Computing Pioneer takes its place in history of computer technology at MIT

A Black Computing Pioneer takes its place in history of computer technology at MIT
A Black Computing Pioneer takes its place in history of computer technology at MIT

A brief history of 1950’s photo with Joseph Thompson, one of MIT‘s innovative Whirlwind computer original operators. Part of the black and white photo caption reads: “In 1951, 18-year-old high school graduate Joe Thompson was trained as one of the first two computer operators. The computer was a whirlwind, a prototype of the SAGE air defense system. A Black Computing Pioneer takes its place in history of computer technology at MIT.

MIT’s whirlwind was one of the earliest high-speed digital computers, and Thompson played a key role in its operations early in his decade-long computer career. With the help of Deborah Douglas, collections director at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum, David Brock of the Computer History Museum recently met Thompson, the first person to be trained as a whirlwind operator at the MIT Digital Computer Laboratory to learn more about his time experiences. with Projekt and the following years as a leader in the computer industry.

“They’re at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology looking for bright young people who aren’t going to college,” Thompson told Brock. “I was the first [operator] to see if it would work and I thought it worked fine. … You have to study the whole system and get to the bottom of it to understand what they are doing.”

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The photo also shows system programmer John “Jack” Gilmore. According to a publication in the Museum of Computer History, Jack Gilmore of the Whirlwind Project, known for his software contributions, was key to Joe Thompson’s involvement in the MIT project to meet the qualification requirements for prospective local high school students for graduate and social exclusivity but to whom for some reason. inaccessible colleges. “”

After Whirlwind, Thompson took a job at RAND as a programmer working on the SAGE Air Defense System software. He moved the company to California and the group eventually became a systems development NGO. Thompson retired after four decades at computers in the 1990s.

Gilmore will continue to work in advanced computer research at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory before starting his own company and spending the rest of his career in the computer industry. He died in 2015. Reuters