Volume 13, No. 1
November 2000

Mercurial Matters

Annual Meetings

Letters to the Editor

Urban Legends & the Challenges of Standardization

Paul Israel Wins Dexter Prize

Email & Website Report

An Artificial Line, or Technology as Spectrology

A Daemon in Her Shape

Lincoln Labs Turns 50

Vogue Picture Records

Media Ecology Book Awards

Contact Us

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Lincoln Laboratory Turns 50

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory has pioneered advanced electronics since its beginning in February 1951 as a Federally Funded Research and Development Center. Its fundamental mission has remained little changed since its inception: the application of science and advanced technologies to critical problems of national security. Early Lincoln Laboratory research focused on the design and prototype development of the Dew Line and BMEWS networks of ground-based radars and aircraft control centers for continental air defense.

Among Lincoln Laboratory’s significant technical advances achieved during the 1950s were the first real-time computer processing of radar data, the development of magnetic-core computer data storage, and the first all solid-state, programmable digital computer for the real-time tracking of objects in space. Subsequently, Lincoln Laboratory has been involved in the development of defense satellite communications, the demonstration of autonomous spacecraft control, the development of mobile earth communications terminals, civil air traffic control (including radar surveillance, collision avoidance, hazardous weather detection, and automation aids to control aircraft), plus basic research in surface and solid-state physics and materials. The Lab also performed the initial research for the development of the semiconducting laser, designed an infrared laser radar to develop techniques for high-precision satellite pointing and tracking, and made significant contributions to the development of modern computer graphics, the theory of digital signal processing, the design and construction of high-speed digital signal-processing computers, and the technologies of speech coding, recognition, and automatic translation.

As part of its fiftieth anniversary celebration, Lincoln Laboratory is undertaking a series of oral history interviews. These interviews will explore the Laboratory’s culture from the strategies, models, management styles, and lessons learned from tackling technical and policy challenges to how the Laboratory has influenced defense policies and research and the choice of specific technologies, from how staff conducted research, interacted with other scientists and groups in the Laboratory, and how they engendered sponsor support for their work to the Laboratory’s interaction with other institutions and the larger political scene. Ultimately, Lincoln Laboratory will make transcripts of these interviews available to researchers.