What Happened Today, May 27th

 
MIT Shuts Down "Whirlwind" Computer
After almost a decade of service, MIT shut down its Whirlwind computer. The machine debuted on Edward R. Murrow's See It Now television series in 1951, showing off its quick speed and large memory compared to other systems at the time. Project director Jay Forrester described the computer as a "reliable operating system," running 35 hours a week at 90-percent utility using an electrostatic tube memory.

What Happened This Week

 
MIT Shuts Down "Whirlwind" Computer
After almost a decade of service, MIT shut down its Whirlwind computer. The machine debuted on Edward R. Murrow's See It Now television series in 1951, showing off its quick speed and large memory compared to other systems at the time. Project director Jay Forrester described the computer as a "reliable operating system," running 35 hours a week at 90-percent utility using an electrostatic tube memory.
 
Committee Forms to Develop New Language
A committee formed to develop COBOL, or Common Business Oriented Language. The group of researchers drawn from several computer manufacturers and the Pentagon designed a program for business use that sought easy readability and as much machine independence as possible. Although programmer Howard Bromberg prematurely made a tombstone for COBOL out of fear that the language had no future, it continues to be used by businesses today. The tombstone is now part of the Computer History Museum's collection.
 
Eastman Kodak Co. Introduces Electronic Publishing System
The Eastman Kodak Co. introduced an electronic publishing system called Ektaprint Electronic Publishing System, designed to allow companies to edit, print, and update text and graphics for publications. The $50,000 system included parts designed by Sun Microsystems Inc., Canon Inc., and Interleaf Inc. in an early version of what now is available to any computer user for a few hundred dollars.
 
AT&T Announces Video Phone Call System
AT&T held a meeting to announce a system that would allow personal computers to make and receive video phone calls over standard telephone lines. In years of efforts by AT&T and others to find success in the technology, the AT&T system made use of Intel's Pentium processors and compression software to allow both video and audio information to share a phone line rather than a high-capacity ISDN, T-1, or T-3 line.
 
BASIC Language Co-Inventor Born
BASIC co-developer John Kemeny was born in Budapest, Hungary. In his 66-year life, Kemeny had a significant impact on the history of computers, particularly during his years at Dartmouth College, where he worked with Thomas Kurtz to create BASIC, an easy-to-use programming language for his computer students. Kemeny earlier had worked with John von Neumann in Los Alamos, New Mexico, during the Manhattan Project years of World War II.
 
Maxis Goes Public
Maxis, the company most famous for its SimCity video game, went public. Along with others in the series -- including SimEarth, SimAnt, and SimLife -- the SimCity simulator program built on Maxis co-founder Will Wright's childhood interest in model ships and airplanes. With Jeff Braun, he founded the company that allowed people to create virtual cities and protect them from various disasters on their home computers.
 
Netscape Creates Navio to Compete with Microsoft
The Washington Post ran an article speculating that Netscape Communications Corp. might one day challenge Microsoft Corp. in a story headlined, "Inside Netscape: The Software Start-Up Is Growing So Fast It May One Day Post a Threat to Microsoft." Two years later, the two companies are embroiled in a controversy related to the Justice Department's investigation of whether Microsoft has violated antitrust laws in bundling its Internet Explorer program with its Windows operating system. Netscape's Navigator and Communicator browsers for the World Wide Web are Internet Explorer's main competition.
 
Integrated Circuit Inventor Noyce Dies
Robert Noyce, co-founder of Intel Corp. and co-inventor of the semiconductor, dies of a heart attack at age 62. In 1959, Noyce and Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments, working separately, developed the integrated circuit, which allowed the power of computers to increase dramatically. Noyce went on to found Intel with Gordon Moore and Andy Grove, helping lead the company to dominance in the semiconductor industry. Born in Burlington, Iowa, Noyce earned degrees from Grinnell College and MIT before working at Philco Corp., the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, and Fairchild Semiconductor Corp., where he developed the integrated circuit.