Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Nerds 2.0.1
[section buttons]
Networking the Nerds
[page buttons]


Dwight EisenhowerEisenhower allotted over a billion dollars for U.S. research and development centers, including the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) located in the new Pentagon building. The success of the Manhattan Project also attracted money toward research in particle physics, including projects like the new Stanford Linear Accelerator.

Accelerators were big machines a country could brag about, and the Cold War foes liked to show them off. Not wanting to fall behind the super-powers, several European countries collaborated and built the biggest of them all at the new Counseil European pour la Recherche Nucleaire, or CERN. The same research center where the World Wide Web would be invented forty years later.

All this building was wonderful for the economies devastated from the war, but the scars of international conflict were still fresh in their minds. The United Nations was created as a grand experiment in preventing another global war. New York was picked to host the United Nations, and construction began on a UN Building for the hundreds of UN ambassadors and their staff.

Three acoustic engineers, Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, formed a partnership to work as consultants on the new UN Building. Their new company, BBN, was headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts near the engineers' alma mater, MIT. From there they recruited students from MIT and Harvard. BBN was soon known as the "third university in Cambridge."

The Cold War was very profitable for private and university research centers. In particular, MIT was a hotbed for research funded by the military. In 1951, they opened Lincoln Lab, devoted to developing technology for air defense, especially radar systems.

One of the biggest radar projects at MIT was Whirlwind, an early application of computers to coordinate and monitor a collection of radars watching for Russian bombers flying over the north pole. Several staff and graduate students (including Frank Heart) worked on a computer system that would alert a central monitoring station when something showed up on the radar. It was one of the first uses of computer networking and it pushed the technology to new levels.


Nerds Home
Networking the Nerds | Serving the Suits | Wiring the World
Cast of Characters | Glossary of Geek | Timeline

Copyright © 1998, PBS Online, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Site Designed and Developed by OPB Learning Media

OPB online PBS online Serving the Suits Nerds 2.0.1 Home Nerds Home Page Lick The Cold War Heats Up