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Networking the Nerds
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The Science Gap

Eisenhower 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 all the economies left devastated from the war, but the scars of international conflict were still very fresh. To help the world heal the United Nations was created as a grand experiment to prevent another world war. New York was chosen to host the United Nations, and construction began on a UN Building for the hundreds of UN ministers and their staff.

Three acoustic engineers, Bolt, Beranek, and Newman formed a partnership to work as consultants on the new UN Building. The new company, BBN, was located north of New York in Cambridge, Massachusetts near the engineer's alma mater, MIT. At that location they could recruit 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 a 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 located to watch 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 radars. It was one of the first uses of computer networking and it pushed the technology to new levels.


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