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The LINC: A Paradigm Shift
1962: The First Personal Computer
A special event hosted by the Digibarn held at the
Vintage Computer Festival 10.0
On the weekend of November 3-4th, 2007 at the
Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA
See our full coverage of this event below

Highlights of the Event

Video coverage of the Event
on Digibarn TV!

Click here to see the media coverage of this event

See our photo album of the entire event

from St. Louis to the Digibarn!

View the LINC Panel presentation and audio/video
(Held on Nov 4, 2007)

Additional information on the history
and restoration of the LINC

See more contributed historical images by the LINC team

Background on the event

The LINC: A Paradigm Shift
Introduction by Severo Ornstein

Back when computers were giant, fiercely-expensive, room-filling affairs that had to be shared, it took corrective foresight to believe that it was possible to put a whole computer into the hands of a single user as owner and master. Conventional wisdom has it that this vision wasn't realized until the 1970s, but in fact such a machine, the LINC, was developed at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory in the early 1960s. The particular motivation was to provide a programable computer for real-time, on-line biomedical research. The work was carried out by a small group of enthusiastic colleagues, and the LINC (Laboratory INstrument Computer) proved so successful that in less than two years, under the aegis of the National Institutes of Health, copies were in active use in over twenty laboratories around the country. Over the next decade the LINC and its variants spread through the biomedical research community and significantly advanced the work in numerous disciplines.

The LINC has been identified by the IEEE Computer Society as the first personal computer. However, as the leader of the design team puts it:

What excited us was not just the idea of a personal computer. It was the promise of a new departure from what everyone else seemed to think computers were all about, a corrective point of departure from an otherwise overwhelming mainstream. The need was entirely real, the opportunity was there, the resources superb. Just build and demonstrate a sound counterexample and see to it that it was used humanely, a complete if small computer that did interactive real-time work efficiently, one that could simply be turned off at night with a clear conscience, just taken for granted, no administrators. For us, it was the point of departure.

In the rush of the technological advance of the 1970s and 80s, the LINC became obsolete. Fortunately, one of the most foresightful of us had the wisdom to purchase four of the decommissioned LINCs and sequester them in his garage in St. Louis. Over the last year he and three colleagues, working with great zeal and no funding, managed to bring one of the LINCs back to life, which will be displayed and demonstrated at the Vintage Computer Festival and subsequently move into the permanent collection of the Digibarn Computer Museum.

In the first part of our presentation, some members of the original design team will summarize the early history and applications and describe what was special about the LINC. In the second part, the resuscitation team will describe what it took to rejuvenate an ancient computer that had slept quietly for more than twenty-five years.

It is sad that Charlie Molnar, the LINC's co-designer, died in 1996; we will miss his keen insights and sense of humor. This presentation is dedicated to his memory.

A full recounting of the project by Severo Ornstein and Bruce Damer is in this article for the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing.

Additional Background on the LINC


Please see our special pages on the history and restoration of the LINC here.

Digibarn Hosted the LINC Event at the VCF 10

Severo Ornstein assembled a steller cast and crew to present a panel and a birthday cake cutting at the annual Vintage Computer Festival 10.0 on Sunday, November 4th at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View California. See our past birthday events here.

The Panel Event was held on Sunday November 4th at 1pm at the VCF 10.0)
Read about our Panelists

Severo Ornstein
event host

Wes Clark

Tom Chaney

Scott Robinson

Maury Pepper

Jerry Cox

Gerald Johns

Mary Allen Wilkes

Bruce Damer
event introducer

See Also:

Our pages on the LINC now in the collections here at the Digibarn

Commentary on this event from the LINC user community

If anyone out there was there and/or has insights into the LINC,
please get in touch, we would love to add this to our site!

See our past birthday events here

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