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Whirlwind project MITJuly 4, 1956, doesn’t quite rank with July 4, 1776, in terms of independence, but it was a remarkable day in terms of freedom for computer users—freedom from punch cards, dials, and switches, that is. On July 4, 1956, researchers at MIT first used direct keyboard input with the Whirlwind, one of the earliest large-scale high-speed computers.

The Whirlwind had been in operation for five years when the use of keyboard input began. Initially conceived as a flight simulator when its development began during World War II, over time the Whirlwind project evolved to become an experiment in high-speed digital computing.

Whirlwind’s other big innovations

Under the leadership of Jay W. Forrester and Robert Everett, the Whirlwind achieved several computing firsts after going online on April 20, 1951. The Whirlwind’s innovations included:

With that impressive resume, Forrester and Everett earned their rightful place as two of the Founding Fathers of computing.

Photo: Michael Hicks via Used under CC 2.0 License.

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

One Comment

  1. Matthew Brunk July 6, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Thanks for the memories Kate. I can still “butterfly” paper tape and I can still see the holes and remember reading the tapes (5 level, not 8!) Add this to this collection of memories:


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