Robert Everett and Jay Forrester met as graduate students in electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Together, they pioneered the development of one of the world’s first real-time digital computers.
In 1944, the U.S. Navy contracted Forrester and Everett to develop a universal flight trainer and aircraft simulator. At the time, analog computers required days to work on calculations, and they knew analog computers were not suitable for the task. They developed a fast, dependable digital computer, known as Whirlwind.
Whirlwind’s groundbreaking design laid the foundation for dozens of improvements in computer design, and formed the basis for the U.S. Air Force’s Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air defense system. Whirlwind also laid the groundwork for computers that today control air traffic, operate real-time reservations and banking systems, and keep track of records.
By Jen Santisi