The first web server. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
The first web server. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Half a century ago, two laboratories on MIT’s campus set in motion a computing revolution that would change the world. The fax machine, the World Wide Web, robots that can run, jump, and climb—all exist thanks to MIT scientists.

In 1963, the Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) undertook a project to create a computer system that could be used simultaneously by a large number of people. Known as Project MAC, this shared computing system laid the groundwork for the computer technologies we use today.

Meanwhile, researchers in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Lab, founded in 1959, pioneered new methods for image-guided surgery and robotics technology for space exploration. The LCS and AI Labs merged in 2003, forming MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL).

Starting today, May 28, and continuing through tomorrow, CSAIL is commemorating Project MAC and five decades of computer science with a symposium called “MAC 50”. Among the speakers are Bob Metcalfe ’68, co-inventor of the Ethernet, and Akamai Technologies cofounder Tom Leighton PhD ’81.

Fun fact: Project Whirlwind, the first digital computer that could operate in real time, was created at the Institute in 1944—years before there was a lab dedicated to the study of computer science.

Take a look at 50 ways MIT has transformed computer science.

Read the Boston Globe‘s coverage of MAC 50.

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