Oral history interview with Douglas T. Ross

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Oral history interview with Douglas T. Ross

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Charles Babbage Institute


Oral History


Ross, the founder of SofTech Corporation, recounts some of his early experiences working on MIT's Whirlwind computer in the 1950s. He explains how a summer job at MIT's Servomechanisms Laboratory operating a Marchant calculator led him to use the Whirlwind for greater computing power--and to seventeen years in the MIT computer labs. Ross reports on his first use of Whirlwind for airborne fire control problems. Soon after that the Whirlwind was used for the Cape Cod early warning system, a precursor to the SAGE Air Defense System. Ross describes improvements made to Whirlwind, including the introduction of the first light pen and the replacement of the paper tape reader with a photoelectric tape reader (PETR). Ross also discusses some of the programs he wrote or used on Whirlwind, such as the Initial Data Processing Program (IDPP), the Servo Lab Utility Program (SLURP), and the Mistake Diagnosis Routine (MDR). He describes the IDPP as particularly interesting, because it involved pattern recognition and was thus an early example of artificial intelligence research.


Transcript, 75 pp. Audio file available at http://purl.umn.edu/95105

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Douglas T. Ross, OH 65. Oral history interview by William Aspray, 21 February 1984, Waltham, Massachusetts. Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. http://purl.umn.edu/107610

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Ross, Douglas T.; Aspray, William. (1984). Oral history interview with Douglas T. Ross. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/107610.

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