Laboratory instrument computer

(LINC) A computer which was originally designed in 1962 by Wesley Clark, Charles Molnar, Severo Ornstein and others at the Lincoln Laboratory Group, to facilitate scientific research. With its digital logic and stored programs, the LINC is accepted by the IEEE Computer Society to be the World’s first interactive personal computer.
The machine was developed to fulfil a need for better laboratory tools by doctors and medical researchers. It would supplant the 1958 Average Response Computer, and was designed for individual use.
Led by William N. Papian and mainly funded by the National Institute of Health, Wesley Clark designed the logic while Charles Molnar did the engineering. The first LINC was finished in March 1962.
In January 1963, the project moved to MIT, and then to Washington University (in St. Louis) in 1964.
The LINC had a simple operating system, four “knobs” (which was used like a mouse), a Soroban keyboard (for alpha-numeric data entry), two LINCtape drives and a small CRT display. It originally had one kilobit of core memory, but this was expanded to 2 Kb later. The computer was made out of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) hardware modules.
Over 24 LINC systems had been built before late 1964 when DEC began to sell the LINC commercially.
After the introduction of the PDP-8, Dick Clayton at DEC produced a rather frightening hybrid of the LINC and PDP-8 called a LINC-8. This really was not a very satisfactory machine, but it used the new PDP-8 style DEC cards and was cheaper and easier to produce. It still didn’t sell that well.
In the late 1960s, Clayton brought the design to its pinnacle with the PDP-12, an amazing tour de force of the LINC concept; along with about as seamless a merger as could be done with the PDP-8. This attempted to incorporate TTL logic into the machine. The end of the LINC line had been reached.
Due to the success of the LINC-8, Spear, Inc. produced a LINC clone (since the design was in the public domain). The interesting thing about the Spear micro-LINC 300 was that it used MECL II logic. MECL logic was known for its blazing speed (at the time!), but the Spear computer ran at very modest rates.
In 1995 the last of the classic LINCs was turned off for the final time after 28 years of service. This LINC had been in use in the Eaton-Peabody Laboratory of Auditory Physiology (EPL) of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
On 15 August 1995, it was transferred to the MIT Computer Museum where it was put on display.
LINC/8, PDP-12 (
Lights out for last LINC (
[“Computers and Automation”, Nov. 1964, page 43].


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