Computer pioneer dies

1962LINCandWesleyThe bloke whose computer work in the 1950s and 1960s underpinned the modern computing industry has died.

Wesley Allison Clark, was 88.  He trained in physics at the University of California / Berkeley and joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory in 1952.

On his first job he had to test the memory technology for MIT’s Whirlwind, which was a vacuum tube computer for the US Navy. In 1955 he co-invented the lab’s TX-0 project was one of the first transistor computers.

Clark idea for the TX-0 was that he wanted to create a computer which could be operated by one person. Using technical partner Ken Olsen’s physically small engineering design he created a new class of systems called minicomputers. Olsen two years later formed Digital Equipment commercialise the hardware. Mini’s took off and allowed midsize businesses to have computers rather than just major corporations.

Clark’s approach inspired MIT doctoral student Ivan Sutherland to develop a graphical design application called Sketchpad. Sketchpad influenced Doug Engelbart who invented the mouse and important graphical interface concepts.

In the 1960s, Clark moved to St. Louis and worked at Washington University, where developed the macromodule project. The goal was to assemble parts into full computers. They created the LINC which advanced the ideas of truly personal computing even more. LINC and macromodules created the modular computer networking. LINC is considered the first real workstation. Clark in the early 1970s suggested that it would be a neat idea to use these technology packages as the basis for Interface Message Processors. Engineering firm Bolt Beranak and Newman ran Clark’s idea on Honeywell minicomputers as the backbone of the ARPAnet, which became the internet.

Clark is survived by wife Maxine and son.