[SIGCIS-Members] ADSEC Final Report, 1950 - declassified, and attached here

Paul N. Edwards pne at umich.edu
Sun Mar 23 05:23:25 PDT 2014

SIGCISers and SIGCISters - 

Courtesy of Prof. Willard McCarty, who dug this out with a FOIA request and some help from an archivist and others at Lincoln Labs, here is the 1950 final report of the Air Defense Systems Engineering Committee (ADSEC) — classified until now. Many of you will know that this committee, aka the Valley Committee (for its leader, MIT prof George Valley), played a major role in initiating the SAGE air defense system of the 1950s.

It’s a fascinating read for the organism/machine metaphors, the cybernetic thinking, and the view of what was seen as possible (and not possible). To me, one of the most interesting thing about it is the awareness that converting analog signals into digital form was even more of a stumbling block than computing itself, which is seen as a relatively trivial matter that would require mainly time to develop computers with enough capacity to track hundreds or thousands of airplanes at once.




Paul N. Edwards
Professor of Information and History, University of Michigan 
A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010)

Terse replies are deliberate (and better than nothing)

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