Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy 47th Birthday, IBM Cambridge Scientific Center

Feb 1. 1964. What became known as the IBM Cambridge Scientific Center (CSC) was born today when IBM’s Norm Rasmussen rented the fourth floor of a newly constructed commercial building at 545 Main Street, behind MIT, just across the tracks from a starch factory.

Here are some of my notes.  Corrections or additions welcome.

MIT’s Project MAC had already leased floors  5, 8, and 9 of the building for professor, staff, and graduate student offices, and for computer rooms.
Here is how I recall the building in the min-1970s.
The first floor contained a restaurant, was it the Tech Square House?  Also there was the Office of Michael  Dertouzos, Chairman of MIT’s Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS)  and  the LCS Reference Library.
The second floor housed the CSC Computer Room; I was on that floor, as was Fritz Giesin.
The third floor housed clandestine government offices,  the CIA and perhaps others.
The fourth floor was the CSC, laid out similar to the MIT Offices above.
The MIT Floors, 5, 8, and 9 had maybe 60 offices, singles and doubles, wrapped around the elevator core. Almost all the offices had windows: none opened. The air conditioning wasn't enough for the load of people and machines in the building on really hot summer days, and failed every year, forcing them to shut down the computers before they roasted themselves. Fluorescent lights, linoleum floors, hard walls, doors that locked; they were nice offices  (as recalled by Tom Van Vleck).
Other floors had varying tenants at different times. The GE Multics team, the Cambridge Information Systems Laboratory (CISL), had offices on half of the seventh floor.  IBM had some other offices in the building.  The programming group that developed VM/370 was originally housed there.  IBM Fellow Nate Rochester and Jean Sammet were somewhere in the building.

Tech Square was reconstructed in 2001; 545 is now known as 200 Tech Square.

1 comment:

  1. (all content subject to memory disclaimers) I worked at the IBM Boston Programming Center in 545 from 1968 to 1970... it's the organization where Nat Rochester and Jean Sammet worked, and was closed down in 1970. It was part of the long defunct IBM Federal Systems division, and (as I understand it) was created by IBM to provide a home for Nat and Jean that met their geographical preferences. BPC acted as a conduit from MIT to Watson Research Center: a number of people traveled that path, including Patricia Cundall Goldberg, Marc Auslander, William Henry Harrison IV (or so)and yours truly. While I never worked at the CSC, I have a historical question about it, specifically about someone there who developed a concept for a "four function text editor" around 1969... I'd love to be in touch with anyone who was there and might be able to help track that down. --claytonhalllewis at gmail