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Resource Page on Early HCI Research by the Lincoln Lab TX-2 Group

Bill Buxton
Created:  April 13, 2005
Updated: August 24, 2011


One of the most influential groups in shaping interactive computing as we know it was based at MIT's Lincoln Lab between about 1953 and 1969. The focal point of the group was the TX-2 computer (and its predecessor, the TX-0), designed by Wesley Clark.

As a direct beneficiary of this work (Ron Baecker who did his PhD there was one of my main mentors during my graduate student days), I have always held it in high esteem. I have also always felt that it has not gotten the attention that it deserved. This came to a head when I had the privilege to meet and work with Bert Sutherland in 2001. I knew of Bert, but we had never met, and I had never seen the film of the graphical programming system that he had done for his 1966 PhD thesis. Exposure to it spurred me into action, with the result that at the 2005 SIGCHI conference, I organized a panel which highlighted the work of the group, and its relevance to computing and research today.

My purpose with this web page is to provide a portal to the archival relating to the work of this group, including video demos, links to articles and theses, and a video and article documenting the SIGCHI panel the I organized.

My hope is to augment this material in the future with additional material, such as interviews with some of the key players in the lab - including some who were unable to attend the panel. All of this takes time, so this page is a work-in-progress.  So return from time to time in order to check what is new.

In the meantime, please cut me some slack about bad web design, etc. Of course, in the spirit of open source, if you want to redesign it and send me another version, that would be more than welcome. For the time being, I hope that what I have gotten up is of interest and value. And, of course, I welcome feedback, suggestions, etc., and will do my best to respond promptly.


Looking down the memory bank to the console of the TX-2 Computer. (Click on image for larger view.)

Bert Sutherland at the console of the TX-2. (Click on image for larger view.)

2005 SIGCHI Panel

Besides myself as moderator, the panel consisted of Wesley Clark, Ivan Sutherland, Bert Sutherland, Fontaine Richardson, Ron Baecker and Austin Henderson.

A video of the panel, including slides and the film clips shown can be viewed on line here:

An article on the Lincoln Lab work was also prepared for the conference proceedings, and is available here:

It provides an overview of the work of the Lab as a whole, as well as that of the panel participants. Of particular value, I hope, is the  bibliography/references section.  Much of the published work is hard to find, and a lot of the citations that I found during my research (especially those on the Internet) were simplywrong, or right, but with mistakes in them. Hopefully it will save some time for those interested in going deeper into the topic.

2005 SIGCHI Panel, April 6, 2005, Portland Oregon. Seated, (L-R): Fontaine Richardson, Bert Sutherland, Wesley Clark, Ivan Sutherland. Standing: Ron Baecker, Bill Buxton, Austin Henderson. (Photo: Ilona Posner. Click on image for larger view.)

1989 SIGGRAPH Panel

There was a panel at at SIGGRAPH in 1989 which was retrospective of early work in computer graphics, including Lincoln Lab.  It is documented in the following two articles.  What is nice about this material is that it covers some work that  precedes that covered in the SIGCHI panel, and is therefore complementary to it.

Print:  On-Line Theses, Articles & Reports

Many of the PhD theses and papers reporting on the work at Lincoln Lab are on-line. I will include additional references as they surface, and welcome any additional suggestions. However, lest the unsuspecting student believe that everything that is relevant is available on-line, be warned:  it is not.  Get thee to a library and spend a few days with the old AFIPS Spring and Fall Joint Computer Conference Proceedings and be humbled!

Video: Demonstrations of Systems

I am actively adding videos to this list.  These are what are currently available are listed below.  Please let me know of omissions.:

Suggestions for and contributions to this list are welcomed.


Web Pages of or on Key Protagonists

Links on Lincoln Lab and the TX-0 & TX-2 Computers

Thanks to Al Kossow for help with this section.