April 7, 2003
Smith Receives a Piece of
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- When it was first
introduced half a century ago, the Whirlwind computer, the first
digital computer capable of displaying real-time text and graphics
on a video terminal, ushered in a new era of technology and pioneered
subsequent generations of computer evolution.
Thanks to a recent gift to Smith and its Picker Engineering Program,
the college now owns a piece of the legendary computer. On March
27, Martin Faga, president of MITRE Corporation, presented to
the Picker Engineering Program and Smith College a memento commemorating
the original Whirlwind computer. The memento, which is on display
in Smith's engineering building, was presented to Smith College
President Carol T. Christ during an event at her campus residence.
Whirlwind was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
digital computer laboratory beginning in 1945 and publicly demonstrated
in 1951. It was also the first computer to use random access
magnetic-core memory, a storage method that flourished into the
Like Whirlwind, Smith's Picker Engineering Program, which began
four years ago, is spearheading a new technological era, setting
standards in engineering education and the integration of technology
and the liberal arts and specifically encouraging women to enter
"In our view, Whirlwind and the Picker Engineering Program
are both pioneers," said Faga in the presentation of the
Whirlwind component. "Whirlwind started with an idea, and
was ultimately brought to life through the design, testing and
integration of hundreds of thousands of electronic components.
The result was testament to a quantum leap in advancing the state
of technology, while at the same time affording new and exciting
ways to share and communicate knowledge throughout all of humankind.
"The Picker Engineering Program is no less unique,"
he continued. "It, too, started with an idea: to form a
bridge that connects the basic sciences to the humanities, and,
in so doing, making engineering an integral part of the liberal
arts environment. Just as computers have changed our way of life,
so, too, will the Picker Engineering Program -- the first engineering
program at a women's college -- promote fundamental changes in
the way engineers increase their roles and responsibilities in
formulating public policy and societal assimilation of leading-edged
MITRE is a nonprofit organization that provides engineering,
research and development resources and information technology
support to the federal government. MITRE derived from MIT in
1958, and many of its founding members were key contributors
to the Whirlwind project. Smith and MITRE Corporation have a
relationship dating to the beginning of the Picker Program. Since
the program's inception, the corporation has employed Smith engineering
majors as interns.
"I am delighted that MITRE, one of the nation's premier
engineering firms, has recognized our achievements and unique
contributions as equally important to the field of engineering
as the Whirlwind computer," says Domenico Grasso, director
of the Picker Engineering Program. "As did the engineers
who designed the first Whirlwind, we in the Picker Program are
trying to think well into the future and to structure our engineering
program to lead engineering education into the next millennium."
Established in 1999, Smith's Picker engineering program [www.smith.edu/engin] --
the first and only engineering program at a U.S. women's college
-- is focused on developing broadly educated, well-rounded engineers
capable of assuming leadership roles in corporations, nonprofit
organizations and technology-related fields. The first class
of engineering majors will graduate in 2004, earning bachelor's
degrees in engineering science.
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Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost
liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state
and 55 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's
college in the country.