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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Laboratory for Computer Science records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AC-0268

  • Staff Only
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Scope and Contents

The collection comprises records created by the Laboratory for Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The records span the years of 1961 to 1999.

Materials include: research proposals, reports to funding agencies, correspondence, minutes of meetings, research projects, administrative files.


  • Creation: 1961 - 1999


Conditions Governing Access

This collection must be reviewed to identify any restricted material before access can be granted. Please submit your requests at least ten business days before your desired visit to allow time for this review. An archivist will respond within five business days to let you know whether your requested material is open. For complete information on this policy, see our Statement on Accessing Institute Records.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Historical Note

The MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) was a laboratory for research in computer science and engineering, first established on July 1, 1963, as Project MAC in the Department of Electrical Engineering. By 1967 MAC had separated from the Electrical Engineering Department and started reporting directly to the MIT provost as an interdepartmental lab. The name Laboratory for Computer Science was chosen in 1975 and officially recognized in 1976. In 1981, while retaining its interdepartmental status, LCS came under the aegis of the School of Engineering, and the LCS director began reporting to the dean of engineering. On July 1, 2003, the Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) merged with the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (AI) to form the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

The project name MAC was chosen in 1963 because it is an acronym for several significant phrases describing the project and its goals. "Machine-Aided Cognition" was the broad objective. A "Multiple-Access Computer" was the principal tool. "Men and Computers" were the essential partners in the expected symbiosis, a term used by J. C. R. Licklider in his 1960 paper entitled "Man-Computer Symbiosis." MAC's creators hoped from the beginning that it would draw together MIT personnel with various interests in the use of computers. These individuals could participate in MAC without abandoning their existing lab affiliations. Hence, MAC was to be a "project" rather than a "laboratory."

Directors of Project MAC and LCS have been Robert M. Fano (1963-1968), J. C. R. Licklider (1968-1971), Edward Fredkin (1971-1974), Michael L. Dertouzos (1974-2001), and Victor W. Zue (2001-2003).

Throughout its history Project MAC/LCS has relied on associate and assistant directors to carry out various administrative responsibilities. The lab's associate directors have been Oliver G. Selfridge (1963-1965), J. C. R. Licklider (1967-1968), Joel Moses (1974-1978), Albert Meyer (1979-1981), Michael Hammer (1979-1982), Ronald Rivest (1981-?), and Albert Vezza (1982-1984 and 1986-?). The lab's rapid growth and burgeoning involvement with industry necessitated two associate directors from 1979 on. During the 1979-1980 academic year Vezza was appointed coordinator of all LCS computational resources, an action required because of the increasing quantity and variety of hardware used in the lab.

LCS assistant directors have been R. G. Mills (1963-1967), M. M. Jones (1967-1971), S. S. Patil (1972-1974), and Pat Anderegg (1987-1988). Anderegg was, in addition, fiscal officer from 1981 to 1982 and assistant administrative officer from 1982 to 1986. John Hynes was administrative officer from 1980 to 1986. Significant dates and activities from the lab's first quarter century are described in the publication prepared by LCS for Project MAC's 25th Anniversary Celebration in 1988. The brochure includes a brief history of Project MAC by Robert Fano and a time line prepared by Peter Elias. The following paragraphs summarizes major trends at the lab from 1974 to 1988. When Michael L. Dertouzos took over as Project MAC's fourth director in 1974, he was eager for a change of direction, recognizing the necessity of making new alliances and of moving on to new problems. He set out to decrease MAC's dependency on DARPA and other government agencies (thereby decreasing vulnerability due to shifts in public policy) by cultivating stronger partnerships with industry. During the Dertouzos era, DARPA funding declined from about 75% in 1974 to about 50% in 1988. The total budget nevertheless expanded from approximately $2,000,000 to approximately $18,000,000 in the same time span.

Dertouzos believed that the designation "project" was inappropriate for a forefront of computer science research. For a short while Project MAC was called MAC Laboratory. Dertouzos and Associate Director Joel Moses decided in 1975 to revamp the name completely and the "project" was transformed into the Laboratory for Computer Science, a permanent academic lab at MIT under the auspices of the School of Engineering.

Dertouzos decided early in his directorship to restructure LCS so that activities fell into four divisions reflecting the diversity of projects and interests. Three of these divisions, formed around 1975, were: Knowledge-Based Programs (making programs more intelligent by capturing, representing, and using specific knowledge); Machines, Languages, and Systems (improving convenience and cost effectiveness of computer use through work in such areas as automatic programming and structured programming); and Theory (exploration of theoretical foundations of computer science). He added a fourth division in 1977: Computers and People (dealing with the societal impact of computers). Each division comprised separate but interacting research groups, whose names, number, and exact areas of responsibility evolved over time. With minor variations, the LCS structure imposed by Dertouzos in the 1970s remained unchanged through 1988. "Parallel Systems" replaced "Computers and People" as a principal division in the 1988-1989 academic year.

Dertouzos believed as early as the mid-1970s that geographically distributed systems would be the future of computing. By 1977 he had launched, with DARPA funding, about half of the LCS staff into work on distributed systems. Distributed systems research involves independent computer systems installed at various locations to process and store data that originate locally. These are tied together by communications networks over which data are exchanged. The lab undertook a wide variety of research problems aimed at improving the organization, reliability, and efficiency of such systems.

A Multiprocessor Emulation Facility (Project Tanglewood) was constructed in the mid-1980s (and opened in the academic year 1985-1986) with funds provided by the Strategic Computing Program of DARPA. Strategic Computing was a program formed by DARPA/IPTO Director Robert Kahn in 1983 to integrate results from basic research in artificial intelligence, VLSI (very large scale integration), and parallel processing to create interactive systems with more capability, flexibility, and intelligence.

LCS in the Dertouzos era became increasingly linked to business, more concerned with the practical problems of industry, and more involved in theoretical research. The work usually focused simultaneously on two or three big projects and many smaller projects.

Project MAC moved into quarters at 545 Technology Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in June 1963, and LCS remained at the same address at the time of its 25th Anniversary Celebration in 1988, having undergone numerous space changes, renovations, research reorientations, and a name change. The celebration reunited many alumni of MAC and LCS for research symposia, banquets, and other festivities. CSAIL, the successor to LCS, moved into the Dreyfoos and Gates towers of the Ray and Maria Stata Center building in March of 2004.


57.4 Cubic Feet (36 record cartons, 71 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials



The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Computer Science was established in 1963 as Project MAC in the Department of Electrical Engineering. The principal research focus originally was the development and improvement of a computer time-sharing system. Around 1976 the lab’s focus broadened to embrace a diverse program of research sponsored by various private industries and government agencies. Research proposals, reports to funding agencies, correspondence, minutes of meetings, and other materials document research projects, including CTSS, Multics, MACSYMA and the Multiprocessor Emulation Facilty, and the lab’s relationship with corporate and government sponsors from 1963 to 1988.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Related Materials

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Laboratory for Computer Science Research Records (AC-0282).

Fernando Corbató papers (MC-0371).

Michael L. Dertouzos papers (MC-0372).

Robert M. Fano papers (MC-0413).

Edward Fredkin papers (MC-0373).

Carl Hewitt papers (MC-0376).

J. C. R. Licklider papers (MC-0499).

William A. Martin papers (MC-0437).

Joel Moses papers (MC-0378).

Jerome H. Saltzer papers (MC-0379).

Albert Vezza papers (MC-0381).

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Preliminary Inventory to the Records of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Computer Science
Ready For Review
Partially processed by Jeffrey Mifflin
(Copyright 1994)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
The processing of boxes 1 through 30 of the collection was funded by the Laboratory for Computer Science.

Revision Statements

  • 2021: Publications added to the collection.
  • 2021 July 30: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US