Core memory inventor Jay Forrester is born

14th July 1918
Core memory inventor Jay Forrester is born

Jay Wright Forrester (July 14, 1918 - November 16, 2016) is born.

Forrester was a pioneering computer engineer and MIT professor. He is credited as one of the inventors of random-access magnetic core memory, the predominant form of computer memory between the 1950s and 1970s.

Forrester led the Digital Computer Division of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and, together with Robert Everett, led the development of Whirlwind I. This was one of the most important early computer projects, a real-time computing system designed for the U.S. Navy.

During the development of Whirlwind, Forrester concluded that the project was hindered by the slow and unreliable information-storage systems available at the time.

In 1949 Forrester devised a memory system that used rings of magnetic material to store data. This technology remained the predominant form of computer memory storage into the 1970s.

Completed in 1951, the Whirlwind could store 2,048 16-digit words with its 4,500 vacuum tubes taking up more than 3,000 square feet of space. Forrester called the computer a reliable operating system, as it was capable of running 35 hours per week at 90-percent utility.

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  • Jay W. Forrester at his desk, 1961
    Credit: MIT Museum

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