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The LINC (Laboratory INstrument Computer) was a early small computer (considered by many to be the first minicomputer), designed for use in laboratory environments (initially in biomedical research). The goal was to provide a computer for exclusive use by a single user; it is thus considered by many to be an important forerunner to the personal computer.

It provided real time capabilities, along with analog input, a small video screen, and a pair of small tape drives called LINC tapes (the latter being an integral part of the machine, not an optional peripheral). It was a 12-bit computer, built out of DEC System Building Blocks. The initial version had only 1024 words of core memory; it was later expanded to 2048 words.

It was designed starting in 1960 by Wesley A. Clark (who conceived of the basic concept of the machine); he had considerable design assistance from Charles Molnar. The prototype first ran in Match of 1962; the first batch of machines were completed in a workshop for their eventual users held in the summer of 1963.

The project started at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, then moved to MIT itself in January 1963 (because a switch to funding from NIH didn't interact well with Lincoln Labs' Air Force funding); after a big political fight at MIT over control, the project moved out to Washington University in St. Louis in the summer of 1964.

It was originally named the 'Linc', from the project's origins, but was re-named to 'LINC'.

Further reading

Considerable detail about the development of the LINC is given in:

  • Severo M. Ornstein, "Computing in the Middle Ages"