Semi-Automatic Ground Environment

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The Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (usually referred to by the acronym, SAGE) of the USA was a computerised air defense system; the earliest distributed real-time system. It used the Whirlwind machine (suitably augmented) as a prototype.

The hardware, the AN/FSQ-7, was designed by IBM, in cooperation with Lincoln Laboratory, and built by IBM (and was a significant factor in their growth in expertise in computers). The software was begun by Lincoln, but the effort was taken over by the Rand Corporation, whose System Development Division (where the work was done) grew so large that in November, 1956, it was spun off as the non-profit System Development Corporation. MITRE was also created by the SAGE effort, in July, 1958, as a spin-off of Lincoln, to help take the system to completion.

Whether SAGE would have actually worked, if called upon to do so, is unclear; but the side-effects, in improvements to computers, were immense.

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