R.I.P. Wesley A. Clark

Back in 1979-1980, I spent a year working at the Computer Museum at Digital Equipment Corporation’s Marlboro facility. I was tasked to get running and maintain vintage computing gear. This included machines like the short cab DEC PDP-12, the DEC PDP-11/45, the MIT Lincoln Labs TX-0 (the first transistorized computer).

One of the machines I had a blast working on was the LINC computer that Wesley A. Clark designed at MIT. Dr. Clark was on the TX-0 project along with a few of the computer pioneers that went on to form successful computer firms. Dr. Clark designed, what we would call, the first “personal computer”. It was a laboratory computer in nature, for it had a number of digital to analog and analog to digital converters, as well as instructions to read those devices. It used a wonderful device called LINCTape. LINCTape was the predecessor to DECTape. LINCTape was block oriended, and read in the forward direction. DECTape was the same, except, it could read/write in both directions. And improvement on LINCTape.

Digital Equipment Corp. was commissioned to build these LINC computers and sold a number of them. Later, they designed the LINC-8, which consisted of PDP-8 and LINC CPUs with a common I/O subsystem and used DECTape. Later, the PDP-12 replaced it, having one CPU that could execute the instructions of a PDP-8 or LINC in the same CPU. All of these were targetted to the labratory market.

I was fascinated with how the LINC came about being. I travelled to Cambridge, Ma. and met with Dr. Clark and talked about the LINC in detail, and its operating system, LAP4 DIAL. Dr. Clark eventually came to one of the museum’s lecture series to talk about the computer to all who attended. These events were great, because you would be talking with people like Gordon Bell, Alan Kotok, etc, all who were processor architects of DEC’s computers. I got to demonstrate a working LINC running LAP4 DIAL and right next to it, it’s grandson, the PDP-12 running LAP6 DIAL. A wonderful evening.

I established a nice repore with Dr. Clark. I lost contact with him over the years, and found out he had passed away, yesterday. I am saddened. He was a major influence on me, and taught me a lot about those machines at MIT in the early day (Whirlwind, TX-0, TX-2, LINC).
R.I.P. Dr. Clark, and thank you.

Here is the New York Times obituary for Dr. Wesley A. Clark.