History of computing at CERN

CDC 3800, 1966The history of computing at CERN is about hardware, software, people, network, communications, accelerators, data-handling...

This section is an eclectic stockpile of material covering various aspects of the computing history at CERN. It is by no means a complete history, and new elements are added all the time as they come to light. 

For photographs, see the IT Archive Galleries and the 'Photos from..." (in the column to the right of this page). The "IT Archive Galleries" is work-in-progress; more material is being added all the time as we dig deep into forgotten archives.

For more information on CERN's computing history, contact Cath Noble for help.


See the excellent presentation by David Williams from CHEP 2004 for a comprehensive and revealing look at Computing at CERN since CERN's inception in 1954.



In the Heart of CERN, 1967 (14mins onwards for computing-specific perspective)

Control Data 6600, 1965

Computing at CERN in 1965

Data Communications at CERN in 1974 (official)

Day to Day Communications at CERN in 1974 (unofficial)

SPS control system showing the first touch-screen, 1975

Wim Klein (CERN's "Human Computer") 1976

Data Processing at CERN, 1988

(more films from CDS and some vintage History of CERN 1952-2004)


"From the time" - selected newletters and reports

CERN Computer Newsletter, no. 1, 15 February 1966

The CERN Computer Centre, 1974 (CERN Computer Newsletter)

CERNet - a computer-to-computer communications network, 1977

CERNET and the Computer Centre, 1978

Data Handling, 1979



By the people who were there

"50 years of Computing at CERN" by David Williams, CHEP2004

"History of Internet Protocols at CERN" by Ben Segal, 1995

"SHIFT: IBM and Cray mainframes replaced by nasty distributed Unix boxes" by Ben Segal, 2001

"The Control Data 6600" by Julian Blake, 2001

"Programming languages over the years" by Julian Blake, 2001

"Once upon a time... The Mainframe Era" by Eric Macintosh, 2001

"Nostalgia for the Computer Centre", Roger Woolnough, 2001

History of databases in HEP Jamie Shiers, 2008

The European Researchers' Network, Francois Fluckiger in "La Recherche", Issue no. 328, February 2000

The first capacitative touch screens, Bent Stumpe and Christine Sutton

CERN's contribution to the Internet, Francois Fluckiger, 2009

Computer Operations at CERN 1962-1970, Neil Spoonley, 2013



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