The 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 CERN PhotoLab Archives, we have some at the IT Archive Galleries, and the 'Photos from..." (in the column to the right of this page). The "IT Archive Galleries" and CERN PhotoLab Archives are 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 our Computing History at CERN (aka 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.
Further Overview Material
- "Distributed Computing: a historical perspective" (2022)
- A series of 3 lectures at https://indico.cern.ch/event/1052073/ by B.Segal, M.Dimou, N.Borenstein, F.Hemmer and L.Robertson.
- Slides, recordings and historical documents included.
- "Apprenticeship - 60 years of Computing Experience" by Ben Segal (2019)
- 25 years ago: the strategic move to PCs in high-energy physics by Sverre Jarp, September 2020.
In September 1995, 25 years ago, a paper entitled “The PC as Physics Computer for LHC?” was presented at the CHEP-95 conference. It paved the way to a new era in high-energy physics computing. One of its authors, Sverre Jarp, recalls.
- 50 years of Computing at CERN by David Williams, CHEP2004
- Scientific Computing at LEP by David Williams at LEPFest 2000 Science Symposium, CERN, October 2000.
- IT Dept corridor "expo" posters
- In focus: Computing (CERN Courier compilation, 2019)
- 30 years of Computing at CERN by P. Zanella (1990)
- Computing at CERN...
- ...in the 70s
- ...in the 80s
- ...in the 90s
- ...90s to 00s
- Historical view of...
- ...tape use at CERN
- ...networking at CERN
- ... developing the internet
- Fifty years of research at CERN, from past to future: Computing
D. O. Williams, page 77 onwards
- Computing in High Energy & Nuclear Physics
- Computing at CERN, once upon a time...
- The Mainframe Era
- CERN's Cray X-MP/48
- CERN units
- A brief history of computing as seen in 1993
- First(?) volunteer computing model, 1994
- CC Consolidation 2012
CERN Computer News Letters
In the Heart of CERN, 1967 (14mins onwards for computing-specific perspective)
Control Data 6600, 1965
Day to Day Communications at CERN in 1974 (warning - unofficial video!)
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
CERN Computer Newsletter, no. 1, 15 February 1966
The CERN Computer Centre, 1974 (CERN Computer Newsletter)
Computing at CERN in the LEP era, May 1983 (also known as the "Green Book")
The MUSCLE Report: the computing needs of the LEP experiments, 1988.
CERNet - a computer-to-computer communications network, 1977
CERNET and the Computer Centre, 1978
Data Handling, 1979
CERNET - a high-speed packet-switching network, 1980
Stella project, 1980
HEPnet - Where we are and where are we going? B. Carpenter, F. Fluckiger, 1989
CERN Program Library (CERNLib)
Physics Analysis Workstation (PAW)
Adamo (originally developed for the ALEPH experiment at LEP)
Data Aquisition, hardware
CERN, emulators and parallel-processing compute servers, 1990
CERN Data Centre Hardware
A SHIFT in outlook: IBM and Cray mainframes replaced by nasty distributed Unix boxes by Ben Segal, 2001
The Control Data 6600 by Julian Blake, 2001
The first capacitative touch screens, Bent Stumpe and Christine Sutton
The Evolution of CERN's Capacitive Touchscreen : from control room to mainstream, Henriksen, Benjamin (IT U. Copenhagen), 2012
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
Computer Operations at CERN 1962-1970, Neil Spoonley, 2013
Software & Applications
Programming languages over the years by Julian Blake, 2001
A brief history of CERNLib, Ian Mclaren, 2001
The PAW history Seen by the CNLs, 2001
Old Things and News in SDT [Software Development Tools], Eric Poinsignon, 2001
Euclid, the Beginnings of Computer Aided Design, Mik Ferran, N.Høimyr, I. Seis, 2001
The Design and Implementation of Large Packages: Hbook, GEANT3, PAW, ROOT, Rene Brun, 2001
Networking, Internet and World Wide Web
From the Web to the Grid and beyond : computing paradigms driven by high-energy physics, Brun, René (ed) (CERN) ; Carminati, Federico (ed) (CERN) ; Galli-Carminati, Giuliana (ed), 2012.
CERNET - a computer-to-computer communications network, 1977
CERNET and the Computer Centre, 1978
History of Internet Protocols at CERN, Ben Segal, 1995
The European Researchers' Network, Francois Fluckiger in "La Recherche", Issue no. 328, February 2000
CERN's contribution to the Internet, Francois Fluckiger, 2009
The "hidden" Prehistory of European Research Networking, Olivier Martin, 2012
How the Internet Came to CERN, Francois Fluckiger, 2013
Internet Pre-history at CERN, Ben Segal, 2014
Minimising the Muddle, Peggie Rimmer, 2014
Good old Bitnet, and the rise of the World Wide Web, Richard Jacobsen, 2014
Internet Hall of Fame nominations: Ben Segal and Francois Fluckiger
See also the Internet Hall of Fame for a global view of the history of the internet.