CERN computing history

CDC 3800, 1966

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

CERN Computer News Letters

Archives going back to 1966


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

Control Data 6600, 1965

Computing at CERN in 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)

Official reports/overviews

 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 physicsBrun, 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

Birth of the Web (overview)

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.

Photos from...