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Hobbies

The LINC (Laboratory Instrument Computer)


I share my favorite hobby with my father. Some fathers and sons spend time rebuilding old cars; my dad and I enjoy rebuilding a 1963 LINC Computer.

In 1961, Wesley Clark, a computer pioneer and part time neurophysiologist, designed the LINC -- the first personal computer – based on his firm belief that "a computer should be just another piece of lab equipment" that could greatly facilitate neurophysiological research. In early 1963, NIH and NASA sponsored a program to evaluate the usefulness of the LINC. A panel chose twelve laboratories for this program and the laboratory of my father, J. Walter Woodbury, was one of the awardees of a LINC that first year, 1963. At the time he was Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington (Seattle). The LINC was designed to aid Neurophysiologists with real-time experimental measurements.

Like many others, I was hooked on computers the first time my dad showed me how to use it and grew up on the LINC. The LINC was a big success and despite its ~$40K price tag, 40 or more LINCs were built those first few years. Our LINC functioned flawlessly until the mid-1980’s when it rather suddenly developed an excessive “crash rate”. After sitting in a corner for two decades, we are bringing this important historical relic back to life.

2013-14 was the 50th anniversary of the LINC

Related celebrations (25 May 2013):  BCL-CSL Reunion

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Waking up the LINC in 2001-2002. Dixon and Walt using a test scope on the LINC.
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The LINC fills two equipment racks:(left) control panel/user interface with keyboard, oscilloscope display and tape drives; (right) main CPU, memory (2K), and power supply (bottom).
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One of the ~300 cards that make up the “brains” of the LINC with its original documentation
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Dr. Walt Woodbury assembles a LINC at MIT (Aug. 1963)
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Other related articles

Evolution of the PC  (from AARP Magazine ).
History of the LINC  (from NIH).
The last known working LINC  now at the MIT Museum (retired in 1992).
LINC: biology's revolutionary little computer by Joe November
LINC Computer Document  at the Southwest Museum of Engineering.
The LINC: A Paradigm Shift  - 1962:The First Personal Computer-
A special event hosted by the Digibarn held at the Vintage Computer Festival 10.0.
Work by Herb Johnson to restore  LINC tape drive .
Wikipedia entry:  LINC
Dictionary entry:  Laboratory Instrument Computer