CLUI Goes to Massachusetts
Exhibition and Tours at the List Visual Art Center at MIT

1106 CLUI bus tour at SETI Antenna on Massachusetts "C4I ET" tour. CLUI photo
During this summer, the CLUI exhibited a program at the List Center for Visual Arts at MIT. This exhibit focused on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, emphasizing the role of technology in the landscape, a theme appropriate to the venue - at a technological institution - as well as appropriate to the region, as many of the technologies that have transformed the world have their origins in Massachusetts. Installed in May and open through the summer, the completed exhibit consisted of a selection of sites, represented by photographs and text, and presented in alphabetical order. A bus tour was also conducted as part of the exhibit.

FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE industrial revolution, the economic history of Massachusetts has been based on advances in technology. In the 19th century it was textiles, armaments, and machine tool industries, centered around government-financed water works. In the early 20th century, when the textile industry went south to cheaper labor, high technology was beginning to develop in the State, due in no small part to the increasing prominence of MIT.

Though the CLUI exhibit at MIT this Summer looked at industries and technology sites throughout the state, from the GE plastics plant at Pittsfield to the Cape Cod Canal, a major factor in the state's technological landscape is the high tech sector, which is rarely described from a land use perspective.

It is well known that the Route 128 Corridor - the Massachusetts Miracle - emerged as the modern economic backbone of the state, and it is in this region that links between MIT, government, and high-tech businesses are striking. Though this relationship is nothing new (early funders of MIT included the leading technology companies of the day; GE, DuPont, Eastman Kodak, and Westinghouse), the contemporary situation is less appreciated, and was therefore one of the focuses of the CLUI exhibit.

It started with one of the giant technological leaps forward of World War Two: the development of radar and related forms of electromagnetic communication, and MIT was the center of this research, conducted in secret in buildings all over campus. The "Radiation Lab," as it was cryptically called, was the second largest wartime research project after the Manhattan Project, and was funded entirely by the government, primarily through the political connections and designs of Vannevar Bush.

"No American has had greater influence in the growth of science and technology than Vannevar Bush," said MIT President Jerome Weisner. Bush held such positions as head of the Carnegie Institution, Chairman of NACA (which became NASA), and Chairman of the MIT Corporation. He convinced President Roosevelt to establish the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), which oversaw all federal funding for wartime R&D. With Bush as the first director of the OSRD, a third of its allocations went to MIT in the 1940's and 50's, and much of this was for radar.

After the war, the Rad Lab was officially closed, but its projects were carried on at a new location and under a new name: Lincoln Lab. Built on the edge of Hanscom Air Force Base, at the heart of what would become the Route 128 corridor, the lab continued to be funded by the government and run by MIT (as it is to this day). Its early work in developing defense warning radar systems for the US led to the creation of revolutionary communications and computer technologies including the first "supercomputer" (the Whirlwind computer); the first system to send video signals by satellite; and a system of remote telemetry and computer sites connected via telephone lines called the SAGE system, which formed the skeleton for the ARPANET, which became today's internet.

These technologies flooded the state with new companies started by enterprising Lincoln Lab employees, among them the founders of Digital Computer Corporation, which by 1977 had 41% of the world's minicomputer sales. Over 65 influential companies have been spun directly out of Lincoln Lab, including the MITRE corporation, which employs nearly 3,000 people at its headquarters in nearby Bedford, building software and engineering systems primarily for intelligence and military customers (including the NSA).

In addition to Lincoln Lab and a myriad of related computer and electronics companies, the defense/university/corporate hub of Route 128 at Hanscom Air Force Base is home of the Electronic Systems Center, which is the Air Force's primary research and development center for surveillance and intelligence electronics, called "C4I" (command, control, communication, computer, and intelligence) systems. With an annual budget of over $3 billion, the Electronic Systems Center develops defense warning systems including the famous Cheyenne Mountain underground military control center in Colorado.

Also on the edge of Hanscom is a sprawling Raytheon Systems plant, developing missile and guidance systems. As the largest company in the state, Raytheon has several plants in the area, as well as its headquarters in Lincoln, one exit down Route 128 from Hanscom. Raytheon's story lies at the heart of Massachusetts' high-tech landscape. Founded in the 1920's as an appliance company, radar-related defense contracts in World War Two increased its sales over 5000%, making it suddenly as big as General Electric at the time. The company was co-founded by none other than Vannevar Bush, who later resigned from the Board due to conflict of interest concerns. And so it goes.

These physical locations and many others were represented and discussed in the CLUI exhibit. A bus tour was also conducted by the CLUI as part of the exhibit, following the theme of land use associated with electromagnetic research and development. On the five-hour tour through suburban and exurban Massachusetts, the group was led through such sites as the Millstone Hill Radar Site, with its numerous unusual antenna; Lincoln Lab and Hanscom Air Force Base, where the bus was led around by military escort; and a stop at Oak Ridge Observatory, with its dedicated radio dish that searches the sky for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. The tour was entitled "C4I ET."