The following timeline provides a capsule narrative of RLE’s notable events and achievements, and some of the individuals who have played key roles in the Laboratory’s development and growth.
1961 — The MIT Department of Linguistics is formed, with major part of its nucleus composed of RLE researchers in human communication.
1962 — RLE graduate research assistant Ivan E. Sutherland develops Sketchpad, the first interactive computer graphics program and the first graphical user interface (GUI). Sutherland later becomes a vice president of Sun Microsystems.
1962 — Project “Luna See,” conducted by RLE’s Louis Smullin and George Fiocco, demonstrates high-power optical maser technology by bouncing a laser beam off the moon’s surface. It was the first time outer space had been spanned by laser light.
1963 — J.C.R. Licklider, formerly of RLE, funds ARPA’s Project MAC at MIT with RLE’s Robert M. Fano as its first director. Project MAC spawns both the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laboratory in 1970 and the Laboratory of Computer Science (LCS) in 1975. The two laboratories later merge to become the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in 2003.
1964 — Amar G. Bose, who joined RLE in 1953 as a graduate student working with RLE’s Yuk Wing Lee and Norbert Wiener in statistical communication theory, and who later conducted research in RLE on physical acoustics and psychoacoustics, founds Bose Corporation, which becomes an industry leader in commercial audio products and applications.
1967 — RLE’s reading machine for the blind is the first affordable optical character reader. With the PDP‑1 computer, it becomes the first system that could scan text and read aloud.
1968 — RLE’s David H. Staelin and E.C. Reifenstein, using radio telescopes, discover that the Crab Nebula contains a rapidly-rotating central star. This discovery helps to connect supernovae, neutron stars and pulsars.
1968 — RLE’s Thomas Huang uses an optical scanner to perform Fourier transform coding, and introduces the concept of coding in blocks smaller than the original image.
1969 — RLE’s Louis Braida and his collaborators begin a landmark series of articles in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America on auditory intensity perception.
1971 — Jerome B. Weisner, RLE’s third Director, is appointed thirteenth President of MIT.
1972 — RLE’s Bruno Coppi designs and constructs the first high-field toroidal plasma machine, the Alcator A tokamak.
1973 — A major portion of RLE moves into the new Sherman Fairchild Complex (Buildings 36 and 38).
1975 — RLE’s William F. Schreiber and Donald E. Troxel collaborate to produce the Laserphoto system for the Associate Press (AP), which quickly replaces all AP Wirephoto machines throughout the United States.
1975 — RLE’s Alan V. Oppenheim and Ronald Schafer of the Georgia Institute of Technology publish “Digital Signal Processing,” which becomes the landmark textbook in the field.
1976 — MIT’s Plasma Fusion Center (now the Plasma Science and Fusion Center) is formed, with a significant part of its nucleus composed of RLE’s research in experimental plasma physics and engineering.
1978 — RLE’s Henry I. Smith establishes RLE’s Submicron Structures Laboratory, now the NanoStructures Laboratory.