Sunday, July 06, 2008

Cold War SAGE System

SAGE - Semi Automatic Ground Environment - was an automated system for tracking and intercepting enemy bomber aircraft. It was developed in response to the threat by Soviet high speed nuclear bombers such as the notorious Tupolev Tu-95 (codenamed BEAR by NATO)

The SAGE project was developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, IBM and many other top notch firms. It became operational in 1959 and was a part of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) until 1989, when it was replaced by more advanced systems.

SAGE was at the time the most advanced network of large early warning radars on land and sea, and AWACS airplanes. All these stations electronically transmitted their data to an information storing and processing system. The core of that system was the AN/FSQ-7, the largest computer ever build. It processed the identification, directions and speed of enemy airplanes, and calculated interception coordinates, altitude and time. All that information was sent to screens, ready for use. And all this 1959! This enabled US interceptor aircraft to be guided accurately towards the enemy bombers.

Although a most advanced system, SAGE was soon to be proven useless against a new threat, the intercontinental nuclear missiles. Nonetheless, SAGE was a very important kick-off for many new technologies such as advanced radar systems, computer communication networks, the development of computer memory storage, on-screen information display, the light pen and much more. More on SAGE on Wikipedia

There's an interesting Cold War movie about SAGE from the Computer Museum. Not only it explains the general concept of SAGE, but it's a very nice example of how Cold War propaganda scared the hell out of people. After viewing this movie you'll understand why people got paranoia and started to build nuclear shelters in their garden!

You can view the magnificent 23 minutes movie here. Hit the full-screen button and swallow some hot Cold War Stuff!

Another fine example of scaring people nuts, children on playgrounds and nuclear blasts inclusive, is displayed in a two part movie. This is the Cold War on its best (as a matter of speaking). Visit part 1 and part 2 and enjoy!

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