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64 PCB007 MAGAZINE I JUNE 2022 Let's have a little fun and walk back nearly 70 years into the history of electronics and com- puters. What was the world's most costly com- puter and why? e answer is not today's super- computers 1 , nor computers built during World War II. Instead, it lies in a real-time air defense radar system built during the height of the Cold War of the 1950s that had le the U.S. extremely vulnerable to a Soviet bomber attack. 2 Introduction to SAGE is was the beginning of a North American strategic defense system, eventually known Radars, Missiles, and the World's Costliest Computer as the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment System (SAGE). It was conceived in 1954 by the scientists at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory for the air defense of the U.S. and Canada. e idea was that a large network of radars would automatically detect a surprise bomber forma- tion as it approached the U.S. mainland from any direction 2 (Figure 1). By the time of its full deployment, there were 24 direction centers, three combat centers, and hundreds of radars 2 . ese were built to analyze radar data and respond with appropriate actions by direct- ing Air Force and Navy interceptor fighters, Happy's Tech Talk #9 by Happy Holden, I-CONNECT007 Figure 1: The full extent of the SAGE system covered all of North America with nearly 15 Defense Districts.

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