Saturday, March 8, 2014

A brief history of Air Traffic Control and on-line Aircraft Tracking Systems...

Today's loss of flight MH370 got me wꜵndering the internet briefly investigating how Aircraft Tracking/Control systems have changed over the years.
  • 1958 - Semi-Automatic Ground Environment - The prototype was an IBM 4020 Military Computer
    "SAGE—Air Force project 416L—became the pattern for at least twenty-five other major military command-control systems… These were the so-called “Big L” systems [and] included 425L, the NORAD system; 438L, the Air Force Intelligence Data Handling System; and 474L, the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS). … Project 465L, the SAC Control System (SACCS) [with] over a million lines, reached four times the size of the SAGE code and consumed 1,400 man-years of programming; SDC invented a major computer language, JOVIAL, specifically for this project." 
  • 1958 - Algol58/JOVIAL created.
  • 1961- AN/FSQ-31V- SAGE Solid State Computer was a planned military computer central for deployment to Super Combat Centers in nuclear bunkers
  • 1968 - ALGOL 68 Final Reportr0 Presented at Munich Meeting
  • 1980 - re: 1968 ... The best we could do was to send with it a minority report, stating our considered view that, "... as a tool for the reliable creation of sophisticated programs, the language [ALGOL 68] was a failure." [...] - C. A. R. Hoare  Oct 1980

¢ My commentary: Algol68 should have been adopted and replaced Algol60, but [IMHO] instead Algol68 was shot down by a vocal minority.  Sure, I would love to own and drive a 1961 E-type Jaguar, but it would be better with airbags and a GPS.  So the 1968 Security, Efficiency, Type-safety, Standardization and Internationalization offered by Algol68 (which predates C11 well by over 40 years!) should have been leveraged in 1968! Algol68 is kind of like a 1961 E-type Jaguar, but with seat-belts, air-bags, a roll-bar, traction-control and modern tyres! ¢

BTW:  As a wonderful example of today's "crowd-sourcing": Do you regularly have aircraft pass (or cross paths) over your home/community? but you live in the "middle-of-every-where"... How about becoming part of "flight-aware" and to help track aircraft?  If your location is "desirable", then you may get a free [ADS-B] to put on your roof... Here is the current coverage map:

Click MH370 for an example of this flightaware's tracking of MH370.

Update: My best guess as to where MH370 is... On a "great circle" west of Kuda Huvadhoo (in the Maldives).


  1. C - A black Firebird, the all-macho car. Comes with optional seat belts (lint) and optional fuzz buster (escape to assembler).
    ALGOL 60 - An Austin Mini. Boy, that's a small car.
    Pascal - A Volkswagon Beetle. It's small but sturdy. Was once popular with intellectuals.
    Modula II - A Volkswagon Rabbit with a trailer hitch.
    ALGOL 68 - An Astin Martin. An impressive car, but not just anyone can drive it.


  2. My best guess as to where MH370 is...

  3. The Application of Z to the Specification of Air Traffic Control Systems: 1. An Initial Specification of the Radar Processing Activity -