Peter Samson

Peter Samson

name = Peter Samson

image_width =
caption =
birth_date = 1941
birth_place = Fitchburg, Massachusetts
death_date =
death_place =
residence =
field = computer science
work_institution = Autodesk, Computer History Museum, Digital Equipment Corporation, NASA, Systems Concepts
alma_mater = Massachusetts Institute of Technology
known_for = music, Autodesk, NASA, Spacewar!, New York City Subway, Fortran II
spouse =

Peter R. Samson (born 1941 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts)cite web | author=Computer History Museum | title=Peter Samson | date=2006 | url= | accessdate=2006-07-20] is an American computer scientist, best known for creating pioneering computer software.

Samson studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) between 1958-1963. He wrote, with characteristic wit, the first editions of the Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) [ dictionary] , a predecessor to the Jargon File. He appears in ""cite book
last = Levy
first = Steven
title = Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution
url =
year = Updated 2 January, 2001
publisher = Penguin (Non-Classics)
id = ISBN 0-1410-0051-1
] gutenberg|no=729|name=Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution "by Steven Levy'] by Steven Levy.


Dawn of software

Working with Jack Dennis on the TX-0 at MIT Building 26, he developed an interest in computing waveforms to synthesize music. For the PDP-1 he wrote the Harmony Compiler with which PDP-1 users coded music.cite newsgroup
title = Debuggers (Was: blinking lights ...)
author = Morris, Joe
date = 1996
newsgroup = alt.folklore.computers
id = 5629h5$
url =
accessdate = 2006-12-22

He wrote the Expensive Planetarium star display for Spacewar!.cite web | last=Graetz | first=J. Martin | title=The origin of Spacewar! | work=Creative Computing and Creative Computing Video & Arcade Games | date=August 1981, Spring 1983 | url= | accessdate=2006-07-01]

Also for the PDP-1 he wrote TJ-2 (Type Justifying Program), the predecessor of the troff and nroff page layout programs developed at Bell Labscite web | author=Smith, Daniel P. B. | title=TJ-2: A Very Early Word Processor | date=1993-1997 | url= | accessdate=2006-07-02 Transcription of the 1963 memo describing TJ-2, with annotations by Daniel P. B. Smith] , a War card game, and, with Alan Kotok, T-Square, a drafting program that used a Spacewar! controller for an input device.cite video | people=Samson, Peter | year=2006 | url = | title = The Mouse That Roared: PDP-1 Celebration Event Lecture 05.15.06 | medium = Google Video | location=Mountain View, CA, USA | publisher=Computer History Museum | accessdate=2006-07-01]


Samson was a contributing architect to the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) PDP-6, and wrote the machine's first Fortran compiler. He is the author of Fortran II.cite newsgroup
title = A History of TOPS
author = Stevens, Jack H.
date = 1996
newsgroup = alt.sys.pdp10
id = 1995Jan13.151041.8661@eisner
url =
accessdate = 2006-12-22


At Systems Concepts, he programmed the first Chinese-character digital communication system, while he was director of marketing and director of program development.

ynthesized music

Samson designed the Systems Concepts Digital Synthesizer. Built at Systems Concepts, it was for ten years the primary engine for the computer music group at Stanford University Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).


Samson oversaw manufacturing engineering for hardware including the central memory subsystem for the ILLIAC IV supercomputer complex at the NASA Ames Research Center.


At Autodesk, he contributed to rendering, animation, Web browsing, and scripting languages. He received U.S. patents in software anti-piracy and virtual reality.hacker culture he enlisted a computer in planning for the event. Despite missing out on the then fastest time, Samson's attempt was to act as the inspiration for many similar subway racing attempts.cite news|first=Michael|last=Miscione|title=The Golden Age of the All-System Subway Races|url=|work=New York Post Online Edition|publisher=NYP Holdings, Inc|date =2004-10-07|accessdate=2006-08-25] [" [ The Rise and Fall of the Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee] ", [ Personal Web Page of Peter R. Samson] ]


Samson appears in the Computer History Museum Mouse That Roared panel discussion recorded in May 2006 to celebrate the [ restoration of a PDP-1] . For the restoration project he reverse-engineered music tapes from the PDP-1 era and built a player for the museum where he is currently a docent.


External links

* [ Peter Samson personal home page]
* [ Abridged Dictionary of the TMRC Language]
* [ Music Playing on the PDP-6] , by Donald Sordillo, 1996, contains Music Compiler for PDP-1 by Peter Samson
* [ PDP-1 Music] , Daniel P. B. Smith, Web site and post to [ alt.folklore.computers] (Google link) (accessed June 10, 2006)

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