Mary Allen Wilkes

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Mary Allen Wilkes
Born September 25, 1937 (1937-09-25)
Fields Programming, Hardware engineering
Institutions MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Washington University in St. Louis
Alma mater Wellesley College, Harvard University Law School
Known for Work with LINC computer

Mary Allen Wilkes (born September 25, 1937 in Chicago, Illinois) is a former computer programmer and hardware engineer, most known for her work with the LINC computer. In 1975, she left computer science and became an attorney.[1] She is a graduate of Wellesley College, class of 1959.[2]

MIT Lincoln Laboratory[edit]

Wilkes worked in the MIT Lincoln Laboratory from 1959 to 1963, where she worked with some early computers, like the IBM 709 and the TX-2.[3] While there, she simulated the LINC, what would become the first minicomputer, on the TX-2.[1] She designed the console and the first operating system for LINC and continued to design many operating systems for LINC,[4] all named beginning with "LAP" up to the LAP6.[5] She then authored the LAP6 Handbook and co-authored Programming with LINC with Wesley A. Clark.

In 1965,[5] she designed and used a computer in her home,[5] and is usually considered to be the first home computer user.[6] This claim is dependent on the definition of a "home computer."

Washington University[edit]

In 1965, Wilkes left MIT and began working at the Computer Systems Laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis. In St. Louis, she designed the multiply macromodule.

Law career[edit]

After working at Washington University, she left Computer Science and entered law school at Harvard University Law School. She became an attorney in 1975 [7] and practiced in Cambridge, Massachusetts, until she retired.


She is noted in the field of Computer Science for:

  • Developing the assembler-linker model used in modern programming compilers.
  • Some consider her to be the first person to use a home computer, which she built.[6][8] Depending on the definition of "home computer", Konrad Zuse is cited as being a home computer user before Wilkes.
  • Conceptualized and implemented the operating system for the LINC, which was the first operating system to sit between a program and the actual computer hardware.[9]

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^ a b Biography of Mary Allen Wilkes
  2. ^ Early Biography from 1970
  3. ^ The unsung women of technology
  4. ^ LINC istory
  5. ^ a b c IEEE Global History Networks: Mary Allen Wilkes
  6. ^ a b The LINC: A Paradigm Shift
  7. ^ Lawyer Profile
  8. ^ 10th Vintage Computer Festival
  9. ^ [1]