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Thank You!

Over the last 150 days, we’ve tried to show what the MIT Libraries collection is really like. We’ve covered just about everything, it seems, from the wonders of electricity to proper computer terminal setups, from children’s books to local history, from the fine arts to physics to outdoor adventure. Today, marking our present year and the year of the MIT Sesquicentennial, we want to thank everyone who had a hand in making this online exhibit possible. And, of course, we want to thank you, our loyal readers. 150 Years in the Stacks Team: Michelle Baildon Patrick Ford Patrick Olson Audrey […]

Year 128 – 1988: AIDS: Cultural Analysis, Cultural Activism

Published: Cambridge, Mass., 1988 The 1980s were a terribly dark time for large segments of American society. A mysterious, almost uniformly fatal illness was killing people, most of them young or in their prime. Because the syndrome decimated the immune system, its symptoms were wide-ranging, and those it affected suffered from numerous infections and maladies that had never before been seen in otherwise healthy people. Most of these opportunistic infections manifested with a cruel intensity, leaving those with the syndrome susceptible to blindness, disfigurement, lymphoma, and other dreadful ailments before they finally succumbed to what was, at the time, an […]

Year 127 – 1987: Winnie ille Pu by A.A. Milne

Published: New York, 1987 Alexander Lenard’s Latin translation of Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh may be the most surprising New York Times best seller to date. First published in 1958 – in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and in an edition of only 100 copies – it went on to spend 20 weeks on the Times best seller list in 1960. Despite the volumes of great foreign-language literature published prior to that year, it was  Winnie ille Pu that became the first non-English-language book to grace that venerable list. Needless to say, it remains the only book in Latin ever to become a New York […]

Year 126 – 1986: Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

Published: New York, 1986 Art Spiegelman’s Maus was originally published in serial form beginning in 1980, in the comic anthology Raw. It appeared in book form in 1986, when volume I, “My Father Bleeds History,” was published by Pantheon Books. More than thirty years after its initial appearance, Maus hasn’t lost an ounce of its narrative power. Nor has it lost its power to surprise. Spiegelman’s fusion of illustration, biography, history, and personal tragedy continues to confound expectations. Maus may be the most unlikely artistic triumph of the 20th century. In theory it just shouldn’t work. On first hearing, in […]

Year 125 – 1985: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Harold Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman, with Julie Sussman

Published: Cambridge, Mass., 1985 MIT is home to the planet’s most elite course in electrical engineering and computer science. “Course 6,” as it’s known in MIT-speak, attracts the very finest students and the most distinguished faculty associated with any such program. It retains its ranking as the best in the world, at least in part, through continuous adjustment and updating of its course offerings. During the early 1980s, as computing was becoming a ubiquitous activity that would transform the way people worked and lived their lives, Course 6’s curriculum underwent a major restructuring. Two of the signal events in that […]

Year 124 – 1984: The Mathematics of Gambling by Edward O. Thorp

Published: Secaucus, N.J., 1984 In this, his second gambling manual, Edward Thorp offers his readers plenty of practical advice, but he also spills some ink reminiscing about his days as a graduate student at UCLA. “In our mutual poverty,” he writes, musing on a study break with some fellow students, “the conversation readily turned to fantasies of easy money. We began to speculate on whether there was a way to beat the roulette wheel.” In 1962, Thorp, then a mathematics professor at New Mexico State University, published Beat the Dealer, now considered the first card counting manual. It addressed betting […]

Year 123 – 1983: The Codex Magliabechiano and the Lost Prototype of the Magliabechiano Group by Elizabeth Hill Boone

Published: Berkeley, 1983 It’s no secret that some of the conquistadors who invaded Mexico in the 16th century were bent on the wholesale destruction of its native culture. Still, there were others – mostly priests – who sought to preserve the Aztec culture (albeit in order to use that knowledge to convert the natives from their pagan ways). Among the priests’ methods was the copying and creation of Aztec manuscripts. “These newly created manuscripts,” Elizabeth Hill Boone tells us, “were generally painted on European paper by Indian artists whose work reflects the indigenous style of pictorial representation.” Such is the […]

Year 122 – 1982: The City Observed: Boston, a Guide to the Architecture of the Hub by Donlyn Lyndon

Published: New York, 1982 Donlyn Lyndon, the author of this guide to Boston’s built environment, headed MIT’s Department of Architecture from 1968 to 1975, and he knows his subject. The City Observed is more than just one expert’s opinion of Boston and its buildings, though. It’s also an extremely readable introduction to the language of architecture itself, and it includes a brief, highly useful, illustrated guide to common architectural elements. But it’s in Lyndon’s assessment of Boston’s buildings that the book shines. Of course he’s an astute critic of architectural form and function, but he’s a terrifically entertaining writer, too. […]

Year 121 – 1981: “The Origin of Spacewar” by J. Martin Graetz, in: Creative Computing, August 1981

Published: Morristown, N.J., 1981 Before World of Warcraft, before Super Mario Brothers or Pac-Man, even before Pong, there was Spacewar! Not everyone knows it, but MIT holds a unique place in the history of video games. It was here that the first video game intended for computer use – Spacewar! – was invented. One of the creators of the game, J. Martin Graetz, tells the story of Spacewar!’s development in “The Origin of Spacewar.” The game was conceived by Graetz and his friends Wayne Wiitanen and Stephen R. (Slug) Russell, who referred to themselves as the “Hingham Institute,” named after […]

Year 120 – 1980: Heralds of Science as Represented by Two Hundred Epochal Books and Pamphlets in the Dibner Library, Smithsonian Institution

Published: Norwalk, Conn. and Washington, D.C., 1980 This lavishly illustrated catalog reads like a Who’s Who of scientific greats. The Burndy Library, from which these items have been selected, is the fruit of more than fifty years of collecting by Bern Dibner. A self-made Ukrainian immigrant, Dibner made his fortune as an inventive electrical engineer. He donated about 10,000 volumes – roughly a quarter of his collection – to the Smithsonian in 1974. The remainder of the collection, which was housed at MIT from 1992-2006, now resides at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. “The books described here,” the […]