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Lincoln tower aids town, schools

Since Paul Revere spread his famous message on horseback at the start of the Revolutionary War, Lexington has seen quite a few advances in information and communications technology-and the latest is a microwave signal tower operated by Lincoln Laboratory that will let the town's government and students tap into the vast resources of the Internet.

When Lexington's residential TV cable system was being installed several years ago, the town government required that a separate TV cable (I-trunk) be set aside for town use only. This broadband cable with multiple unused video channels would, it was felt, provide the information conduit to establish a very well-connected municipal government.

More recently, the Lexington School Committee met with Fred Vote, group leader of the Computer Systems and Telecommunications Group at Lincoln Laboratory, and requested a town connection (a 10mbs Ethernet access port) to the Internet through Lincoln Laboratory's communications tower.

An Internet Project Committee was formed consisting of representatives from the Lexington schools, town offices, library and Cable Advisory Committee, as well as researchers from Lincoln Laboratory and BBN Technology Services. That organization provides Internet service via its NEARnet service. NEARnet, which was founded by MIT, Harvard and Boston University, provides Internet access to more that 300 colleges, universities and business organizations throughout New England.

BBN Technology Services provides Internet access at the Lincoln Laboratory communications tower by maintaining a microwave link from there to Prospect Hill in Waltham, and then on to Tang Hall at MIT. This access point had been established to serve Lincoln Laboratory, Mitre Corporation and the Air Force Philips Laboratory. Now the town of Lexington will be able to share this access.

This Lexington Network Access Project, or LINK as it is now called, has sparked a number of ideas on how to take advantage of the new electronic resources.

Carol Pilarski, director of curriculum and evaluation for the Lexington school system, has submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation (under the Networking Infrastructure for Education Program) for a $2 million grant over a three-year period. The linkup will help students learn computer and research skills from the moment they begin their school careers.

After the LINK connection becomes operational in the schools, the town will gain access to the services of the Internet, including international communications and e-mail, data bases and access to libraries at universities and museums around the world.

Conversely, this completely interconnected community sets the stage for a wide-area information/education laboratory. It will become possible for MIT and other universities to do research in media, human interfacing, imaging, computer graphics and animation, and learning itself. Thus, the Institute can be directly integrated into the local education process at fundamental levels, resulting in a unique research opportunity and a microcosm for what might be possible on a nationwide basis involving communities and universities.

A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 30).

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