excerpt from wikipedia:
"In 1950, MIT undertook a summer study, named Project Charles, to explore the feasibility of establishing a major laboratory focused on air defense. The summer study recommended the establishment of a laboratory, named Project Lincoln to be operated by MIT for the Army, Navy and Air Force. The name "Project Lincoln" was chosen because the Laboratory sits near the towns of Bedford, Lexington and Lincoln, MA, and the names "Project Lexington" and "Project Bedford" were already taken by other DOD efforts.
In the early years, the most important developments to come out of Lincoln Lab were SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment), a nationwide network of radar and anti-aircraft weapons linked to digital computers.
Some of the earliest computer graphics and user interface research was done at the laboratory, including Sutherland's Sketchpad system. Research into "packetized speech," (now VoIP) done in collaboration with other researchers, led to the creation of UDP.
MIT's relationship with Lincoln Lab has come under intense scrutiny several times. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, growing disaffection with U.S. involvement in Vietnam led to student demonstrations demanding that MIT halt defense research, MIT responded by spinning off the semi-autonomous Draper Labs entirely and moving all on-campus classified research to Lincoln Lab."
Bill Buxton's presentation on the history of the Lincoln Labs on ePresence.tv
from their own history page:
Created in 1951 as a federally funded research center of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lincoln Laboratory was focused on improving the nation's air defense system through advanced electronics.
The Laboratory’s inception was prompted by the Air Defense Systems Engineering Committee’s 1950 report that concluded the U.S. was unprepared for the threat of an air attack. Because of MIT’s management of the Radiation Laboratory during World War II, the experience of some of its staff on the Air Defense Systems Engineering Committee, and its proven competence in electronics, the Air Force was convinced that MIT could provide the research needed to develop an air defense that could detect, identify, and ultimately intercept air threats.
MIT’s Whirlwind computer of the 1940s gave promise of solving these challenges. Building on the Whirlwind’s digital technology, early research at Lincoln Laboratory tackled the design and prototype development of a network of ground-based radars and aircraft control centers for continental air defense—the Semiautomatic Ground Environment (SAGE). Significant technical advances.Expanding Mission
Over the 50+ years since the Laboratory’s establishment, the scope of the problems has broadened from the initial emphasis on air defense to include space surveillance, missile defense, surface surveillance and object identification, communications, and air traffic control, all supported by a strong advanced electronic technology activity. The Laboratory’s Millstone Hill radar, completed in 1957, utilized the first all-solid-state, programmable digital computer for real-time tracking of objects in space. In addition to its role in developing technology basic to the ballistic missile early warning system, the Millstone Hill facility was the first radar to detect the Soviet Sputnik satellites and later served as a tracking station for Cape Canaveral launches. [...]
In the early 1960s, MIT Lincoln Laboratory initiated the development of satellite communications systems for national defense, resulting in the launch of eight experimental communications satellites.
The Laboratory demonstrated advances in autonomous spacecraft control, the use of solid state devices to ensure long-term spacecraft reliability, and the development of mobile earth terminals for secure communications systems.
In the early 1970s, MIT Lincoln Laboratory began an active program in civil air traffic control, emphasizing radar surveillance, collision avoidance, hazardous-weather detection, and the use of automation aids in the control of aircraft.
In the 1980s, the Laboratory accomplished significant experiments in compensating for the effects of atmospheric turbulence by using adaptive optics and developed a high-power laser radar system.
In the 1990s, work for other government agencies included sensor development for NOAA and NASA. The Laboratory developed an advanced land imaging instrument as part of NASA’s New Millennium Program.
To support its aggressive approach to advanced systems development, MIT Lincoln Laboratory has also maintained a leadership role in basic research in surface and solid-state physics and materials relevant to solid-state physics.
The Laboratory performed the initial research for the development of the semiconducting laser and designed an infrared laser radar to develop techniques for high-precision pointing and tracking of satellites."
The Laboratory has also made significant contributions to the early development of modern computer graphics, the theory of digital signal processing, and the design and construction of high-speed digital signal processing computers. Signal processing remains a key element of many Laboratory programs, including special-purpose high-throughput processors.
The Laboratory has advanced the technology of speech coding for digital processing. Speech coding and recognition, along with automatic translation, are continuing areas of interest."