Input Presentation Device

Chapman, Robert, The Systems Research Laboratory and Its Program. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1952

In 1951, a team of psychologists formed a new research unit within RAND to examine group organisation in high-stress scenarios. Led by John Kennedy, Robert Chapman, William Biel and Allen Newell, the team operated under the title The Systems Research Laboratory. The embedded environment in which their participants would be stress-tested was a simulation of a live air defence direction centre--a station operated manually by a crew of approximately 40 Air Force personnel who coordinated incoming pictures of U.S. airspace from radar outposts and, in the event of a Soviet attack, would have to direct an interception effort. The SRL began with a series of four studies, featuring experiments firstly with local college students and later with experienced defence crews. The notions of "systems research" and "systems training", this being the analysis and optimisation of human-machine assemblages as an organisational whole, emerged out of these experiments. By the end of the decade, they were very influential in the delineation of operative practices in the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment.

This page comes from a 1952 memorandum titled The Systems Research Laboratory and its Program, published by RAND. Faded and with further detail lost through the digital scanning process, it depicts a diagram labelled "Input presentation device". This was a bespoke instrument developed by the SRL in order to replicate the radar scopes found in live direction centres. Radar images were printed onto paper, with aircraft tracks represented as alphanumeric patterns of 1s and 8s. The paper would be fed through a series of rollers and a section displayed to a screen for a period of ten seconds, before the next "frame" of radar data would roll into view.