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Brief History


In the 1980's the Direzione Generale per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo (General Directorate for Cooperation to Development) of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided the necessary funds to start the Microprocessor Laboratory at the ICTP. This was done with the cooperation of the United Nations University (UNU), Tokyo, Japan, through the sponsorship of its programmes in association with the Direzione.

In the last twenty years or so, microprocessors and microelectronics in general have brought about a revolution in computer science, manufacturing, telecommunications as well as in space and high-energy physics. In view of the impact of this new technology, it was quite natural that ICTP started organizing courses on physics of microprocessor and its applications. For  ICTP it meant a departure from purely theoretical physics, as a step towards technology and applied aspects of physics.

1980s Prof. Luciano Bertocchi requested the collaboration of the staff of the Organisation Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) in order to organize the first microprocessor college. Prof. Catharinus Verkerk agreed to organize and direct the first college that was held in Trieste the following year. As hands-on experience was intended to be an essential component of the course, CERN made available part of the equipment indispensable for putting theory into practice, and ICTP provided the organization. The course was such a success that it was decided to hold it: at ICTP every odd year, and, a regional one, in a developing country every even year. For the 1983 college CERN designed and built twenty development stations. These so-called ROSY stations had a monitor and a Flex operating system as basic software. As more and better equipment was gradually purchased for the laboratory of these courses, it was realized that the equipment could also serve as a basis for research and for the development work in a permanent “ad hoc” laboratory.

In 1985, ICTP signed an agreement with the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN, National Institute of Nuclear Physics), to jointly operate the Microprocessor Laboratory, always with the sponsorship of UNU. In the first year of the Laboratory, a few physicists and engineers from developing countries were accepted. There they could design and test their own projects before taking them home for full operation. From 1989 until March 2004 Prof. Alberto A. Colavita was Head of the ICTP-INFN Microprocessor Laboratory.

Presently the ICTP-INFN Microprocessor Laboratory is part of the ICTP Multidisciplinary Laboratory (MLab) Research Group. The Head of the ICTP MLab is Prof. Claudio Tuniz, Assistant Director of ICTP.

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