The author


Steven Pemberton, CWI, Amsterdam



TuringI was tutored at university by Dick Grimsdale, the man who built the first ever transistorised computer.

He had been tutored himself by Alan Turing.

I later went and worked at Turing's old department, alongside people who had worked with him, on the 5th computer in the series he had worked on.

I co-designed the programming language that Python was based on.

I was one of the first handful of people on the internet in Europe when it was set up by the CWI in 1988.

I helped design HTML, CSS and many other web technologies.

CWI: Origin

Originally called "Mathematisch Centrum" or just "MC", the CWI was founded in 1946 to contribute to post-war reconstruction.

About 200 researchers.

Computers: ARRA

ARRA IICWI developed the first computers in the Netherlands, the ARRA (1952) and its successors.

With those computers, CWI helped design the Fokker F-27 Friendship airplane, and performed calculations for the Delta Works.

Computers: X8

An X8 computerCWI spun off a company Electrologica, later bought by Philips to produce the next computer, the X8.

Last X8 recently installed in Boerhaave museum in Leiden.

Cost about €1M.

Could do between 14K and 400K instructions per second.

Programming languages: The Algols

CWI co-developed the computer languages ALGOL 60 and ALGOL 68.

Most programming languages in use today are descended from Algol 60 (even Python).

The word "Dereference" comes from Algol 68.

Guido van Rossum designed and developed the programming language Python in the 1990s at CWI. It is now one of the world’s most popular programming languages.


AMSIX throughputCWI registered the NL top level domain '.nl' on 25 April 1986. It was one of the first country domains in the world.

CWI had the first Internet domain in the Netherlands,, from 1 May 1986.

CWI established the first public connection between Europe and the Internet on 17 November 1988.

Then only 64Kbps, it is now approaching 6Tbps! Very nearly doubling every year.

Now the largest internet exchange in the world.


Tim Berners-Lee and Steven Pemberton discuss HTML in a snowy BostonCWI was involved with the Web right from the beginning.

We were one of the first 500 websites, and I helped organise the first Web Conference at CERN in 1994.

We have helped to develop many Web standards, including HTML, CSS, and the multimedia standard SMIL (and many others).


CWI is renowned for factoring large numbers, the basis for cracking internet security codes.

We cracked RSA-512 in 1999, and SHA-1 last year along with researchers from Google.


Speed advisory boards

CWI has done research on the mathematics of road traffic.

Surprisingly a motorway, mathematically, is like a hose of water.

Ideal speeds: allowing cars to go faster can surprisingly slow down journey times, and create more traffic jams,

Advisory speeds displayed on Dutch motorways use algorithms devised at CWI to calculate the optimal speed to avoid traffic jams forming.

Railway timetables

NS timetableCWI calculated the NL railway timetables.

Interesting fact: the timetables are mirrored. For instance, if a train arrives at 17 minutes to the hour from somewhere, the train back will leave at 17 minutes after the hour (plus or minus 2 minutes).

Famous CWI people: van Wijngaarden

van WijngaardenComputer pioneer Adriaan van Wijngaarden was the "Father of Dutch Computing"

Famous CWI people: Blaauw

Gerrit BlaauwThe inventor of timesharing.

Co-designer of the IBM-360.

(Died 4 weeks ago.)

Famous CWI people: Dijkstra

EW DijkstraEdsger Dijkstra is one of the most famous computer scientists in the world.

He did much to develop a science of computer programming.

Famous CWI people: Hugo Brandt Corstius

Hugo Brandt CorstiusThis famous writer did his PhD on linguistic analysis with computers at CWI.

Famous CWI people: Beertema

Piet BeertemaPiet Beertema, the "Godfather of .nl", who set up the internet in the Netherlands.

Famous CWI people: van Rossum

Many people, including Guido van RossumGuido van Rossum, the inventor of Python

Famous CWI people: Sietsma

Floor SietsmaFloor Sietsma, the youngest-ever PhD in the Netherlands

Got her PhD at the CWI at age 20 (after 3 year's work).

She first went to University at age 12.


CWI is an international and dynamic research centre, where loads of great things happen!

Today, presentations of three of them: