Peter Samson

IRL Name: 
Peter Samson

Peter Samson is an American computer scientist known for creating pioneering computer software. He was born on 1941 at Fitchburg, Massachusetts. While a student at MIT, Peter Samson joined The Model Railroad Club (TMRC) and was introduced to the interactive wonders of the TX-0 and PDP-1 computers. He also wrote the first editions of the TMRC dictionary, predecessor to the Jargon File. Samson developed pioneering software for real-time digital music synthesis for both of these computers, and helped write Spacewar!, including "expensive planetarium,” the star display for Spacewar!

Samson joined Systems Concepts, Inc. in San Francisco in 1970 and became Director of Marketing and Director of Program Development. Here, he programmed the first Chinese-character digital communication system and designed the Systems Concepts Digital Synthesizer, then the world's largest and most capable music synthesizer, which served for more than a decade as principal synthesis engine for the computer music group at Stanford University (CCRMA).

He was in charge of manufacturing engineering for many hardware products, including the Central Memory subsystem for the ILLIAC IV supercomputer complex at the NASA/Ames Research Center. Later he worked for Autodesk, Inc. and contributed significant modules for rendering, animation, Web
browsing, and scripting languages.


Author of the first Fortran compiler for PDP-6 and of Fortran II

Wrote hacks for TX-0 and PDP-1

Samson is a member of the Computer History Museum PDP-1 restoration team and a docent at the Museum.