SAGE was a predecessor to, and inspired the architecture of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). In addition to monitoring the airspace of the U.S. and Canada since 1958, NORAD has also been tracking Santa Claus each Christmas, using high-speed digital cameras positioned around the world to catch a glimpse of the famous man as he makes his rounds everywhere from Auckland, New Zealand, to Zurich, Switzerland.
After it was “retired,” SAGE components and equipment were often used in films and television, becoming integral to some of Hollywood’s most beloved movie sets, telling myriad stories that were often completely unrelated to its original purpose.
"The Master of Disaster"
Perhaps no one used retired SAGE components more than the early entrepreneurial film and television producer Irwin Allen, also known as “The Master of Disaster” (1916-1991). His production company made more than 300 television shows and films, many of which featured sets with SAGE equipment, such as “The Time Tunnel,” “Lost in Space”, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” and the “Planet of the Apes” films. Later, this equipment was leased for the 1983 thriller “War Games,” the “Austin Powers” franchise, and the television series “Lost.”
“Where America’s Peace of Mind Begins.”
The SAGE computer system was demystified and explained in detail to the general public through television commercials like this one, from 1960.
This archival video takes viewers on a tour of the “nerve center”—the programming and operations center—of the SAGE system, and shows how its use of computer technology was truly groundbreaking at the time.
Cold War Computing
Tracking high-speed bombers was a critical function of the military during the 1950s and 1960s. This video demonstrates how the SAGE system was designed to react to a national security threat, which ultimately never occurred.