The author


Steven Pemberton, CWI, Amsterdam


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

The ARRA 1CWI developed the first computers in the Netherlands, the ARRA (1952) and its successors.

Computers: ARRA II

ARRA 2CWI used an ARRA to do calculations for the successful Fokker F-27 Friendship airplane and continued to produce computers via Elektrologica (1956), the first spin-off company of CWI, later bought by Philips.

In the 1950s, CWI performed calculations for the Delta Works, which were designed to protect the Dutch coastline after the great flood of 1953

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 peaks at 5.3Tbps! Very nearly doubling every year.

Now the largest internet exchange in the world.


CWI was involved with the Web right from the beginning.

We were one of the first 500 websites, and present at the first Web Conference 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.

This line of research attracted worldwide attention with the 'crack' of the RSA-512 internet security code in 1999, and recently with the crack of SHA-1, along with researchers from Google.


Motorway flowCWI has done research on the mathematics of road traffic.

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

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


Speed advisory boards

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

Railway timetables

CWI 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 people: van Wijngaarden

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

Famous 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 people: Beertema

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

Famous people: van Rossum

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

Famous people: Sietsma

Floor SietsmaFloor Sietsma, the youngest-ever PhD in the Netherlands, who got her PhD at the CWI at age 20 (after 3 year's work, but she was in a hurry because she wanted to start another Bachelors degree in the September).

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: