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Ballistic Research Laboratory

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Title: Ballistic Research Laboratory  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: ENIAC, Charles Critchfield, Charles M. Herzfeld, Mike Muuss, BRL-CAD
Collection: Harford County, Maryland, Research Installations of the United States Army
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Ballistic Research Laboratory

The Ballistic Research Laboratory (BRL) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland was the center for the United States Army's research efforts in ballistics (interior, exterior, and terminal) as well as vulnerability/lethality analysis.

In 1992, the BRL's mission, personnel, and facilities were incorporated into the newly created Army Research Laboratory, and BRL was disestablished.

Model 91/38

On March 27 of 1964, the U.S. Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory, according to the 36th U.S. President's Commission (commonly known as the Warren Commission), played host to one of the most famous rifles in U.S. history. On that date, three marksmen test fired a Mannlicher-Carcano Type 38, the rifle used by Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate President John F. Kennedy on November 22nd of 1963.

The results of this test: Only one of the three expert marksmen was able to fire three shots somewhat close to the established official time limit attributed to Oswald. But unlike Oswald from the 6th Floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building, these three marksmen were allowed to use a gun rest, and they were also allowed to take as much time as they needed to line up their first shot at a stationary target. Oswald shot at a moving target.


Betty Holberton (right foreground) programming the ENIAC computer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, BRL building 328 (1940s/1950s)

BRL played an important role in the history of computer development:[1][2]

  • Sponsored the development of ENIAC - widely regarded as the first general-purpose electronic digital computer - to aid the creation of firing tables for artillery and mortars
  • Developed and built several generations of computers: EDVAC, ORDVAC and BRLESC[3]
  • Developed BRL-CAD, a solid geometric modeling system - now open sourced
  • The network ping utility was authored by Mike Muuss of BRL in December 1983 to troubleshoot network problems[4][5]


  1. ^ "ARL Computing History"
  2. ^ "The History of Computing at BRL", [Mike Muuss]
  3. ^ ORDVAC and BRLESC used their own unique notation for hexadecimal numbers. Instead of the sequence A B C D E F universally used today, the digits ten to fifteen were represented by the letters K S N J F L, corresponding to the teletype characters on 5-track paper tape
  4. ^  
  5. ^  

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