We believe that the 1st period (before 1980), the emerging period, should be simpler to summarize and we providing a brief summary below. The summary is presented as a number of notable events, accompanied by some photos.

On May, 2007 — Professor Jack B. Dennis delivered a talk at the opening of Prof. Arvind’s 60 years Birthday Workshop at MIT: entitled: “A Data Flow Retrospective — How It All Began”. Although this talk is mostly centered at the DataFlow work at MIT, it also included some important related work from other groups, and some historical photos. The readers are encouraged to glance through these slides.

In particular, Jack Dennis listed the Root of DataFlow ideas that went back to the 60s, as well as the activities in early 70s which he called “DataFlow Years: at NT MIT”.


  • Asynchronous Digital Logic: Muller, Bartkt
  • Control Structures for Parallel Programming: Conway, Mcllroy, Dijkstra
  • Abstract Models for Concurrent Systems: Petri, Holt
  • Theory of Program Schemes: Ianov, Paterson
  • Structured Programming: Dijkstra, Hoare
  • Functional Programming: McCarthy, Landin

Early Data Flow Years

The symposium included a spontaneous afternoon tutorial on data flow concepts presented by Jack Dennis.

An important event should be highlighted is: MIT Computation Structures Group (CSG) was founded in 1964. CSG has been led by Jack Dennis (1964-1985) and Arvind (1986-present). Many early work on DataFlow model were published as CSG Technical Memo. Some significant work and publications at MIT CSG during the period 1964-1975 are listed below.

Besides MIT, another historically significant development of DataFlow ideas in the United States has been led by Prof. Arvind at University of California at Irvine (1975-1979). In 1975. Arvind and Gostelow published a report on “A New Interpreter For DataFlow Schemas And Its Implications For Computer Architecture”. In 1977, Arvind organized “The First DataFlow Workshop” at University of California, Irvine, and it is still refreshing to review the workshop program even today.

Early Data Flow work

Several related work during this period are listed by Jack Dennis as follows.

  • 1968: Duane Adams: “A Computation Model with Data Flow Sequencing”
  • 1966:Burt Sutherland “On-Line Graphical Specification of Computer Procedures”
  • 1978: Al Davis: “The Architecture and System Method of DDM1: A Recursively Structured Data Driven Machine”
  • Projects at TI, ESL, Hughes

Other Early Data Flow Work in the World

During this period, dataflow concepts and ideas are also pursued in places beyond MIT. For example, the following is a short land incomplete list of places where early data flow work is introduced and conducted – in other places of US, and Europe, Asia, Australia, etc.

We hope to receive input from the whole dataflow STC community to provide input to complete this list.

Some Publications in This Period

Some publications in this period are being gathered and included in the corresponding period under the Publication page.

Some Photos in This Period

Belows are some photos. The 1st photo is from Prof. Arvind: 2005 ISCA Keynote Talk, and the rest 3 photos are from Prof. Jack Dennis: A Data Flow Retrospective — How It All Began

The slide above was from Arvind’s ISCA2005 Keynote talk
The following 3 photos are from A Data Flow Retrospective — How It All Began, delievered by Jack Dennis at the opening of Prof. Arvind’s 60 years Birthday Workshop at MIT
  • Prof. Dennis and Prof.Arvind with his wife Gita at MIT Endicott House, 1997.
  • Dennis with his wife at MIT Endicott House, 1977
  • Data Flow and Reduction Workshop, Irvine, California, 1977

Additional photos can be found at: