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Bringing Computers to HWS: 1964 - 1974

Colleges' First Computer

The Colleges' First Computer, 1967.

William H. Bennett

Prof. Bill Bennett, c. 1963.

William H. Bennet

Hobart and William Smith installed its first computer in 1966. An IBM 1130, it was located in the basement of Lansing Hall.

The impetus to purchase the computer came from professor William Bennett, who required one for his work in economics. He presented his case at a faculty meeting, during which President Hirshson pledged his support for the endeavor.

Bennett formed a committee consisting of faculty members from the biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, economics, and political science departments. They researched available computer models and visited Colgate University to tour their facilities.

In the fall of 1964, the Colleges payed for Bennett to attend a conference at SUNY Stony Brook entitled, "Automating the University Management and Educational Process."

However, a few months later, William Bennett accepted a position at Union College, and mathematics professor John Klein took over the computer committee.

William Bennett left in the spring of 1965, but during his final trimester, he taught the Colleges' first computer programming course. This was over a year before the computer would be installed. David Morrison '65, a student in that first class, wrote that all of their programs were hand-written and that although Bennett had promised to take them "to see a real computer," arrangements could not be made, and they never did.

John S. Klein

Prof. John Klein, c. 1964.

John S. Klein

Professor John Klein was hired as the head of the Math Department in the fall of 1964 and charged with modernizing the curriculum. At the time he was the only member of the department with a PhD. He wrote in 1988 that, "I didn't know much about computers at this point, so I got a grant to go to a three week intensive session at NYU in [programming language] FORTRAN."

In December 1964, Klein presented the computer committee's report to the Board of Trustees, which was approved under the condition that half of the cost would be covered by grant funding.

An application for funding was sent to the National Science Foundation, but it was initially rejected. The committee had requested funding for an IBM 1620, which by that time was being replaced on the market by the faster and cheaper IBM 1130. A revised application was accepted, and the Colleges received a $25,000 grant.

In October 1966, the computer was installed in the basement of Lansing Hall. This location was selected due to its proximity to the Math Department, which had moved to the newly-renovated third floor the previous year. The entire system consisted of three components: the IBM 1130 computer, an IBM 1442 card reader and punch, and an IBM 1132 printer, which could "run out answers at extremely high speeds by typing 80 lines a minute."

Computer Purchase Headline

The Herald, January 15, 1965.

Densk Named Coordinator

The Herald, February 26, 1965.

Dorothy Densk and Data Processing

While the Colleges were pursuing a computer for academic purposes, they were also looking into equipment for administrative purposes. In the fall of 1964, they sent William Smith recorder Dorothy Densk to a two-day conference on educational data processing at Syracuse University. Then, in 1965, they promoted her to Data Processing Coordinator.

In March 1966, the Colleges received a $2500 grant from the Esso Foundation. Under the suggestion of Vice President Clifford E. Orr and Treasurer Shaler Bancroft, the Trustees put the money towards the purchase of new data processing equipment.

The equipment included an IBM 407 accounting machine, an IBM 029 interpreting card punch, and an IBM 514 reproducing punch for the Data Processing Center in the basement of Smith Hall. The Alumni House received an IBM 026 printing card punch, an IBM 083 sorter, and an IBM 085 collator.

This equipment was used in addition to the IBM 1130 computer, which was used for administrative purposes about 20% of the time.

In 1966, the Data Processing Center moved from Smith Hall to the basement of Lansing Hall, next to the new computer. The space had previously been occupied by the AFROTC, which had recently moved across the street to Sherrill Hall.

New Data Processing Computer

Data processing equipment in Lansing Hall, 1967. Dorothy Densk is second from the left.

Robert E. Lamberson

Robert Lamberson, c. 1963.

Robert E. Lamberson

An important figure in the history of computers at HWS was mathematics instructor Robert Lamberson, who agreed to take charge of instruction in the use of the computer in 1966. He attended National Science Foundation summer institutes on computer science in 1966 and 1968 at the University of Missouri-Rolla, and in 1971 he took courses on compiler construction and numerical analysis, also at Rolla.

When the computer was installed in 1966, Lamberson taught MTH 20: Computer Programming, a non-credit course that taught "FORTRAN programming and the operation of the I.B.M. 1130... so that students may use the equipment in other courses or special projects." The class met once per week.

In 1968, Lamberson was officially made Director of the Computer Center and began teaching MTH 21: Computer Science. The course was an introduction to assembler language and computer science theory. He would remain the Director of the Computer Center until his retirement in 2000.

In 1969, due to increased demand, the computer was expanded. Two disk drive units and a multiplex unit were added to increase processing speed, and two new key punches were installed outside of the computer room, so that students could use the machine during off hours.

IBM 1130 in Lansing Hall

The IBM 1130 in Lansing Hall, 1967. Robert Lamberson and Dorothy Densk are on the right.

Robert G. Mayo

Robert Mayo, c. 1969.

Robert G. Mayo

Another important figure in the history of computers at HWS was math instructor Robert Mayo. In 1970, he was made Assistant Director of the Computer Center and began teaching computer science courses. In preparation, he attended an eight week National Science Foundation summer institute in Numerical and Statistical Methods of Digital Computing and Programming Languages at the University of Missouri-Rolla. For most of the next decade, Mayo would be the primary computer science instructor. He retired in 2000.

The Computer Center

The Hobart and William Smith Catalog from 1971-72 wrote that, "Approximately four hours per day the Computer Center is used to service various administrative offices. Much of the remaining time, the computer is available for use by students and faculty on an open-shop arrangement. Each person is expected to keypunch and run his own program; however, student assistants are available to answer programming and operational questions."

Students Using 1130 Computer

Two students use the IBM 1130 in Lansing Hall, 1967.

Bringing Computers to HWS: 1964 - 1974