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Computers Spread Across Campus: 1974 - 1984

Williams Hall

In 1974, the Computer Center moved to Williams Hall and took the place of the bookstore, which had moved to Sherrill Hall.

In 1976, the Colleges purchased a new computer. A PDP 11/40 from Digital Equipment Corporation, it could be accessed by multiple users at once by logging into terminals installed around campus. Four terminals were in Williams Hall, and there was one each located in Smith, Lansing, and Trinity Halls.

The Herald wrote that "The sometimes overworked I.B.M. 1130, which will celebrate its 10th birthday next fall, will remain in Williams Hall principally for administrative use," and that, "Hopefully, many students will be able to establish a happy relationship with the new computer."

Fire Alarms and Energy Management

As the Computer Center improved its equipment, other offices on campus also began to computerize their systems. In 1977, the Colleges installed an Alpha 1000 computer sytem to control the fire alarm and energy management systems. Ditches were dug all across campus so that pipes and cabling could be laid connecting all of the buildings on campus to the computer. The system increased response time in the case of a fire and allowed for gas and electric systems to be put on timers. It was estimated at the time that the Colleges would save at least $30,000 on energy bills within the first year.

New OCLC Terminal in Demarest Library

Trustees observe the new OCLC terminal in Demarest Library, 1975.

Librarian Bill Crumlish with Floppy Disks

Librarian Bill Crumlish, 1983.

Warren Hunting Smith Library

In December 1974, the library "entered the computer age" by installing an OCLC terminal.  The terminal connected the library to the Ohio Colleges Library Center which made available the cataloging information of its 300 member libraries. This greatly reduced the time it took to catalog new books.

In 1978, the library began using OCLC to request books via interlibrary-loan, and in 1981, the library also used it for new book acquisitions. Librarian Mary Nicolson said, "The OCLC acquisitions system has done more than anything else to bring us out of the Stone Age of library book-ordering and into the 20th Century."

OCLC now has over 16,000 member libraries in 122 countries.

These were just the first steps in further digitization in the library. A 1981 article in the Library Associates Newsletter wrote, "Many libraries have automated their circulation (check-out) procedures, and some of the more daring ones have replaced their printed card catalogs with 'on-line' electronic catalogs."

Two Students with VT100 Terminal Two Students in Terminal Lab

Victory and defeat as students use VT100 terminals to access the computer, 1983.

Increasing Computer Usage

A the 1980s approached, an increasing number of students began using the computer. By 1978, the Colleges had 11 terminals to connect to the PDP 11/40, and had also recently acquired two new programs, SPSS (Statistical Analysis for Social Sciences) and STAT 11 (a statistical program). Cynthia McCulloch wrote in the Herald, "In light of the research and other work being done with computers it will not be long until they are as instrumental a source of information as the library."

In 1981, the PDP 11/40 was replaced with a PDP 11/44. It cost $30,000 and was more powerful, faster, and had increased storage. It also brought 12 more terminals to campus, allowing greater access by students and faculty.

Computer use for administrative tasks also increased. In 1980, the Hobart Admissions office began using a computer to aid in recruiting new students, and in 1981, the Colleges upgraded their data processing equipment by purchasing a Harris 500 computer system.

The Microcomputer

The introduction of the microcomputer further increased the rate at which offices and student groups began to use computers. The library purchased a microcomputer in 1981 to handle large and frequently updated sets of informations such as the Periodical Holdings List and the Faculty Department Budget Statements. In 1983, the Hobart Student Association purchased an Eagle 2E microcomputer, mostly to handle their accounting. It had "a two disc drive, a 15k memory per file, and a nationwide reputation for durability."

"Thinking Computers"

In April 1983, the Colleges organized a two-day symposium called "Thinking Computers." The event brought several prominent figures from the field of computer science to campus to discuss such topics as "Artificial Intelligence: Exploring the Possible," "Against the Imperialism of Instrumental Reason," and "Social Implications of Computer Use." The symposium ended with Singing Circuits, "a program of computer generated music with performers."

The Mechanical Bride Course Description

The Mechanical Bride course description, 1982.

Expanded Computer Science Curriculum

The Computer Science curriculum also continued to grow. In 1975, the courses 221 Logic, Computers and Automata, and 323 Topics in Computer Science were offered, and in 1977, the Colleges began teaching the BASIC-PLUS programming language in addition to FORTRAN.

John Klein wrote in 1988, "By the late 70's, we offerred about six courses. The students wanted more, and some were transferring to get it. All of us had qualms about whether computer science belonged in a liberal arts context." Klein audited some courses at Cornell, and their theorectical approach  convinced him that "there was an intellectual foundation to computer science that was appropriate to a liberal education."

In 1981, the Math Department became the Math and Computer Science Department, and a computer science minor was created the following year. The courses required for the minor were Computer Programming (BASIC or FORTRAN), Assembler Language, Topics in Computer Science, Operations Research, and Mathematical Models.

General Education

In 1982, Ted Thiesmeyer introduced The Mechanical Bride, a general education course about the impact of computers. Thiesmeyer was an English professor, who had a strong interest in computers. This greatly increased the number of students being exposed to computers, and students who took the course were given exclusive access to 12 of the 20 computer terminals during designated hours each week. The Herald wrote, "At these times there may be difficulty finding unoccupied terminals. If on a terminal at these times and asked to give way for a Gen Ed 134 student, do so gracefully."

In the 1981, the College Catalog, stated that "computing is rapidly becoming an important part of every student's college experience." The following year, the same section read, "Academic computing at Hobart and William Smith has become an integral part of the college experience." It also stated that, "An estimated 60 percent of all students receive significant exposure to computers during their college careers."

This increase in computer use led the Colleges to introduce an academic policy on computer use in 1983. It stated, in part, "Any deliberate attempt to prevent other users' acces to the computer, deprive them of resources, or degrade system performance is considered academic dishonesty." It also covered plagiarism of computer programs and files, and the use of other users' accounts and passwords.