The Internet: 1994 - 2013
During the summer of 1994, Hobart and William Smith joined the Internet.
Previously, the Colleges had been connected to the Bitnet, an early precursor to the Internet that connected several hundred educational institutions. The decision to switch was made for several reasons. First, the school was losing its connection to the Bitnet through Syracuse University. Also, competition between internet service providers had made prices more affordable. Finally, the internet had more features and faster speed than the Bitnet. The Herald wrote, "Speed is also a big advantage to the Internet system. The network can process 56,000 bits of information per second."
In January 1995 a student complained in The Herald about the Colleges' connection to the internet via web browser Lynx, which was slow and antiquated. "Depending on who you talk to, we are either entering a new age with the advent of the information superhighway or experiencing yet another overhyped news gimmick... One indisputable fact is that e-mail is sweeping the nation. Just take a look at this college campus and you will find more and more getting hooked on this instant form of mail." The student wrote that other colleges had faster connections and used the web browser Mosaic, which could display images.
The following issue a student wrote in correcting him, saying that the Macs in Lansing Hall could use Mosaic and that the browser didn't affect the speed. In early 1995, there had been an open house in Lansing Hall introducing the internet software to students and explaining all of this. The student told his classmate, "It was advertised on the VAX everytime you logged on."
In the fall of 1995, the Internet connection was upgraded from 56 to 128 Kbps.
Around the time that the Colleges were connecting to the Internet, "highly advanced Pentium computers" were being installed in the Gulick classroom lab. They were "multimedia computers" due to their increased graphics capabilities and CD-ROM drives. The Herald proclaimed that, "With the addition of the CD-ROMs, students will be able to listen to their audio CDs while working on the computers with headphones provided by the Gulick monitors with the exchange of a student ID." ENCARTA, an encyclpedia on CD, was also available.
In early 1996, students attempting to use their modem from an on-campus phone found that they would be disconnected by in-coming calls. Barry Jones, Director of Network Services, wrote an article for The Herald explaining that by dialing *82 first, it would turn off the call-waiting feature for the duration of the next call. He also wrote, "We are doubling the number of phone lines allowing SLIP or PPP acess to the Internet to eight and upgrading the modem on those lines to 28.8kbps... The lines that are used to connect to the VAX will remain 14.4kbps."
In May 1996, the Board of Trustees approved a 2.8 million dollar project to install internet connections in every room and office on campus. The process took 2 years as lines needed to be laid across campus. Only Houghton House and some of the small houses were not included.
New Labs, New Server
By the fall of 1996, a new computer lab had been built in Rosenberg Hall, and the basement of Williams Hall had been renovated to add two more computer spaces. One was for social sciences, the other was a faculty technology area. The computer lab on the third floor of Lansing was renovated as well, and "turned into a more commodious computer lab and integrated classroom."
The Colleges also installed a new Microsoft NT server. The new server strengthened the Colleges' intranet, giving all members of the community private disk space and providing access to applications and class materials. New support systems were also added, including a work order system to facilitate and keep track of technology issues.
The quickly-advancing technology was not without its detractors. Seniors didn't like the new server because for the first time they were required to log onto a computer in order to access their files and programs. The incoming first years were much more accepting of the change.
The HWS Website
In early 1996, the Colleges' first website was recognized as a "four-star Internet site" by Magellan, an internet site review group. The Herald wrote, "Check it out via the VAX by simply entering 'lynx' at the $ prompt and tabbing to the home page link." In these early stages, the site was "a 'front door' for the uneven amounts of web activity that had sprung up around campus," and had been made by volunteers.
The following year, the Colleges hired consultants and web developers to improve the site. In May 1997, The Herald wrote, "As many students and faculty have already discovered, the old HWS website has become a thing of the past. Replaced by a completely revamped, graphics based, highly navigational and interactive design, the new site holds incredible promise for the future."
The new website was hosted on the new NT server, which could handle "more web-development software, scripts, and other tools..." "As a result, the possibilities are endless; soon, every faculty member could have their own page, online syllabi for classes could become available, and advising and requirement information could be posted online."
As for the look of the site, The Herald wrote, "The welcome graphic emphasizes the natural beauty of Seneca lake, and the compasses and globes carry the navigational theme throughout the entire site."
In the fall of 1998 a new page called the Daily Update was added to the HWS hompage, when accessed from an on-campus computer. It contained important news about campus. It replaced an earlier email sent via VAX called "the handshake."
L. Thomas Melly Academic Center
In 1996, construction began on the L. Thomas Melly Academic Center, extending the entire south side of the library and creating the atrium. Finished in the spring of 1998, the project increased shelf space, and added honors suites, group study rooms, and the 24-hour computer lab. One of the primary goals of the Melly Center was to expand the technological capabilities of the library, improving internet access and adding word-processing and multimedia teaching areas.
Librarian Bill Crumlish, "stressed the prospect of the Melly wing to strengthen the library's ability to engage in the Internet and to expand its E-mail capabilities."
When completed, the Melly addition, "increased the shelf space in the building, brought the library up to a total of 402 ethernet connections, added; 2 Honors suites, 3 group study rooms, 8 A.V. rooms, 12 faculty studies, 113 individual study carrels, a 24 hour study room, a classroom with 24 computer stations, and 30 other computer stations."
The addition drastically changed the look and feel of the library. Bill Crumlish declared, "With the addition the designer has brought a sense of delight into the building."
Computer Facilities at the Millenium
In the early 2000s, the Department of Information Technology published a Technology User's Guide, which provided instruction on connecting to the server, using the Internet, and utilizing the campus computer and printing facilities.
Its section on the computer facilities on campus provides a detailed look into the resources available to students and faculty at the turn of the century.
Each image at the left can be clicked for a closer look.
Department of Information Technology/IT Services
Computer support has existed at the Colleges since the first computer was installed in 1966. As students, faculty, and staff began obtaining their own computers, the need for support increased. Until 1997, technological support was through the Computer Center. For a short period in 1997-98 it was known as Computer Services, before becoming Computer Services & Telecommunications in 1998-99.
In the early 2000s it became the Department of Information Technology.
A 2002 description in The Herald read,
"This department is full of technologically talented students and professionals, who are all available for your major (or minor) computer malfunctions. If you're having trouble connecting to the Internet, setting up your campus network, or simply turning the stupid thing on (sometimes, even that's a challenge), this is the office to call. These guys truly DOIT all!"
In addition to helping students, staff, and faculty with their technology problems, DOIT also maintained the entire campus network and telecommunications system.
The Department of Information became IT Services in 2004.
In April 2001, Brian Young was hired as the Colleges' first Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer. The HWS Update wrote that "The position was created to provide leadership in the development, advancement, and integration of information technology (IT) resources at the Colleges."
Young left in 2003, but during his time here, the Colleges' hired the telecom company Enterasys, which "linked 90 HWS buildings on 180 acres into a gigabit Ethernet backbone and provided back-up, security and network management software."
A 2002 article on boston.internet.com wrote that prior to this improvement,
"Young and his staff (all 12 of them) constantly jury-rigged a patchwork network that crashed with such regularity, faculty, staff, and students at the Geneva, N.Y., sister schools tired of reporting outages... But even when working, bandwith limitations were galling; 1,800 students shared a data pipe only slightly wider than a broadband-connected home, Young said. Internet access was first-come, first-serve, frustrating students on deadline and dissuading professors from moving coursework online."
After the installation, Young said, "Now we can support high-speed video conferences between students and alumni overseas, and we have the capability to add wireless access. It's a 24-7 learning network."
Registration was first done completely online for the Fall 2001 semester. The Office of the Registrar had created a site called Student Web Services. The site required the installation of a dedicated computer server and handled registration, gave real time updates on seats available in classes, and provided unofficial transcripts. It went live on April 2, 2001.
For registering online, students were required to first meet with their advisers. In this meeting, the adviser would approve of the courses and give the student an envelope with a PIN which allowed them to access Student Web Services.
In order to allow students without computers to register, several computer labs in Gulick Hal and the library were open extended hours.
Beowulf Computer Cluster
In 2000, the chemistry department received a grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundations, Inc. The money was used to construct a Beowulf Computer Cluster in order to do work on protein folding and drug design. Professor Carol Parish oversaw the project, which had 1 login node and 16 compute nodes and was named HWSHal2000.
In 2002, the chemistry department connected with MERCURY (Molecular Education and Research Consortium in Undergraduate computational chemistRY). It included Colgate University, Connecticut College, College of the Holy Cross, St. Lawrence University, Vassar College, and Hamilton College. Through the consortium the Colleges gained remote access to a supercomputer housed at Hamilton College.
The same year Prof. Parish received $72,000 from the NSF to fund her research on anti-cancer drugs.
In early 2003, a second Beowulf cluster was built. Purchased by HWS with matching funds from an NSF grant, it was named Lilith after the Goddess of Power. The cluster had 1 login node and 23 compute nodes. The Finger Lakes Times wrote that, "Using the cluster, students can perform quantum mechanical and free-energy simulations at speeds up to 35 times faster than averge."
More detailed information and photographs can be found on Prof. Parish's old website via the Wayback Machine here: https://web.archive.org/web/20050913090836/http://people.hws.edu/parish/beowulf.htm.
In 2002, the Warren Hunting Smith library moved its online catalogue from MultiLis to Voyager. This required the installation of a seperate designated server, but greatly increased functionality and patron services.
With the switch to Voyager, the library catalogue was completely accessable through a web browser, making it available from any computer, where MultiLis had only been accessible through designated terminals.
Voyager allowed patrons to search the entire catalogue through one interface and greatly improved access to online resources such as journals and ebooks. It also allowed patrons to renew their materials online, access reserve lists, and make ILL requests.
The Gobot Virus
On Friday, November 21, 2003 the Gobot computer virus hit campus. Its fast spread "prompted a campus-wide shutdown of the network." IT Services quickly developed a way to remove the virus and campus lab computers were open by that evening, however network and Internet connections in student residences remained off.
Over the next couple of days, IT held virus-removal clinics in the Sanford room to remove the virus from student computers. There was concern with the holiday break that students would bring their computers home and spread the virus further.
On the evening of November 25, IT Services remotely installed Windows updates and computers were inaccessable at that time.
By the 29th, some students still did not have Internet access. They were required to pick up virus removal CDs from their RAs, and each residence needed to report to IT that everyone had complied before network access would be turned back on.
New Data Center
In December 2005 and January 2006, IT Services moved the Data Center from Williams Hall to the basement of the Warren Hunting Smith library. A wall was constructed separating a section of the cold storage area and creating an environmentally-controlled room to house all of the Colleges' servers.
The move required extensive network and system shutdowns during the weekends of December 30 and January 6-8.
Rosensweig Learning Commons
In 2008, the Warren Hunting Smith Library saw another round of renovations with the construction of the Rosenweig Learning Commons. Named after primary donor Daniel L. Rosensweig '88, the Learning Commons project completely renovated the first floor of the library, adding new furniture, more than 75 new computers, the 24-hour computer lab, and Learning Studios 1 & 3. The IT Help Desk and the Technology Resource Center were also added. In addition, the Center for Teaching and Learning moved to its current location on the second floor.
Provost Teresa Amott said at the dedication, "The IT Department, Center for Teaching and Learning and the Warren Hunting Smith Library are all brought together in the Learning Commons to create the multifaceted, technologically advanced environment that the 21st century demands.”
Digital Learning Center
In 2011, the Technology Research Center became the Digital Learning Center. The office was remodeled, partitions were added to "ensure organization and smooth operating," and the equipment loan program was moved to the IT Help Desk. The DLC assists student and faculty with software and other modes of digital learning. The staff runs workshops and trains Tech Fellows.
According to their mission statement, "The Digital Learning Team promotes technology integration in the curriculum and supports the exploration of emerging learning technologies. Team members partner with Hobart and William Smith faculty members to explore and evaluate innovative ways to use technology and new pedagogies to meet their teaching goals while creating learning environments where students can succeed."
Internet Culture and Social Media
In 2001, an article called "Cymin's Cyberspeak" was printed in The Herald. The author wrote, "Like many students on this campus, I have been in the grips of a dangerous addiction... It seizes my mind and holds my focus hostage, my being craves it at every waking moment." His addiction was the computer game Snood, which swept campus in the early 2000s.
The author then laments that students are now using Instant Messenger to talk to their roommate in the same room or emailing a professor instead of going to their office. He writes, "Computers were built to handle lightning speed? But can we live life that way? How easy is it to misunderstand someone, not hearing the inflection they put on their words, and fire back an angry reply? How easy is it to miss the subtle nuances of tone and vocal texture? And how colorless is it not to see their expressions, feel their passions, and offer yours in return?"
In 2004 Herald editor Hadley Mongell wrote, "I am addicted to the Internet. I find myself constantly checking my e-mail, constantly updating myself on people's AIM away messages, and constantly searching the web for something I desperately need."
When students came back from semester break in January 2005, Facebook had arrived at HWS. At that time, the website was only available to college students and was slowly expanding one institution at a time. Heather Erickson wrote a lengthy article about it in The Herald. Here are some highlights.
"For those of us out there that had known about Thefacebook's existence for some time now, this was exactly what we have been waiting for! It's the ultimate online stalker book!"
"I know I am not alone when I say that the most exciting part of my day is checking my e-mail to see who has 'added me' as a friend. Is it someone I know? Is it someone I don't know? Is it the cute boy that sat behind me in class last semester? Or is it just one of my roommates?"
"With the aid of Thefacebook I now feel a bit more acquainted with the other 1900 faces on campus and have made the comment 'Oh I know her... from Thefacebook' on several occasions."
"I hope that anyone reading this understands my sarcasm... I am not the obsessed stalker some might think I am. I mean hey, I am just on for 'Random Play', how about you?"
In February of 2006 the backlash had begun. Diana Haydock wrote an article about the dangers of putting too much information online. In it she mentioned Facebook, MySpace, and Livejournal. She concluded by writing, "So, in short, use discretion when using these online sites, try to block outsiders from viewing your info, and don't post your whole life on there. Not only may people not care about what you do every minute of your life, but you may not want this information in the wrong hands."
Students still used Facebook, of course. In 2010, a student complained in The Herald about people using the standup computers in the library for Facebook, causing a line when other students were trying to print papers in between classes.
In 2008, Christine Yankelunas wrote in The Herald, "As phones become slimmer, laptops become lighter, and communication becomes easier, technology whisks us away into a world of limitlessness. As boundaries are further pushed, people become more immersed in the technological savvy world of internet chatting and networking." She finished with, "In all fairness to technology, these kinds of inventions are remarkably ingenious. However, as technology becomes stronger, our culture weakens and the human socialization that once existed is slowly slipping away."
In 2012, Blair Dector wrote an article praising Instagram. She wrote, "Ever since I deleted my Facebook Application on my iPhone, also known as an app, I have been checking my Instagram account constantly. For those who don't know what Instagram is, I am glad to explain." However, the main point of her article is her anger over Facebook's recent purchase of Instagram.
In 2013, the Colleges promoted their social media accounts by writing, "Social Media platforms are providing new and innovative ways for the Colleges to connect and interact with the HWS and Geneva communities through organic, genuine conversation."