Columbia University Computing History

A Chronology of Computing at Columbia University

Frank da Cruz
Academic Information Systems (AcIS)*
Watson Laboratory, Columbia University
612 West 115th Street
New York NY   10025   USA
fdc@columbia.edu
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Effective 2 Aug 2005 the organization's name is Columbia University Information Technlogy (CUIT) but I don't have a pun to go with that one yet. (Did you click the AcIS link?)  

Herb Grosch: September 13, 1918 – January 25, 2010...   Read tributes

Last update: Sat Feb 6 09:45:17 2010

Credits ] [ Introduction ] [ Timeline ] [ Epilog ] [ Tables ] [ Acronyms ] [ Glossary ] [ Sources ] [ Links ] FAQ ]


IBM NORC, Watson Lab, Columbia University, 1954
The world's most powerful computer at Columbia University's Watson Lab, 612 West 115th Street NYC, 5th floor rear, 1954.
Early ] [ 1920 ] [ 1930 ] [ 1940 ] [ 1950 ] [ 1960 ] [ 1970 ] [ 1980 ] [ 1990 ] [ 2000 ] [ SEARCH ] [ FAQ ]

Supplement: Hollerith
An Electric Tabulating System by Herman Hollerith, The Quarterly, Columbia University School of Mines, Vol.X No.16 (Apr 1889), pp.238-255.

Supplement: Grosch
Computer: Bit Slices from a Life   by Dr. Herb Grosch (2003), 500+ pages, including several chapters on IBM's Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University in the 1940s and 50s. [ Also available in PDF ]

Supplement: Brennan
The IBM Watson Laboratory at Columbia University - A History   by Jean Ford Brennan (1971). 76 pages, 25 photos. The history of IBM-sponsored computing research and laboratories at Columbia University, 1928 though 1970.

Supplement: Hankam
Homeward Bound, the memoir of computing education pioneer Eric Hankam, including his escape from Nazi Europe, his time at IBM Watson Laboratory at Columbia University, and his continuing adventures.

Supplement: Krawitz
The Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory by Eleanor Krawitz, Columbia Engineering Quarterly, November 1949.

Personalities:
Herman Hollerith ] [ Wallace Eckert ] [ L.H. Thomas ] [ Herb Grosch ] [ John Backus ] [ John Lentz ] [ Ben Wood ] [ L.J. Comrie ] [ John McPherson ]

IBM Punched-Card Machines:
Tabulators ] [ Sorters ] [ Key Punches ] [ Calculators ] [ Interpreters ] [ Reproducers ] [ Collators ]

New / Recent / Updated Sub-Pages:
Herb Grosch ] [ Pupin Hall ] [ IBM NORC ] [ DEC PDP-7 ] [ IBM Type 012 Key Punch ] [ IBM Key Punches ] [ IBM 701 ] [ IBM 1401 ] [ The Columbia Astronomical Computing Bureau ] [ The Columbia Difference Calculator ] [ The Columbia Statistical Bureau ] [ The First "PC" ] [ DECmate ] [ Rolm ] [ The Parnassus Club ] [ IBM 609 ] [ Air Almanac ] [ Naval Observatory ] [ Kleine Planeten ] [ Paul Herget ] [ Table Printer ] [ IBM 1130 ] [ Films ] [ IBM 026 Card Punch ] [ IBM 029 Card Punch ] [ Watson Lab Gallery ] [ IBM CPC ] [ IBM 602 ] [ IBM 604 ] [ IBM 650 ] [ Aberdeen Relay Calculator ] [ MNRAS Plate Scans 1928-32 ] [ The 1935 Baehne Book ] [ IBM 603 ] [ IBM 607 ] [ ENIAC ] [ Brunsviga Calculator ] [ Elliott Frank Recollections ]

Other Popular Sub-Pages:
Jacquard Loom ] [ CU 1926 ] [ Old IBM Key Punches ] [ CU Punch Card ] [ IBM SSEC ] [ 1965 Gallery ] [ IBM 7094 ] [ IBM 1403 ] [ IBM 360/91 ] [ IBM Data Cell ] [ IBM MSS ] [ 1968 Student Uprising ] [ Teletypes ] [ DEC PDP-11 ] [ DEC-20 ] [ SSIO Gallery ] [ Watson Lab #1 ] [ Watson Lab #2 ]
Making History:
Herman Hollerith EM 1879 PhD 1890 ]
1934: The First Automatic Scientific Calculations ]
1936: Women Pioneers In Computing ]
1937: The First Scientific Computing Center ]
1939: The Manhattan Project (Part I) ]
1940: The First Computer Book ]
1945: IBM Watson Lab Founded Here ] [ 1945: The Manhattan Project (Part II) ]
1946: The First Computer Typesetting ] [ 1946: The First Computer Science Courses ]
1947: ACM Founded Here ]
1947: The First Computer Training Course ]
1948: The IBM SSEC ]
1948: The First "Personal Computer" ]
1954: Invention of the Cursor ]
1954: NORC: The First Supercomputer ]
Local Milestones:
1945: Watson Lab: #1 ]
1953: Watson Lab: #2 ]
1955: IBM 650: Columbia's First  "Real" Computer ]
1963: The Computer Center ]
1968: IBM 360/91: The Biggest Iron ]
1973: Self-Service Computing ]
1975: First Timesharing ]
1976: First E-Mail ]
1976: First Hackers ]
1977: DEC-20s ]
1982: IBM MSS ]
1982: BITNET ]
1983: First PC Lab ]
1984: CLIO (Library Online) ]
1984: ARPANET ]
1984: Campus Ethernet ]
1986: UNIX ]
1988: Rolm System Installed ]
1994: Columbia Website ]

THIS document gives a chronology of computing at Columbia University, as best I can piece it together, written mainly in Jan-Feb 2001, updated periodically since then (time of last update listed above). It does not aspire to be a general history or museum of computing, but in some ways it's not far from one either. Corrections, additional information, and more photos are always welcome.

If you came here looking for the history of the Kermit protocol, Kermit software, or the Kermit Project, you can find some of it below in the 1980-82 timeframe, and a bit more HERE.

Who am I and why did I write this? People pop into my office all the time and ask "when did such-and-such happen?" -- the first e-mail, the first typesetting, the first networking, the first PC lab, the first hacker breakins, etc -- since I was there for most of it. So I took some time and wrote it down, and in so doing became fascinated with the earlier history. I was a user of the Columbia Computer Center from 1967 until 1977 in my various jobs and as a Columbia student, and I've been on staff since 1974. Brief bio: After some early programming experience in the Army (mid-1960s), the Engineering School and Physics Dept (late 1960s, early 70s), and Mount Sinai Hospital (early 70s), I came to work at the Computer Center Systems Group in 1974, hired by Howard Eskin (its manager) out of his graduate Computer Science classes. After a year of OS/360 programming, I was manager of the PDP-11/50 and the DEC-20s (first e-mail, early networking, arguably the first academic timesharing), then manager of "Systems Integration" (first microcomputers, PCs, Kermit), principal investigator of the "Hermit" distributed computing research project, then manager of Network Planning (campus network) and chair of the University-wide Network Planning Group, before "retiring" to the Kermit Project, which has less (well, zero) meetings and is way more fun.

Columbia University's nonprofit Kermit Project pays for itself AND for the work on this history site (and several other public-service websites such as THIS ONE and THIS ONE) entirely out of revenue from software licenses. No revenue, no history. Please consider Kermit software when searching for cross-platform, transport-independent, secure, Unicode-aware, automatable communications solutions.

Disclaimers

  1. Obviously this is written from my perspective; others might have different recollections or views (if so, don't be shy about expressing them). In particular, at least after 1963, this turns out to be more a history of centralized academic computing, rather than all computing, at Columbia, giving short shrift to the departments, administrative computing, the libraries, and the outlying campuses; a more complete history needs these perspectives too (so if you can supply missing information I'll be happy to add it, with attribution). I've made every attempt to check the facts; any remaining errors are mine -- please feel free to point them out.

  2. Computers are value-neutral tools that can be used for good or evil, and it is clear that they have been used for both. This document does not aim to extol the virtues of computers in general, nor of any particular company that makes them, but only to chronicle their use at Columbia University.

Acknowledgements

Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University
Herb Grosch (1945-51), Eric Hankam (1945-59), Ellie (Krawitz) Kolchin (1947-58), John H. (Jack) Palmer (1949-57) [4], James U. (Jim) Lemke (1948-50), Daniel (Dan) Robbins (1949-53), John Backus (1950-52), Ken Schreiner (1951-60), Seymour Koenig (1952-70, Director 1967-70), Harry F. Smith (1956-1967), Joe Traub (Watson Fellow 1956-59), Ken King (Watson Fellow 1955-56, technical staff 1957-62), Jessica (Hellwig) Gordon (1957-58), Mike Radow (High School Science Honors Program, late 1950s), Peter Capek (High School Science Honors Program, early 1960s), Steve Bellovin (Columbia student and Watson Lab employee, 1968-69).

Columbia Computer Center Directors
Ken King (1963-71), Jessica Gordon (1971-73), Bruce Gilchrist (1973-85), Howard Eskin (1985-86), Vace Kundakci (1989-2005).

Columbia Computer Center (Academic, current and former)
Bob Resnikoff, Walter Bourne, Maurice Matiz, Joe Brennan, Rob Cartolano, Joel Rosenblatt, Christine Gianone, Terry Thompson, Kristine Kavanaugh, Peter Kaiser (1967-69), Mike Radow (1960s), Elliott Frank (1968-70), Andy Koenig (1960s-70s), Janet Asteroff (1980s), Steve Jensen (1980s), Tom De Bellis (1980s).

Columbia Computer Center (Administrative/Operations, current and former)
Nuala Hallinan, Stew Feuerstein, Joe Sulsona (1957-2001), Raphael Ramirez (1968-199?), Alan Rice (1960s), Peter Humanik, Ben García.

Columbia Faculty
Joe Traub (Computer Science Department founder and previously Chair), Steve Bellovin (Computer Science Department, formerly of Bell Labs), Andrew Dolkart (School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation), Bob McCaughey (Barnard College History Department). Many of the Watson Lab technical staff and Computer Center directors were also on the Columbia faculty. PERSONAL THANKS to Professor Emeritus Leon J. Lidofsky (Applied Physics and Nuclear Engineering) for getting me hooked on programming and giving me the run of his 1960s-era computer lab; without this push I'd probably still be an overeducated taxi driver!

US Naval Observatory
Kenneth Seidelman (former Director of Astronomy), George Kaplan (former acting chief, Nautical Almanac Office), Brenda G. Corbin (Librarian).

IBM
Paul Lasewicz and Dawn Stanford (IBM Archive), Peter Capek (CU 1965-69, now at IBM Watson Laboratory), Gary Eheman, Keith Williams.

The Parnassus Club
Nuala Hallinan plus former residents Barbara L. Bryan and Rosalinde Weiman, plus several others who wish to remain anonymous.

And...
Ruth Dayhoff (Director of Medical Digital Imaging, US Dept of Veterans Affairs), Ed Reinhart (Formerly of RAND Corp, JPL, and Comsat), Mary Louise McKee (NORC programmer, US Naval Proving Ground Dahlgren VA), George Trimble (Aberdeen Proving Ground, IBM), John C Alrich (Burroughs/ElectroData), Loren Wilton (Burroughs/Unisys), Ellen Alers (Smithsonian Institution), Garry Tee (Dept of Math, University of Auckland NZ), Allan Olley (University of Toronto), Charlotte Moseley (formerly of the County of San Diego Data Processing Center), Pnina Stern (formerly Pnina Grinberg of BASR), Annette Lopes (CU Associate Registrar, now Associate Director of Student Services); Jocelyn Wilk, Steve Urgola, and Mae Pan (Columbia University Archives and Columbiana); Bill Santini (CU Student Services).

I was inspired by Bruce's Forty Years of Computing article from 1981 [3] (so that makes it sixty years!) (no, wait, eighty!)

Special thanks to Bruce Gilchrist and Nuala Hallinan, each of whom contributed valuable archive material and considerable time, effort, and miles to this project; to Herb Grosch for his awesome book as well as tons of new information, corrections, insights, and artifacts; to Eric Hankam for the loan of his personal archive of photos and materials, his autobiography, and a wealth of Watson Lab recollections; to Charlotte Moseley for preserving and contributing a large number of old IBM manuals; and to Bob Resnikoff who unearthed his long-lost cache of 1980 machine-room and MSS photos. Herb, in particular, has been involved in this project on a daily basis since he first happened upon it in May 2003.

And thanks to the editors of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing for an announcement and abstract of this site in their April-June 2002 issue, and for announcing the online version of Herb Grosch's book in the July-September 2003 issue.

Please report any broken links directly to the author.

Introduction ] [ Timeline ] [ Epilog ] [ Tables ] [ Acronyms ] [ Glossary ] [ Sources ] [ Links ] [ SEARCH ] [ FAQ ]

Introduction

At the dawn of the new Millenium, computers and the network are ubiquitous; we can't live without them. It wasn't always so. How did we get here? A series of technological innovations including Pascal's adder (the Pascaline, 1600s), Leibnitz's multiplier (the Stepped Reckoner, about 1700), the Jacquard loom (1804), the Babbage Analytical and Difference Engines (1820s-30s), electricity and electromagnetism, the telegraph, the Hollerith tabulating machine (1890), the relay, the vacuum tube, core memory, the transistor, the laser, the integrated circuit, and on and on, each resulted in products that stimulated applications, which in turn stimulated the demand for more and better products, and before long computers entered the economy and the popular culture.

A case can be made that the computer industry got its start at Columbia University in the late 1920s and early 1930s when Professors Wood and Eckert, to advance their respective sciences, began to send designs and specifications for computing machines to IBM Corporation, which until then had been a maker of punched-card tabulating machines for the business market. From those days through the 1980s, the relationship of Columbia with companies like IBM was symbiotic and fruitful (and continues on a smaller scale to this day, mainly in the Physics department with the construction of massively parallel supercomputers -- who else would know how to connect 512 processors in a 6-dimension mesh with the topology of a torus?) IBM Corporation itself was the child of Columbian Herman Hollerith.

The early days of invention and innovation are past. Computers and networks are now well established in the daily lives of vast numbers of people in many nations, and certainly at Columbia University. Today's computers are off-the-shelf mass-market consumer appliances, which was perhaps inevitable and is no doubt a good thing in some ways. How this came about is a story told elsewhere but as you'll see below, some important parts of it happened right here.

Introduction ] [ Timeline ] [ Epilog ] [ Tables ] [ Acronyms ] [ Glossary ] [ Sources ] [ Links ] [ SEARCH ] [ FAQ ]

Timeline

Early ] [ 1920 ] [ 1930 ] [ 1940 ] [ 1950 ] [ 1960 ] [ 1970 ] [ 1980 ] [ 1990 ] [ 2000 ] [ SEARCH ] [ FAQ ]

The story of computing at Columbia is presented chronologically. Most links are to local documents, and therefore will work as long as all the files accompanying this document are kept together. There are also a few relatively unimportant external links, which are bound to go bad sooner or later -- such is the Web.

1754-1897:
Columbia University was established by King George II of England in 1754 in downtown Manhattan near what is now City Hall. The campus moved to 49th Street and Madison Avenue in 1857, and from there to its present site at 116th Street and Broadway in 1897 (MAP) (PICTURES) (HUMOR).

1879-1924:
In 1879, Herman Hollerith (1860-1929) received his Engineer of Mines (EM) degree from the Columbia University School of Mines [48]. After graduation he stayed on as an assistant to one of his professors, W.P. Trowbridge, who later went on to what was to become the US Census Bureau and took Hollerith with him. This led to Hollerith's development of the modern standard punch card and the tabulating machine and sorter that were used to process the 1890 Census [40]. Hollerith wrote up his invention and submitted it to the Columbia School of Mines, which granted him a PhD in 1890 [48]. In 1896 Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company, which was to become (after several mergers and name changes) International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation in 1924. Because of Hollerith's Columbia background and Columbia's recognition of his census work, I suspect there must have been some tabulating equipment in the Statistics Department involving the 1900 or 1910 USA census, but have not been able to locate evidence of it. Hollerith's name is synonymous with the advent of automatic computing; until about 1940, punched-card calculators, tabulators, and so on were commonly called "Hollerith machines", even when they were made by other companies.

1900-1920:
Prof. Harold Jacoby, Chair of the Astronomy Department, in a memo dated 4 December 1909, refers to "Miss Harpham (our chief computer)" [28] "Computer" was an actual job title in those days, referring to someone whose job was to compute -- usually tables from formulas -- by hand or using a mechanical calculator (more about this in Herb Grosch's Computer, Bit Slices of a Life, e.g. on page 4). The 1917-18 Columbia University Bulletin, Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, in the Equipment section, lists "five computing machines" without further detail (you can find a list of possible candidates at the University of Amsterdam Computing Museum). Apropos of nothing, professor Jacoby was a graduate of the Columbia class of 1885, and organized a gift from that class to the University: the Vermont granite ball that was mounted on the Sundial on 116th Street (now College Walk) from 1914 to 1946, and now sits in the middle of a field in Michigan [54]. Jacoby died in 1932; Wallace Eckert (about whom much more below) wrote his obituary in Popular Astronomy.

1906:
Hollerith brings his Type I Tabulator to market, the first with automatic card feed and the first such device that is "programmable" via a plugboard.

[ Top ] [ Early ] [ 1920 ] [ 1930 ] [ 1940 ] [ 1950 ] [ 1960 ] [ 1970 ] [ 1980 ] [ 1990 ] [ 2000 ] [ SEARCH ] [ FAQ ]

1924-26:
The Columbia University Statistical Laboratory (location unknown) includes Hollerith tabulating, punching, and sorting machines, Burroughs adding machines, Brunsviga and Millionaire calculators (the latter was the first device to perform direct multiplication), plus reference works such as math and statistical tables. Prof. Robert E. Chaddock (Statistics Dept) was in charge. The Astronomy department (Prof. H. Jacoby) still has the "five computing machines" [5]. CLICK HERE for a gallery of late-1920s computing machines. CLICK HERE for a 1926 aerial view of Columbia University. CLICK HERE for a 1925 Columbia University map.

1926:
Wallace Eckert (1902-1971) joins Columbia's Astronomy faculty, specializing in celestial mechanics and most especially the moon. In pursuit of these interests, Eckert is to become a true computer pioneer.

1928:
Benjamin Wood (1894-1986), head of the University Bureau of Collegiate Educational Research [5], proposes to Thomas J. Watson Sr., president of IBM, a method for automated scoring of examination papers in large-scale testing programs (which previously involved "acres of girls trying to tabulate ... test results" [42]). After some discussion, Watson sent three truckloads of tabulating, card-punching, sorting, and accessory equipment to the basement of Hamilton Hall [9,40].

1928:
Meanwhile in England, L.J. Comrie (1893-1950), Superintendant of H.M. Nautical Almanac Office, begins a project to calculate future positions of the moon using punched cards, a sorter, a tabulator, and a duplicating punch, in what is probably the first use of these machines for scientific calculation [72]. This work would shortly inspire Columbia's Wallace Eckert to take the next historic step: automating these calculations.

As we will see, much of the impetus towards automated scientific computation (and therefore modern computers) came from astronomers, and its primary application was in navigation. The same impetus brought us accurate, portable timepieces in the previous century.

1928:
Columbia's medical school, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, moves from 10th Avenue and 55th-60th Streets to Washington Heights between Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue, 165th-168th Streets, the former site of Hilltop Park (1903-1912), the baseball stadium of the New York Yankees (known as the New York Highlanders until 1912).

Jun 1929:
Prof. Wood's operation became the Columbia University Statistical Bureau (PHOTOS). In addition to tabulating test results, it served as a "computer center" for other academic departments, particularly the Dept of Astronomy, which used the equipment for "interpolating astronomical tables" [9,40].


[ Top ] [ Early ] [ 1920 ] [ 1930 ] [ 1940 ] [ 1950 ] [ 1960 ] [ 1970 ] [ 1980 ] [ 1990 ] [ 2000 ] [ SEARCH ] [ FAQ ]

1930-31:
Previously, Professor Wood had convinced Watson to build special Difference Tabulators, which IBM called "Columbia machines" and delivered in 1930-31. These machines could process 150 cards per minute and were unique in their ability to rapidly accumulate sums of products or squares [9]. The Statistical Bureau soon became a service provider to outside organizations like the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton [9]. (So how much did we charge? :-)

1931:
Walter S. Lemmon, a Columbia University Electrical Engineering graduate and president of the Radio Industries Corporation, demonstrated the first working Radiotype machine, an electric typewriter coupled with radio transmitting and receiving apparatus. Thomas J. Watson's contacts at Columbia put him in touch with Lemmon and IBM hired him. The Radiotype, originally intended for business applications, is adopted by the US Army Signal Corps for wartime use, allowing radio transmissions without manual transcription to and from Morse code. Before the war was over, Radiotype machines had been outfitted with encryption equipment to provide almost instant transmission and receipt of secure messages [40].

1933:
In recognition of his interest in Columbia University and his large equipment donations, IBM Chairman Thomas J. Watson is appointed Columbia Trustee. In return, Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler is appointed to IBM's Board of Directors [90].

1933-34:
Prof. Wallace J. Eckert (PHOTOS AND BIOGRAPHY) of the Astronomy Department, a user of the Statistical Bureau, proposed modifications to IBM machines for advanced astronomical calculations, and within a few weeks the machines, including an IBM 601 Multiplying Punch (modified to Eckert's specifications under the supervision of IBM's G.W. Baehne [82] and dubbed the "Astronomical Calculator" [81]) were delivered to the Rutherford Observatory in the attic of Pupin Hall. Until 1937 (q.v.) this facility was variously known as the Rutherford Laboratory, and the Astronomical Laboratory. and the Hollerith Computing Bureau (the minutes of the 61st meeting of the American Astronomical Society, 29-30 Dec 1938, refer to a visit "to the Hollerith Computing Bureau, where vast computing projects are being carried out under the Direction of Dr. Eckert"). It was the first permanent IBM installation in the world to do scientific work (Comrie's Greenwich setup had not been permanent).

For his work, Eckert designed a control system based on plugboards and rotating drums to interconnect the new equipment, eventually incorporating methods to solve differential equations by numerical integration [9]. The Astronomical Laboratory was the first to perform general scientific calculations automatically [30]. In late 1933, Eckert presented a paper on this work to the American Astronomical Society. Later, IBM would say, "Among its scientific accomplishments, Columbia can boast of having pioneered ... the use of automatic computing machines for research work" [37]. A seemingly mundane but significant aspect of this work was the new ability to feed the result of one computation into the next and print the results of these calculations directly, thus eliminating the transcription errors that were common in astronomical and lunar tables [17].

To illustrate with a 1946 quote from Kay Antonelli, University of Pennsylvania, referring to her wartime work [34], "We did have desk calculators at that time, mechanical and driven with electric motors, that could do simple arithmetic. You'd do a multiplication and when the answer appeared, you had to write it down to reenter it into the machine to do the next calculation. We were preparing a firing table for each gun, with maybe 1,800 simple trajectories. To hand-compute just one of these trajectories took 30 or 40 hours of sitting at a desk with paper and a calculator." Imagine the effect of a transcription error early in the 30-40 hour procedure.

1934-37:
Ben Wood and his Statistical Bureau work with IBM to develop mark-sense technology to improve the efficiency of processing standardized tests [9]. The result was the IBM 805 International Test Scoring Machine, marketed beginning in 1937 [38]. Dr. Wood is remembered at Columbia through the Ben D. Wood Graduate Fellowships in Learning Technologies, and at the Educational Testing Service, which dedicated its largest building to him in 1965.

1935:
Practical Applications of the Punched Card Method in Colleges and Universities, edited by George W. Baehne of IBM, published by Columbia University Press; hardbound, 442 pages, 257 figures. Contains articles by Ben Wood and Wallace Eckert, among many others. Most of the applications described are straighforward tabulating and bookkeeping operations; Eckert's is the exception. CLICK HERE for a more detailed discussion of this book.

1936:
Wallace Eckert hires Lillian Feinstein [Hausman] as computing lab manager, placing her at or very near the head of the class of Women Pioneers of Computing [100]. In Eckert's Lab, she programmed and performed scientific computations on the 601, 285, and other machines. She stayed with Eckert until 1948, on loan for a time to the US Naval Observatory [88], and then from 1945 on the Watson Lab technical staff. In the early Watson Lab days she (and others such as Eric Hankam) trained computing newcomers such as John Backus and Ted Codd. From the early Astronomical Lab equipment, she moved on to the 602 (and 602-A), 604, the Aberdeen Relay Calculators, and the SSEC, and when Columbia began to hold academic computing courses in 1946, she ran Grosch's Engineering 281 Numerical Methods lab sessions. Much more about Lillian in Herb Grosch's book COMPUTER [88] (in which Herb refers to her as "the senior full-time scientific punched card expert in the whole world" in 1946).

Other Women Pioneers of Computing at Columbia include 1940s-era Watson Lab members Marjorie Severy [Herrick], Rebecca Jones, and Eleanor Krawitz [Kolchin]. Grace Hopper, though by no means a Columbian, was present at the inaugural meeting of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), held at Columbia in 1947.

The roster of Watson Lab technical staff (1945-70) is listed in Brennan [88]. Out of 207 professional staff members, 35 are definitely women. Many more are listed with only initials; some others by Romanized Chinese name (which generally does not indicate gender). But at least 17% of the technical staff were women, which isn't bad for the postwar years, in which women were discouraged from working (or worse, laid off from their wartime jobs).

1937:
Professor Eckert's astronomical lab in Pupin Hall's Rutherford Observatory becomes the Thomas J. Watson Astronomical Computing Bureau (PHOTO), jointly sponsored by IBM, the American Astronomical Society, and the Columbia Department of Astronomy [3,9,86], to serve as a resource for the entire world astronomical community [38], making it the world's first center for scientific computation [84].

    "The initial equipment of the Bureau consists of that which has been used by the Department of Astronomy at Columbia University during the past few years ... modified to make them more efficient for scientific work ... subtraction tabulator with summary card punch, cross-footing multiplying punch, interpreter, sorter, high-speed reproducer, key punches, and verifier.
   "Some possibiliies of the machines can be gained from the program now in progress. This consists primarily of (1) numerical integration of the equations of planetary motion; (2) complete checking of the lunar theory; (3) computation of precession and rectangular co-ordinates for the Yale University Zone Catalogues; (4) the photometric program of the Rutherford Observatory; and (5) problems of stellar statistics." [86].

Users of the Bureau were charged only for labor and materials (a tremendous bargain, since the equipment was donated). The Astronomical Computing Bureau would serve as a model for many of the wartime computing centers, such as those at Los Alamos, the Naval Observatory, and the Aberdeen Proving Grounds [30,90].

1938-40:
In 1938, Soviet astronomer Boris Numerov visits Eckert's lab to learn how punched card equipment might be applied to "stellar research" in his own lab at St. Petersburg University in Moscow.

Numerov, Boris Vasilyevich: The website of the Tosno Museum of Local History and Tradition (Leningrad Region) says (as of 12 Sep 2003) "An exhibit section is devoted to Boris Numerov (1891-1941) - a prominent astronomer, land-surveyor and geophysicist, a creator of various astronomic instruments and means of minerals exploring. His family has lived in the town of Lyuban' not far from Tosno since 1922. In the times of Stalinist repressions Boris Numerov was arrested and executed in 1941. In 1957 he was rehabilitated." Numerov is known today for the various algorithms and methods that bear his name.

In June 1940, a letter arrives for Eckert from V.N. Riazankin on behalf of the Astronomical Institute of the USSR Academy of the Sciences, asking to visit Eckert's Lab. Jan Schilt, now in charge of the Lab, forwards it to Eckert in Washington. In August 1940, I.S. Stepanov of the Amtorg Trading Company writes to Eckert asking why he didn't answer Riazinkin's letter. Here's the final paragraph of Eckert's reply (cc'd to Schilt):

May I take the opportunity to state that one of your eminent scientists, the late Dr. Numerov, corresponded with me several years ago concerning this very problem [machine construction of astronomical tables for navigation]. It was his intention to secure a similar installation, and had one in operation. I sincerely hope that his interest in my machines was not construed by his government as treason, and that Mr. Riazankin will not meet the same fate as Dr. Numerov. [88].

Schilt writes to Eckert from Columbia on August 9th:

Concerning the letter of Mr. Stepanov I am shivering a little bit. Your reply to him is extremely strong and clear, so much so that I would not be surprised if I wouldn't hear from them at all, and frankly I just soon would not ... if there is any danger that [the machine] room may prove a death trap to Russian scientists I think I am in favor of not talking to these people. [88].

(Note: the correspondence places Numerov's death prior to 1941.) According to David Alan Grier [45], the Amtorg Trading Company was a spy agency; the proposed visit from Riazinkin, which never actually took place, is thought to have been an attempted first case of computer espionage [45]. In fact, Amtorg was not just a front; it handled the bulk of Soviet-American trade for many years, but it was also an ideal spot for the placement of spies. Was Riazankin a spy? We'll never know. In any case he was never heard from again.

Herb Grosch reports that Soviet astronomers continued to pay occasional visits to Watson Lab after the War, e.g. in connection with taking over production of the annual Kleine Planeten listing of asteroid positions from Watson Lab, which did the work in 1946 after the German Astronomisches Rechen-Institut was destroyed in the War.

Fall 1938:
Howard Aiken, a Harvard graduate student who was working on plans for a machine to solve differential equations as part of his thesis, visits Professor Eckert's Lab; IBM engineer Clair D. Lake (who built Eckert's switch box) is also present. Eckert demonstrates the capabilities of his setup and suggests that he try to interest IBM in the project [9]. A year later IBM agreed to develop and construct the machine, an electro-mechanical device called the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, ASCC (PHOTO), the first automatic general-purpose (but not electronic or stored-program) computer. The ASCC was built by Lake and his staff at IBM's Endicott NY facility and presented in 1944 to Harvard, where it did war work, and eventually became known as the Harvard Mark 1 [9]. The Mark 1 was soon outpaced by IBM's Aberdeen Relay Calculator (also built by Lake) and later the US Army's ENIAC, the first electronic automatic general-purpose (but still not stored-program) computer.

Jan 1939:
Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard, Walter Zinn, Herbert Anderson, and others begin work on nuclear fission in Columbia's Pupin Hall. Within a few months this work would become the Manhattan Project, funded by President Roosevelt (Columbia Law, 1905-07) in response to Albert Einstein's letter warning of Nazi research in this area. After Pearl Harbor, the project moved to the University of Chicago (supposedly to make it less vulnerable to German attack) and spread to the University of California, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Hanford, and other locations. Fermi's lab was in the same building as Professor Eckert's Astronomical Computing Bureau. I don't know to what degree, if any, Eckert's computing machines were employed in the early Manhattan Project, but as noted below they played a key role in 1945 in the final preparations for the first A-bombs [57]. A number of other Columbia scientists worked on the project, including I.I. Rabi, Edward Teller, John Dunning (who identified U-235 as the fissionable uranium isotope using the Pupin cyclotron in Feb 1940), Harold Urey (who later left the project on moral grounds), and George Pegram (who assembled the original Manhattan Project team), as well as junior faculty who would later become well-known physicists, such as C.S. Wu and Bill Havens (both of whom I worked for in my student days), James Rainwater, Eugene Booth, and Richard Present. The following is taken from a narrative, Evolving from Calculators to Computers on the Los Alamos National Laboratory History website (May 2003):

Calculations at Los Alamos were originally done on manually operated mechanical calculators, which was not only laborious and time-consuming, but the machines broke down frequently under heavy use. The only one who could fix them promptly was Richard Feynman (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1965), which some thought was not the best use of his time. "Dana Mitchell, whom Laboratory Director J. Robert Oppenheimer had recruited from Columbia University to oversee procurement for Los Alamos, recognized that the calculators were not adequate for the heavy computational chores and suggested the use of IBM punched-card machines. He had seen them used successfully by Wallace Eckert at Columbia to calculate the orbits of planets and persuaded [Stanley] Frankel and [Eldred] Nelson to order a complement of them.

"The new IBM punched-card machines were devoted to calculations to simulate implosion, and Metropolis and Feynman organized a race between them and the hand-computing group. 'We set up a room with girls in it. Each one had a Marchant. But one was the multiplier, and another was the adder, and this one cubed, and all she did was cube this number and send it to the next one,' said Feynmann. For one day, the hand computers kept up: 'The only difference was that the IBM machines didn't get tired and could work three shifts. But the girls got tired after a while.'"

May 1939:
Columbia University's Baker Field (at 215th Street in upper Manhattan) was the site of the nation's first televised sports event, a baseball game between Columbia and Princeton universities, May 17, 1939, broadcast by NBC.

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1940:
Prof. Eckert publishes Punched Card Methods in Scientific Calculation [50], the first computer book. The book "...covers nearly a decade of work by W.J. Eckert on astronomical calculations by machine processes. Based on firsthand experience, it describes a gamut of large calculations that could best be carried out by machines able to process numbers in machine-readable form. These calculations include the construction of mathematical tables, the numerical integration of differential equations, numerical harmonic analysis and synthesis, and the solution of simultaneous equations. ... Often known as the 'Orange Book' on account of the vividly colored covers of its original printing, Eckert's book was the bible of many workers engaged in punched card computing at the IBM Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University and elsewhere. ... The process of carrying out the integration of the differential equations is explained in detail. It involves the use of the multiplier, tabulator, and summary punch in concert, guided by the setting of a calculation control switch, which acts as a master controller advancing automatically ... through twelve positions (Figure 2). This control switch ... was a precursor of sequential control in electronic computers" [78]. "Some of the better-known builders of the early computers, like Vannevar Bush at MIT, J. Presper Eckert of the ENIAC, and Howard Aiken at Harvard, got their first introduction in the famous orange book" [90]. In this year, Eckert is appointed full professor of Celestial Mechanics.

March 1940:
Eckert leaves Columbia for an assignment with the US Naval Observatory, which he rapidly "computerizes" to create accurate air and sea navigation tables for the US Air Corps and Navy using the techniques he devised at Columbia [17], which allowed design and production of the Air Almanac in record time (the first issue of the Air Almanac appeared December 1st, 1940, produced entirely by machine methods). The Astronomical Computing Bureau in Pupin, now directed by Jan Schilt (but with Eckert still running the show from Washington), was assigned to tasks for the looming war, such as ballistic firing tables, and trajectory calculations, and later, design calculations for the B-29 sighting station [57,59] — "Mathematics Goes to War" [9]. Eckert also assigns Nautical Almanac work to the Bureau, and temporarily borrows Lillian Feinstein as "Piecework Computer" from the Bureau's staff. The Bureau existed until 1951, but by 1948 most of its work had migrated to Watson Lab [88].

IBM played a large part in the Allied war effort, supplying all of its products to the US government at 1% over cost, and taking on new jobs as well, including manufacture of nearly six percent of all M1 rifles (other non-weapons companies made M1s too, including National Postal Meter Company and Rock-Ola, a maker of juke boxes). IBM also evacuated the families of employees in England to Toronto [85] and assisted the families of US employees who had gone off to war and held jobs open for all its returning veterans [57]. According to recent allegations [47] (having nothing to do with Columbia), IBM might also have played a part in Germany's war effort, in which widespread use was made of punched-card technology manufactured by IBM's German subsidiary, Dehomag, which had been taken over by the Nazi government in 1940 (the degree of IBM's involvement with Dehomag after that is currently at issue).

1940:
The Bureau of Radio Research (founded at Princeton University in 1937), headed by Paul Lazarsfeld, moves to Columbia University, with quarters at 15 Amsterdam Avenue. In 1949 it would move to 427 West 117th Street, and about 1953 to 605 West 115th Street, the other half of the former Parnassus Club, across from the present Watson Laboratory. Its name would change to the Bureau of Applied Social Research (BASR) in 1944, and it would live on until 1977, when it was replaced by the Center for Social Sciences (later, the Lazarsfeld Center for Social Sciences, and still later the Institute for Social and Economic Theory and Research). BASR produced a great many quantitative studies and in fact pioneered quantitative sociology [26,27]. From its inception in 1940, the Bureau was in possession of IBM tabulating equipment. "IBM machines" and "tabulating charges" as well as IBM supplies appear on each annual budget [28]). The BASR's 1954-56 budgets show $6000 per month for IBM equipment rental, which suggests a rather massive capacity (compare with the Registrar Proposal of 1957). The BASR Report on the Year 1957-58 says "The Bureau also maintains its own IBM data processing laboratory in University Hall, and other IBM equipment for use by students in Fayerweather Hall. The machine facilities of the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory are available for certain highly technical problems not readily solved by the Bureau's own equipment" [28]. Pnina Stern, who worked at the Bureau until its demise, says "When I got there in 1966 BASR had [at 605 W 115th Street] IBM 024 card punches, an 085 Collator, an 082 Sorter, and a 403 Accounting Machine that could be wired to produce cross tabulations and other good stuff. Fred Meier was a whiz at wiring up this machine. You had to wire it for each thing you wanted to do. It printed out cross tabulations and maybe even some other statistics. Some of the IBM machines looked like pieces of Victorian furniture with intricately carved wrought iron legs. Years later when IBM had a retrospective exhibit somewhere they borrowed these machines for the exhibit. Maybe Fred M. owned them at that time. As for computing, someone at Columbia -- possibly at BASR -- wrote the very first computer cross tabulation program. I believe it was written in IBM 7090 machine language and you had to give it numerical coded instructions. It was not very user friendly. I think it may have been written by Peter Graham." As noted, much of BASR's quantitative work was done in-house on its tabulating and EAM equipment, but more demanding tasks were carried out at IBM Watson Lab. By 1961, BASR was (with Physics and Chemistry) one of Columbia's leading users of computing, and one of the reasons the Columbia Computer Center was created [29]. After 1963, BASR was a major user of the Computer Center mainframes, sending work-study students with massive decks of cards to the SSIO Area on campus on a regular basis to run jobs. "We always duplicated the cards before we sent them over because we had visions of the students dropping the IBM card boxes and the cards floating across Broadway." In the 1970s, HP terminals were installed for interactive access to mainframe applications like SAS and SPSS. The Directors of BASR were Paul Lazarsfeld (1940-1951), Charles Glock (1951-1957), David Sills (1957-1960), Bernard Berelson (1960-61), and Allen Barton (1962-1977).

20 December 1944:
Since the 1930s, Columbia had been IBM's main contact with scientific computing and the academic community [38], and to carry forward this relationship, Thomas J Watson, a Columbia Trustee since 1933, wrote to Columbia Provost (and Acting President 1945-47) Frank Diehl Fackenthal [28] agreeing to establish a computing research laboratory at Columbia University as soon as space can be secured: "I am confident that this laboratory will be another major forward step in the long and productive cooperation between the [sic] IBM and Columbia University."

1945:
The US Naval Observatory produces the 1946 edition of the Air Almanac in what is arguably the first instance of "computer"-driven typesetting, using the newly delivered programmable card-driven table printer that had been specified by Professor Eckert in 1941, but whose production was delayed by the War.

6 February 1945:
"To give all possible aid to the war effort and to promote peace through scientific development, a computing laboratory has been established at Columbia University by International Business Machines Corporation. The new laboratory, to be known as the Thomas J. Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University, will serve as a world center for the treatment of problems in the various fields of science, whose solution depends on the effective use of applied mathematics and mechanical calculations" [23]. Prof. Wallace J. Eckert, now head of IBM's new Pure Research Department, is appointed to head the laboratory. Temporarily housed on the tenth floor of Pupin Hall, staffed and paid for by IBM, with the staff holding faculty appointments and teaching credit courses in math, physics, astronomy, and other fields. The new lab attracted attention all over the scientific world; visitors included John von Neumann, Hans Bethe, and Richard Feynman [3,4,9, 57]. The lab was named for IBM's Thomas J. Watson (Senior), a Columbia Trustee (it is said that Watson is the one who nominated Eisenhower as Columbia President in 1948, but he meant Milton! [17]).

It turns out that the presence of Bethe, Feynman, and von Neumann was not entirely coincidental. Herb Grosch writes that in May 1945, calculations at Los Alamos were falling behind. As Dr. Eckert (who had just hired him to work at the new Watson Lab) explained, "They came to IBM for help. Mr. Watson and John McPherson [IBM engineering director] ... thought immediately of the Astronomical Bureau at Columbia, but it is heavily engaged in fairly high priority work for another part of the Army, and really has no room for physical expansion anyhow. It has only two 601s and an old 285 fixed-plugboard tabulator, and there is hardly any room to move." New space was needed, and found, for Watson Lab's first task: solution of temperature-pressure equations for completion of the A-bombs at Los Alamos [57] (more about this HERE and much more in Chapter 03 of Dr. Grosch's book)

The Army work referred to was for the Army Air Force: test data reduction for a GE aerial fire control system that later went into production for the B-29 bomber [57].

Within a year, Watson Lab would become the third most powerful computing facility in the world, after the US Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground and Harvard University, and would remain so for some years.  

Mar 1945:
Now that Germany's defeat was imminent, Leo Szilard — who, with Enrico Fermi, had initiated the Manhattan Project at Columbia in 1939 — did not believe the A-bomb should be used on Japan. He obtained a letter of introduction to President Roosevelt from Albert Einstein so he could present his case against dropping the bomb. A preliminary meeting with Eleanor Roosevelt was set up for May 8th, but the President died on April 12th and Szilard was blocked from contacting President Truman.

8 May 1945:
VE Day, Germany surrenders, the war in Europe ends.

Jul 1945:
Szilard wrote and circulated a petition among his fellow scientists at the University of Chicago against the use of atomic weapons and asking President Truman not to use them on Japan. He also sent copies to Oak Ridge and Los Alamos for circulation (the Los Alamos copy was buried by Groves and Oppenheimer). Szilard's petition went through several drafts; the first one (July 3rd) included the following text:

Atomic bombs are primarily a means for the ruthless annihilation of cities. Once they were introduced as an instrument of war it would be difficult to resist for long the temptation of putting them to such use. The last few years show a marked tendency toward increasing ruthlessness. At present our Air Forces, striking at the Japanese cities, are using the same methods of warfare which were condemned by American public opinion only a few years ago when applied by the Germans to the cities of England. Our use of atomic bombs in this war would carry the world a long way further on this path of ruthlessness.

Subsequent drafts were toned down a bit but made the same recommendations. The Oak Ridge petition urged that "before this weapon be used without restriction in the present conflict, its powers should be adequately described and demonstrated, and the Japanese nation should be given the opportunity to consider the consequences of further refusal to surrender". Watson Lab staff who were performing calculations for Los Alamos were unaware of the petitions or, indeed (with only two exceptions, Eckert and Grosch, the only ones with security clearances), that the calculations were for a bomb [59]. In any event, the petitions never reached the President.

6 Aug 1945:
Hiroshima: "Now we knew what we had been working on" [57]. A second A-bomb was dropped on Nagasaki August 9th. More than 200,000 people died from the two blasts.

Was the atomic bomb needed to end the war with Japan? The US Strategic Bombing Survey [94] says, "Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945 [the earliest possible date for an invasion], Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war in the East, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated." It was known by the Allies [95] that since May 1945, Japan had been making peace overtures to the Soviet Union, both in Tokyo and Moscow. This was done at the direction of the Emperor, who had told his envoy, Prince Konoye, to "secure peace at any price, notwithstanding its severity" [93]. All indications (e.g. in Henry L. Stimson's diaries) are that the US deliberately prolonged the war, first by delaying the Potsdam Conference and then by striking the "Emperor can stay" clause from the Potsdam Declaration, until the bombs could be dropped, and that this was done to intimidate the Soviet Union.

Note: The link to the Stimson diaries seems to go stale from time to time, and the selection of entries seems to change; as of mid-August 2005, some independent copies can be found HERE and HERE. For further detail and analysis see: "Hiroshima: Historians Reassess" by Gar Alperovitz, Foreign Policy (Summer 1995) No. 99: 15-34, esp. Part 4, "The Preferred Option."

14 Aug 1945:
7:18PM EWT (Eastern War Time): Japan surrenders, the war ends. The formal surrender was signed September 2. (The US and many other countries were on permanent daylight savings time throughout the war; in the US this was called War Time -- Eastern War Time, Central War Time, etc.)

Oct 1945:
Watson Laboratory establishes itself as the cataloger of mathematical tables on punched cards, meaning that any scientist who needed to obtain machine-readable tables of mathematical functions such as sin, cos, tan, log, squares, cubes, inverses, roots, Bessel functions, Lagrangean interpolation coefficients, spheroid functions, grid coordinates, and so forth, could find out from Watson Lab where to get them [28]. Of course Watson Lab itself was a major producer of such tables. As these card decks were freely shared, they might be regarded as an early form of freeware.

Nov 1945:
Watson Laboratory moves from Pupin Hall into 612 West 116th Street (PHOTO) (MAP), a former fraternity house vacated by the War, purchased by IBM and renovated as a laboratory (PHOTOS) with offices and teaching facility [4,9]. A "simple bronze plaque" was affixed to the building reading "WATSON SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING LABORATORY at COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY" [28] (WHERE IS THE PLAQUE NOW?). Watson Lab's early equipment included two experimental one-of-a-kind relay calculators, two Aberdeen relay calculators, plus conventional calculators and tabulators inherited from the Astronomy Lab, and within a couple years would grow to include a IBM 602 and the first IBM 604. Read more about renovation and equipping of this building in Chapter 09 of the Grosch book. This building is now Casa Hispanica, home of Columbia's Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Herb Grosch confirms that Chock Full O' Nuts was open for business on the southwest corner of 116th and Broadway in 1945, where it remained a fixture for decades.

Chock Full O' Nuts sightings go back as far as 1944. When did it close? Mid-1980s I think. A few other establishments that were here in 1945 are still open in 2004: The West End (1915), Tom's Restaurant (1936), Columbia Hardware (1939), and Mondel's Chocolates (1943).

1945-59
Watson Lab Photo Gallery from Eric Hankam.

Aug 1946:
Eckert describes Watson Lab to an IBM Research Forum [89]. "It is the intention of the Laboratory to make these facilities available to any scientist from any place in this country or abroad, regardless of whether he is connected with a university or a laboratory. This is our fundamental principle: problems will be accepted because of scientific interest and not for any other considerations. Scientific interest can be of two kinds: the problem may interest us because of the complexity of the calculation, or it may be considered on the basis of scientific merit of the result rather than the means. While routine computation is not the aim of the Laboratory, a considerable amount of it will be done on worthy causes."

Later he describes some experimental machines: "Among the digital machines which have been developed over the years, there are several based on the relay network; we now have two of these at the Laboratory [note: he is not referring to the Aberdeens, which had not yet been delivered] ... The first one was developed with the idea of seeing how few relays it is possible to use to produce a calculating machine. This machine is built on the standard IBM key punch. ... The control is very convenient... a combination of control panel and master card or program card. Thus, instead of having twenty control panels for a complicated job, you can set it up to use one control panel and twenty master cards."

This might very well be the birth of software. The control panel, which stays in place for the duration of the job, defines the "instructions" of the machine, in a sense its "microprogram". The sequence of operations (invoking instructions from the control panel) is on a deck of cards. It is a PROGRAM. A few years later, IBM would build a Card Programmed Calculator, and from there it is a short step to the first general-purpose stored-program computer, which, arguably, was IBM's SSEC, built under Eckert's direction (in fact the SSEC was completed before the CPC).

The significance of card programming can't be overstated. A deck of control cards (along with the specifications for the corresponding control-panel wiring, at least in these early days) documents the program. It can be printed, read, modified, duplicated, mailed, kept for future use, and run again on different data sets. Much of this might be said of plugboards too, provided you don't have to recycle them, thus destroying the program. But most important, a program deck can be any length at all, thus allowing extremely complex problems to be run -- problems that might have required a thousand plugboards. (Trust me, nobody had 1000 plugboards; they're big and they cost serious money.)

1946:
Watson Lab produces Ephemerides of 783 Minor Planets for 1947 (formerly Kleine Planeten), the annual asteroid listing for the year 1947, about 100 pages of tables showing the position of each body at 8-day intervals, calculated on the Watson Lab Aberdeen Relay Calculators, the world's fastest computing devices at the time.

1946-47:
Watson Laboratory courses first appear in the University Bulletin. These are graduate-level credit courses. Among them are courses in computing machinery and numerical analysis taught by Wallace Eckert and Herb Grosch believed to be the first computer science courses offered by any university [40] or, more precisely, "the first such courses in the world fully integrated into a university curriculum and continuing year after year" [59]. Eckert taught Machine Methods of Scientific Calculation (Astronomy 111-112); Grosch taught Numerical Methods (Engineering 281, a graduate course I took some 30 years later, and which is still given today as Engineering E4300 and E6302); a year later L.H. Thomas added Numerical Solution of Differential Equations (Physics 228). By 1951, the curriculum also included EE 275 (Electrical and Electronic Components of Digital Computers, taught by Watson Lab's Robert M. Walker) and Physics 255 (Separation of Variables in Mathematical Physics, L.H. Thomas). Most of these courses included hands-on laboratory sessions with the Watson Lab machines or (later) the SSEC downtown.

Graduate-level hard-science courses used the Watson Lab machines too, including some taught by regular Columbia faculty such as George Kimball (Chemistry), among whose students were Margaret Oakley Dayhoff (Columbia Ph.D. 1948, the founder of computational biochemistry), Isaac Asimov (Columbia B.Sc 1939, M.A. 1941, Ph.D. 1948), and Maurice Ewing (Oceanography), the founder of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, whose students included Frank Press (Columbia M.A. 1946, Ph.D. 1949), who went on to become President of the US National Academy of Sciences and Chairman of the National Research Council. More about these courses in the 1951 entry.

1946-47:
It was also during this period that Watson Laboratory began to provide computer time to Columbia researchers at no charge. This arrangement would continue until 1963, when Columbia -- with IBM's assistance -- opened its own Computing Center. Perhaps the first non-Watson-Lab Columbia researcher to use the Watson Lab machines was Martin Schwarzschild, who used the Aberdeen Relay Calculators for astronomical calculations [57].

1947:
Nevis Laboratory, the Columbia Physics department's primary center for study of high-energy and nuclear physics, founded in Irvington, New York. There is a long history of computing here too, which needs to be told, including the many and varied connection methods to Columbia's Morningside Heights campus.

Sep 1947:
The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is born at a meeting of sixty computer enthusiasts at Columbia University's Havemeyer Hall [57]. Originally calling itself the Eastern Association for Computing Machinery, attendees of its first meeting included Columbia Professor Wallace Eckert (who arranged the space), Professor Hilleth Thomas (Thomas-Fermi Model), Byron Havens of Watson Lab (chief engineer, NORC), John Lentz of Watson Lab (designer of the first "personal computer"), Watson Lab's Herb Grosch, and "everybody's favorite computer person", Grace Hopper. The meeting was convened by computer pioneer and antiwar activist Edmund Berkeley. (CLICK HERE to view documents from the first ACM meeting.)

Nov 1947:
The "Watson Laboratory Three-Week Course on Computing", taught by Eric Hankam, the first hands-on computer course (PHOTOS AND DETAILS), in which scientists from all over the world learned how to apply computing machines to problems in their disciplines. The course was given here eleven times a year until 1957 -- by which time it had been attended by 1600 people from 20 countries -- when it was moved to IBM education centers around the world [9].

24 Dec 1947:
First successful test of the transistor.

Jan 1948:
New Yorker Magazine cover The IBM Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (SSEC) (PHOTOS AND DETAILS) was designed and built by IBM in 1946-47 under the direction of Columbia Professsor Wallace Eckert and then installed in IBM HQ at 590 Madison Ave in January 1948. This is one of the first large-scale electronic computers, and the first machine to combine electronic computation with a stored program and capable of operating on its own instructions as data. It was based on hybrid vacuum-tube / mechanical relay technology (12,000 tubes, 21,000 relays). Fully assembled, it was 140 feet long (60 + 20 + 60 U-shape) (some sources cite different dimensions) and was used initially for calculating lunar coordinates. Reporters called it a Robot Brain. Its massive size and configuration established the public image of computers for decades to come (as in this 1961 New Yorker cover by Charles Addams). Aside from solving important scientific problems, it was used by students of Columbia's pioneering Machine Methods graduate course -- part of the world's first computer science curriculum, initiated here in 1946.

Popular descriptions of computers as "brains" and analogies with the human nervous system were so rampant in the late 1940s and early 50s, that George Stibitz, developer of the wartime Bell Relay Calculators, was prompted to write an article cautioning against such wild tales as the one in the Feb 18, 1950, Saturday Evening Post, which said that computers were subject to psychopathic states which engineers cure by "shock treatments" consisting of the application of excessively large voltages [79].

The SSEC was programmed from Watson Lab on standard IBM cards converted to input tapes on a special punch called the Prancing Stallion [57]. Its moon-orbit calculations were used as the basis for the Apollo missions. It was dismantled in 1952. One of the SSEC's programmers was John Backus (PHOTO AND DETAILS), who had two Columbia degrees and was at Watson Lab in 1950-52 [9], and who went on to design FORTRAN, the first high-level machine-independent programming language, and Algol, the first block-structured language, and is also known for Backus Normal Form (BNF), a meta-language for describing computer languages. Before FORTRAN, almost every computer program was written in machine or assembly language, and therefore was not portable to any other kind of machine.

The idea of a high-level programming language was the second step on the road to user friendliness. The first step was the assembler. Such notions were not without controversy. John von Neumann, when he first heard about FORTRAN in 1954, was unimpressed and asked "why would you want more than machine language?" One of von Neumann's students at Princeton recalled that graduate students were being used to hand assemble programs into binary for their early machine. This student took time out to build an assembler, but when von Neumann found out about it he was very angry, saying that it was a waste of a valuable scientific computing instrument to use it to do clerical work. (These anecdotes from a biographical sketch of von Neumann by John A.N. Lee, Dept of Computer Science, Virginia Polytechnical Institute.)

Another SSEC programmer was Edgar F. Codd, originator of the relational database model [40] (Communications of the ACM, Vol. 13, No. 6, June 1970, pp.377-387), who was at Watson Lab from 1949 to 1952 [9] and died April 18, 2003.

1948-54:
The IBM Personal Automatic Calculator was designed by John Lentz and built between 1948 and 1954 on the top floor of Watson Lab. Among its innovations was a magnetic drum for auxilliary storage, automatic positioning of the decimal point, and the first video terminal. When it was finally announced in 1956 as the IBM 610 Autopoint Computer, it was the first "personal computer". [4,9,17]

1949:
Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, Columbia's earth science facility, founded in Palisades, New York, by Professor Maurice Ewing, a user of the Watson Lab equipment. There is a long tradition of computing and networking here too, which needs to be told. See [39] for an excellent history (albeit with nothing on computing) of what is now called the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.


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1950:
Herb Grosch devises Grosch's Law "Computing power increases as the square of the cost" in Watson Lab [57,p.131]. Dr. Grosch leaves Watson in 1951 to start an IBM bureau in Washington DC.

May 1950:
Edmund Berkeley (who had founded the ACM at Columbia University in 1947, and who had written the first book about computers for a general audience [62] in 1949), William Porter (a West Medford MA mechanic), and two Columbia graduate students, Robert Jensen and Andrew Vall, build Simon [63], a simple "model electronic brain" (PHOTO), costing about $600 to construct. Of Simon, Berkeley said:

1951:
CLICK HERE to view some 1951 Watson Lab Astronomy, Engineering, and Physics course listings from the 1951 Columbia Catalog. Herb Grosch recalls [57]: "... a little about the courses we gave - that is, at Columbia. These were all part of the regular university curriculum, listed in the appropriate catalogs - we had our own special one also - and open to any student with the prerequisites and the money. We did however encourage our own juniors on 116th Street and at the SSEC to attend as auditors if they did not want to sign up for credit. ... Most of our offerings were unusual. [Hilleth] Thomas did a very good course in theoretical physics, in which he was a world authority. I did a celestial mechanics course one year; it was really a mélange of spherical trig, practical and theoretical astronomy (meaning time and position determination, and orbit computing), and brief mentions of planetary and satellite mechanics. ... None of my subtopics were taught anywhere else at Columbia; the astronomy department was solid astrophysics. And they were what was needed for astronomy calculations. ... Most of our value as teachers, however, came from the computing courses. Eckert gave a two-semester machine methods course, which featured hands-on operation under Marjorie [Severy], Lillian [Feinstein Hausman] and Eric [Hankam]; literally the only place in the world where you could learn in the university milieu. ... I did numerical methods - classical interpolation and matrix arithmetic and integration of differential equations. Most of my examples, and assigned exercises, were at desk calculator level, but I lectured from the point of view of machine operation ... This was one semester, once a year, and Hilleth did an advanced course featuring partial differential equation solutions and error propagation, every other year. ... My classes were small; this was a very esoteric discipline indeed in the Forties. But I had interesting students .. like [Stan] Rothman and [Bill] McClelland and [John] Backus and Don Quarles. ... So it was my side of the house that carried the teaching. It went on into the Fifties, always as part - but a small part - of the Columbia offerings. The hands-on side of the Machine Methods course was unique, not just because of the equipment but because real use-'em-every-day men and women were running it."

1952-3:
Watson Lab #2. When construction of the NORC (see Dec 1954 entry) exhausted available space in the petite 116th street building (and because still more space was required by Watson Lab's new physics program), IBM purchased the building at 612 West 115th Street (PHOTO) (MAP), formerly a "women's residence club", gutted and renovated it, equipped it with physics laboratories, and relocated to it. The new Watson Lab was occupied in September 1953. A time clock was installed (you can still see its mounting today) but nobody on the professional staff used it (as a corporation, IBM was obsessed with efficiency but the Watson Lab scientists were notorious noncomformists). The time clock and all wall clocks were controlled centrally and set automatically by an IBM master clock (like the one in the first Watson Lab); the IBM wall clocks in Watson Lab kept on ticking until about 1999. The Penthouse was outfitted as a lunchroom with a small kitchen, where coffee and tea could be made and soup or beans heated up; it had the atmosphere of a World War II canteen, and was the favorite place for people in different groups or floors to talk and thesis advisors to meet with their students [17].

Some space was retained in the 116th Street building: offices for PhD students, classroom space, and a machine room [4,9,17,66].

The former women's residence on 115th Street was in fact the Parnassus Club, a boarding house for young women -- students at the Julliard School of Music, which was then only a couple blocks away on the current Manhattan School of Music site (MAP) or at Barnard College, a block north (MAP), for semi-professional performers. It operated from 1921 to 1955. CLICK HERE for stories and photos.

The North-facing building was gutted by IBM in 1953 to create Watson Laboratory. According to a resident, "we all had to move out because some official body at Columbia had decided the neighborhood had become too dangerous for us; at least that was the reason given in a letter we all received that spring" (this refers to the second Parnassus Club building, which remained in operation until 1955). (Miss Macmillan's 1965 obituary states, however, that the Club was closed due to her poor health.) The exterior of 612 West 115th Street retains its original look but the inside contains no trace of the Parnassus Club. In July 2003, a resident from 1950 appeared on the doorstep with her daughter and grandson; she was showing them where she used live. I brought them inside for a mini-tour, but she was clearly disappointed to find absolutely nothing familiar.

The original Watson Lab at 612 West 116th Street was designed by Thomas Nash and built in 1906 as the Delta Phi fraternity house. The current Watson building at 612 West 115th Street was originally an apartment building called Duncan Hall, designed in 1905 by the prolific firm of Neville & Bagge, originally built and owned by a Frank Woytisek. The building across the street, No. 605, was also an apartment building by Neville & Bagge, called the Bellemore, built in 1903 and originally owned by Moses Crystal [12]. It was home to the Bureau of Applied Social Research (BASR) from 1955(?) until it was demolished about 1970.

1954:
Columbia 200 anniversary commemorative stamp
200th anniversary of Columbia University.

1954:
Invention of the cursor: As part of his work on the first "personal computer" (the IBM 610), Watson Lab's John Lentz designs a small video terminal -- keyboard and tiny screen -- for control and data entry. in which the "current position" was indicated visually by what came to be known as a cursor. Lentz applied for a patent on this concept; the patent was finally granted in the early 1970s. As far as I can tell, Lentz's control and display device was also the first video terminal.

Dec 1954:
The Naval Ordnance Research Calculator (NORC) (PHOTOS AND DETAILS), the first supercomputer and the most powerful computer in existence at the time (and for the next ten years), becomes operational. It was designed here beginning in 1950 and built in Watson Lab #2, 612 West 115th Street. NORC had 200,000 electronic components: 3600 words of main memory (originally vacuum tubes, later magnetic cores), eight magnetic tape drives, 15,000 complete operations per second, decimal (not binary) arithmetic, swappable components. Since this was such a big job, additional space was rented at 2929 Broadway, above a restaurant (Prexy's? Home of the Educated Hamburger?) for building some of the parts, which were brought to Watson Lab for assembly and eventual startup and operation. John von Neumann was a team member and gave the inaugural address on December 2, 1954. NORC was moved to the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, Virginia, in 1955 and remained operational until 1968 [4,12,17].

30 Aug 1955:
The first of two IBM 650 computers is installed in the first-floor machine room of the original Watson Lab building on 116th Street. The 650 was a vacuum-tube-logic decimal computer with 2000 words of ten decimal digits each plus sign [31] stored on drum memory. Each had a 511 card reader and a 403 printer. They ran for two shifts a day, eventually supporting over 200 Columbia research projects [29]. A 17 Nov 1955 memo from Dr. Eckert to J.C. McPherson states that the 650 was installed on August 30 and "much of the work of the computing group has been concerned with its incorporation into the Laboratory program of research and instruction." The 650s were soon used in a series of intensive courses on computing, with [31] as a text; these courses later resulted in a book: Joachim Jeenel, Programming for Digital Computers, McGraw-Hill, 1959 [64]. Initally, all programming was in assembly language punched on cards; eventually languages such as FORTRAN were available. The legendary SOAP assembler for the 650 was written at Watson Lab by Stan Poley.

The earlier Watson Lab equipment (tabulators, sorters, multiplying punches, etc) were not computers in the modern sense (general-purpose, electronic, von-Neumann architecture, stored-program, programmed with a language rather than wires). NORC had been the first such computer at Columbia but, although it was used in one Columbia PhD dissertation [65], it was not open to the Columbia community for general use [61]. Thus the IBM 650 was the first computer available to Columbia researchers and we have a 50th anniversary on August 30, 2005.

Eric Hankam points out [66] that this was not as dramatic a turning point as it might seem, since the same types of problems had been solved on non-stored-program calculators at Columbia over the preceding two or three decades; at the time, the 650 was seen as just another incremental step in calculator design. However, the 650's power, flexibility, and ease of use relative to the wire- and card-programmed machines (601, Aberdeen, 602, 604, CPC, 607) attracted a flood of Columbia research projects. By 1961, 650s were also installed at Nevis Lab, Hudson Lab, and ERL. As demand oustripped capacity, it became increasingly clear that Columbia would need a computing facility of its own, big enough to serve the entire university.

Sep 1956:
Watson Lab begins to award fellowships to Columbia graduate students [9], including Ken King, who would become the first Director of the Columbia Computer Center, and Joe Traub, who, after obtaining his Columbia PhD in 1959, and a distinguished career at Bell Labs and heading the Carnegie-Mellon CS Department, would become first Chair of Columbia's Computer Science Department [9, 21]. Watson Fellows had their own offices at 612 West 116th Street, that were "appointed with fireplaces and leather sofas, a good stipend, and unlimited computing time" [38]. Approximately 15 percent of Columbia physics graduate students in the 1950s did their thesis work at Watson Lab [38].

1956-70:
Watson Lab concentrates on solid state physics. This not-insignificant period, resulting in many publications, patents, and a Nobel Prize, is described at length in [4] and [9]. (Richard L. Garwin of Watson Lab conducted experiments with Leon Lederman of the CU Physics Department confirming the suggestion by C.N. Yang of Princeton and T.D. Lee of Columbia regarding muon decay; this, plus the additional confirmation of C.S. Wu in the CU Physics Department, resulted in the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics for Lee and Yang.) Also in this period, Seymour Koenig's research on low-temperature breakdown of germanium and its application to semiconductors; Triebwasser's research on microscopic and thermodynamic properties of ferroelectric crystals; Tucker's research on semiconductors at liquid helium temperatures with application to biomedical instrumentation [38].

1957:
A proposal was submitted by Columbia University to the National Science Foundation to install an IBM 701 in Watson Laboratory, since many of Columbia's research projects now demanded more power than was offered by the 650s (the sub-microsecond circuits used in the 701 were designed at Watson Lab [37]). While the proposal was under consideration the 701 was superseded by the Model 704, so the proposal was changed to ask for a 704. $145,000 was awarded, but it turned out the 704 was larger than the 701 originally proposed and would not fit in Watson Lab, so the money had to be returned unused [28] and IBM Watson Lab continued to cater to all of Columbia's academic computing needs at its own expense. Projects that couldn't be accommodated by Watson Lab's Model 650s were allowed to use the more powerful IBM 700-series computers downtown at IBM headquarters [36].

Oct 1957:
IBM proposes the following arrangement to Charles Hurd, University Registrar, for student statistics, course registration, permanent records, and fee accounting:

Quantity   Machine  Description                       Monthly Rental
   3       024 Card Punch with Alternate Program          129.00
   1       056 Verifier with Alternate Program            106.00
   2       085 Collator with Card Counting Device         215.00
   2       082 Sorter                                     110.00
   1       519 Document Originating Machine w/Emitter     123.00
   2       403 Accounting Machine with Digit Selector     950.00
   1       548 Interpreter                                110.00
                                                         1743.00

Less 20% educational discount, plus supplies of cards, coding sheets, control (plugboard) panels, trays, and brackets totalling another $1810.25. Note: the links for some of these items are to later (but similar) models. Required personnel are one supervisor/programmer, two machine operators, and three key punch operators. Source: AIS archives. This arrangement characterizes the nature of administrative data processing at the time. There is no true computer, only unit record equipment and tabulating machines capable of rudimentary statistics (sums) and report generation. According to letters of Charles Hurd, 1957-1960 [28], the funding was found from "the expected decline in enrollment of Public Law 550 [Korean War] veterans" (Veterans Readjustment Act of 1952); in his proposal to Provost John Krout (29 Oct 1957), Hurd says "I am sure that you are aware that IBM equipment has been used in the Registrars' Offices in colleges and universities. large and small, public and private, for many years and has proven to be a most valuable and efficient tool. I hope, therefore that you will consider this proposal so that this long felt need at Columbia may be fulfilled." In other words, registration was still completely manual in 1957. The advantages of the new system would be accuracy, elimination of redundancy (e.g. each student writing the same information on many different forms, up to 23 of them) and transcription errors, and the ability to generate reports, including class lists, plus ID cards and mailing labels, not to mention "keeping up with the Joneses", e.g. NYU, where punch-card registration had been in use since at least 1933. The new equipment was installed in 307 University Hall and the new system phased in from 1959 to 1961 (with an IBM 407 installed rather than a 403 at an extra $250/month).

Computerized registration was seen by some as a step towards dehumanization of students and turning universities into factories, a major factor in the rise of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley, which set the stage for campus activism, protest, and rebellion throughout the 1960s, including Columbia in 1968: "There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you've got to make it stop." According to Steven Lubar of the Smithsonian Institution, this sentiment, although directed primarily at the economy and war machinery, extended to the punched-card equipment in the registrar's office: "Berkeley protestors used punch cards as metaphor, both as a symbol of the 'system'--first the registration system and then bureaucratic systems more generally--and as a symbol of alienation... 'I am a UC student. Please don't bend, fold, spindle or mutilate me.'"

1958:
The Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center (CPEMC) is founded by Professors Vladimir Ussachevsky and Otto Luening with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. It is the first center for electroacoustic music in the USA and has a long association with Columbia computing. Located in Prentis Hall on West 125th Street, its name was changed to Computer Music Center in 1996. Some tales have been collected and contributed by Peter Mauzey of Bell Labs, a Columbia graduate and former faculty member with a long association with the Electronic Music Center; CLICK HERE to read them.

Sep 1958:
The equipment of Columbia University IBM Watson Scientific Computing laboratory is listed [21] as:

Standard punched card equipment
A comprehensive selection of basic punched card machines, with many special devices. The equipment includes keypunch, sorter, reproducer, and printer.

Wired-program calculators
The group of electro-mechanical and electronic calculators include the Type 602-A Calculating Punch, the Type 607 Electronic Calculating Punch, and the Card-Programmed Electronic Calculator. The 607 is an automatic electronic calculator with pluggable program control and 146-digit storage capacity, capable of performing most programs at the rate of 100 cards per minute.

Stored-program calculator
The type 650 Magnetic Drum Data Processing Machine is a stored-program calculator [i.e. computer] which can store 2000 ten-digit words, read 200 cards a minute, punch 100 cards a minute, and perform approximately 100 multiplications a second. The memory capacity can be used interchangeably for numerical data and operating instructions, which permits complete flexibility in the elaboration of instructions by the machine itself.

Plus special-purpose devices such as a card-driven lithography printer, a card-controlled astronomical photograph analyzer, as well as a machine shop and physics and chemistry laboratories, a highly specialized library, and access to the big IBM 700 series computers downtown.

Although FORTRAN -- the first high-level, machine-independent programming language -- marked a great leap forward in user friendliness, and was probably available for the 650 by this time, it's worth remembering how one ran a FORTRAN job in the early days. First you punched your FORTRAN program on a key punch machine, along with any data and control cards. But since the 650 had no disk, the FORTRAN compiler was not resident. So to compile your program, you fed the FORTRAN compiler deck into the card reader, followed by your FORTRAN source program as data. After some time, the machine would punch the resulting object deck. Then you fed the FORTRAN run-time library object deck and your program's object deck into the card reader, followed by any data cards for your program. Your program would run and results would be punched onto yet another deck of cards. To see the results, you would feed the result deck into another machine, such as an IBM 407, to have it printed on paper. The computer itself had no printer.

By the early 60s a certain division of labor had become the rule, in which "system analysts" would make a flow chart, programmers would translate it to code, which was written by hand on "coding forms" that were given to key punch operators to be punched on cards. The coding forms and card decks were passed on to "verifiers" who repunched the source code to catch and correct any mistakes, signed off on the job, sent the deck to the operator to await its turn at the computer. Hours later the results would be delivered to the programmer in the form of a printout and the cycle would continue.

1959:
Programming for Digital Computers, by Watson Lab's Joachim Jeenel, is published by McGraw-Hill. From the Preface: "The contents of this book were developed from material presented to courses on programming for stored-programming calculators held at Columbia University. Prof. W.J. Eckert, Director of the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University, initiated the writing of the book and suggested the scope of the text." Jeenel also taught Columbia graduate courses such as Astronomy 111-112: Machine Methods of Scientific Calculation (with Eric Hankam).

1959:
An IBM 1620 is installed in Watson Lab to supplement the 650s, and is used in Columbia research projects.

1959:
The Provost's office commissions a study to develop a plan for the future of computing at Columbia. In view of the failure in 1957 to produce the space needed for a state-of-the art computer that NSF was willing to pay for, the study concluded that a new computer center building was needed [28]. The central administration concurs and begins to seek sources of funding. Dean Ralph S. Halford, a Chemistry professor, Dean of Graduate Faculties, and (perhaps most to the point) Vice Provost for Projects and Grants is in charge. Dean Halford and the University Committee on Cooperation with Watson Laboratory, which then included Professors Wallace Eckert (Astronomy and Watson Lab), Samuel Eilenberg (Mathematics), Richard Garwin (Physics and Watson Lab), and Polykarp Kusch (Physics, Nobel Prize 1955), plan the future Computer Center.


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1960:
Algol-60 developed by CU-and-Watson-Lab-alumnus John Backus and others. This was to be the most influential computer language of all time, the parent of all other block-structured languages, including (among many others) Java, C, C++, Pascal, PL/I, and Ada, but not including such lovable mavericks as LISP, APL, Snobol, and Forth.

1961:
IBM Watson Laboratory offers the following Columbia courses in computing:

Plus short courses in IBM 650 and Fortran programming and the Share Operating System (SOS) [29,31].

Besides the Watson Lab courses, the Electrical Engineering Department offers:

May 1961:
Dean Halford writes a Proposal to the National Science Foundation for Support of a Computing Center to be Established at Columbia University [29], and shortly afterwards the NSF approves $200,000 over the first two years. IBM pledges $125,000 for fellowships, and another $500,000 is obtained from an anonymous donor [30] (who might have been Thomas J Watson Sr or another Columbia Trustee). Two IBM 7090 mainframe computers are to be acquired at an education discount, which requires Columbia to devote at least 88 hours per month for purposes of instruction and unsponsored academic research. With funding lined up, Dean Halford proposes the new Computer Center to the University Committee on Finance. The need for a Computer Center was clear. By this point, about 220 University research projects were being handled on IBM's computers in Watson Lab and the demands had long since exceeded the Lab's capacity, resulting in the rental of IBM computers by the following university sites:

The primary needs were in high-energy physics (then accounting about 200 hours of IBM 650 time per month), sociology (50 hours/month), geophysics (100 hours of IBM 709 time per month), biochemistry, and chemistry. "A school of computer science will evolve gradually at the Computing Center, with an independent line of administration as an educational organ of the University". The IBM Watson Lab courses would be taken over by the Computing Center. The initial staff was to be 15 persons covering two shifts, including a branch librarian [29]. The Computing Center was to serve "those whose research is sponsored and those whose research is not. It has been created with the aim of serving all of the needs of both groups without preference toward either one, with the expectation that its cost would have to be met in substantial part by the University" [36].

Sep 1961:
The Columbia Committee on Finance approves Dean Halford's proposal to create a Computer Center, based on funding pledges from IBM and NSF [28].

1961-63:
Construction of the Computer Center building. Total cost: $800,000 [30] (PHOTOS, STORIES NEEDED).

2 Jan 1963:
Columbia University Computer Center (CUCC) opens. Dr. Kenneth M. King, who received his Columbia Ph.D. in Physics as a Watson Fellow under Prof. L.H. Thomas [17] and had managed Watson Lab's computing facility [20], was the first Director, with a joint appointment to the faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science [V5#3]. The original location was 612 W 116th Street (the first Watson Lab), which still housed the IBM teaching facility as well as Casa Hispanica, but the new underground Computer Center building between Havemeyer and Uris halls was soon ready with machine rooms for equipment and offices for staff ("more space than we'll ever need"). The Computer Center initially housed the following equipment [10]:

IBM 7090 (PHOTOS AND STORIES) with 32768 (32K) 36-bit words of magnetic core storage. This was the first commercial computer based on transistor, rather than vacuum tube, logic (a vacuum-tube 709 was originally planned [29], but the 7090 appeared just in time). It is in the direct line of descent from Watson Lab's NORC. The price was $1,205,000.00 after 60% IBM educational allowance, amortized over 5 years (Letter of John A. Krout, VP of the University, 4 Oct 1961, AcIS archives). Included:

  • Two data channels.
  • Two IBM 1301 Model 2 disks, total capacity: 9320000 36-bit words.
  • Six IBM 729VI 7-track tape drives.
  • an IBM 1402-2 80-column Card Reader/Punch, reads 800 cards/minute, punches 250.
  • Two IBM 1403 chain printers, 132 cols/line, 1100 lines/minute = 3 secs/page.
  • 7040 Console Typewriter.
  • 1014 Remote Inquiry Unit.
  • Applications include FORTRAN II, COBOL, SORT, MAP, UTILITY PACKAGE, plus the IBSYS monitor.

IBM 1401 with:
  • 4000 characters of memory.
  • Two 729V tape drives.
  • One 600 LPM printer.
  • Advanced Programming Package

Unit Record Equipment

Access to computing was batch only. Users brought decks or boxes of punch cards to the operators and came back the next day to retrieve their cards and the resulting listings from the output bins. Jobs were paid for out of grants or funny money. There were no user terminals and there was no user access to the machine room, which was staffed around the clock by operators and a shift supervisor.

"During the first six months of the Center's operation, [the 7090] logged 907.55 hours on 158 projects for 101 members of our academic staff. Downtime ran to thirty hours or so monthly during the first two months, as expected in a new installation, but fell to acceptable levels for the remainder of the period. About forty-five percent of the time used was furnished to projects sponsored by government contracts." [36]

Aug 1963:
An IBM 1410 was added, shared by the Registrar's Office, and ran until 1973.

Nov 1963:
The IBM 7090 was replaced by an IBM 7094-I.

7 Apr 1964:
IBM announces the System/360.

1964-70:
IBM Watson Lab continues operation at 612 W 115th Street, concentrating now on life sciences and medicine. Among many results from this period was improved analysis of Pap smears, and there was an alliance with the Urban League Street Academy program, educating community kids in science.

1965:
Photo gallery of the Columbia Computer Center in 1965: The IBM 7094/7040 Coupled System, the Hough-Powell Device (HPD), Tape Library, Key Punch / EAM room. In 1965 the Computer Center had 25 employees, all housed in the Computer Center building: the director (Ken King), 8 operators, a librarian, and 15 technical people. Besides the IBM 7094/7040 system there was also an IBM 1401 and a 1410 computer in the machine room, as well as the unit record equipment listed in the January 1963 entry.

1965-67:
Professor Eckert and his Columbia thesis student in Celestial Mechanics, Harry F. Smith (who was also on the Watson Lab technical staff as lab manager in the 116th Street building, helping students (often of Eric Hankam) debug their IBM 650 programs, assisting students in other ways with other computers in the building, and responsible for closing up the lab at 11pm each evening) refine the theory of the moon -- the equations that describe and predict its motion -- to unheard-of accuracy, improving upon the calculations performed by Eckert in 1948-52 on the SSEC [78] by adding additional terms: 10,000 equations in 10,000 unknowns, 100,000,000 possible coefficients. The calculations were programmed in assembly language by Smith, who devised efficient methods for solving these sparse equations with so many small-divisor terms that were a potential source of instability, and run on the Computer Center's IBM 7094 over a period of three years [65,87], resulting in 220 pages of lunar position tables published in Astronomical Papers of the American Ephemeris, plus several papers in astronomical journals (see Eckert's bibliography). This was the culmination of Eckert's life's work. Smith is now on the Computer Science faculty at University of North Carolina.

1965: (Month?)
The Administrative Data Processing Center (ADPC) was established. The newly established Computer Center was primarily for academic computing (in those days, research and very little instruction). Administrative computing was done independently by individual departments such as the Registrar's Office and the Controller's Office. The new, separate ADPC drew programmers from the Registrar's and Conroller's offices as well as the Computer Center, including York Wong, previously the Computer Center programming supervisor, who became director of the new administrative group. The equipment (IBM 1401s and IBM 1410s) was in the Controller's office in Hogan Hall on Broadway and in Prentis Hall, 632 West 125th Street, with applications written in AUTOCODER [20].

(The story of administrative computing prior to 1965 is still largely a mystery. Dorothy Marshall, VP for ADP, upon her retirement in 1988, wrote a reminiscence in the ADP Newsletter [11], where she recalls that "ADP actually originated in the Controller's Office, the first [administrative] department to use a punch-card system. The first large system ADP acquired is still with us -- the Alumni Records and Gift Information System (ARGIS) -- and I recall very clearly the accusations that we were using all the tape drives and all the system resources at the expense of the University researchers." (This was to be a recurring theme.) Unfortunately Dorothy did not mention dates or places.)

(Coincidentally, some clue was provided on the front page of the Columbia University website, 18 Jan 2001, and subsequent University Record article [18] announcing the retirement of Joe Sulsona, shift supervisor of the Computer Center machine room, after 42 years: "Sulsona, a New York City native, went from high school directly to the military. When he returned from Korea in 1957 at the age of 23, he studied the latest in computing, gaining experience as a board programmer, which involved the manipulation of wires and plugs on a computer board, much like the original telephone operating systems. He was hired at Columbia's alumni faculty records office as a machine operator and spent his time punching out data cards using a small keypunch machine.")

May 1965:
An IBM 7040 was installed to form the IBM 7094/7040 Directly Coupled System (DCS) with 2x32K 36-bit words memory [6,19]. The 7040 freed the 7090 from mundane input/output and scheduling tasks so its power could be focussed on computation.

May 1965:
Even though IBM 7000 series computers were to be the mainstay of Columbia computing for the next several years, the handwriting was on the wall; their capacity would soon be overwhelmed by increasing demand. IBM proposes the new System/360 architecture for the Computer Center on May 21. This was to be the basis for IBM's mainframe line into the next millenium. Unlike previous IBM mainframes, the 360 was available in a range of compatible models, from small slow machines such as the Model 20 (suitable mainly for printing decks of cards) to the Model 92 supercomputer that they proposed to Columbia, with many in between (IBM's proposal was for a coupled Model 92 and Model 75). Each model could use the same peripherals, and 360-series computers could also be connected to each other in various ways and even share main memory. The 360/92 that IBM proposed, with its thin-film memory technology, turned out to be too expensive. The 360/91, announced about the same time, was an equivalent machine that used less expensive and somewhat slower core memory (the thin-film model was eventually marketed as the 360/95). To achieve supercomputer speeds, the 360/9x models pioneered new concepts such as instruction pipelining and lookahead, branch prediction, cache memory, overlap, and parallelism. The 360/9x series is optimized for scientific calculation and lacks a hardware decimal arithmetic capability (which is simulated in software). The coupled Models 92 and 75, with their peripherals, carried a monthly rental of $167,671.00 (after a 36% educational discount), which works out to over two million dollars a year, and about 22 million over what would be the 11-year lifetime of the system. [32]

Nov 1965:
The blackout of 1965. The lights went out for about 12 hours in Manhattan, most of the US northeast, and large parts of Canada. Interestingly, I can't unearth any stories about the blackout's impact on computing at Columbia. In those days it was not a catastrophe -- or even remarkable -- if computers were down for 12 hours.

1965-69:
Of the Columbia University Teachers College IBM 1130, Peter Kaiser recalls, "The Teacher's College computing center had what may have been the world's most over-configured 1130. It had not only a 2250 but also the additional hardware to make an 1130 into a 1500, the special version designed for interactive instruction; and therefore it could also drive multiple 2260-like terminals. The then director of the TCCC had ambitions use the 1130/1500 for research to improve on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory by timing the responses to the test administered through one of these terminals. When I left to take a real-world job in 1969 that project was in abeyance."

1966-67:
Ken King offers a course in "computer appreciation". Demand was high and half of the 60 students who tried to enroll had to be turned away. Popular computer courses are also offered this year in Engineering, Mathematics, and Sociology [38].

1966:
Watson Lab gets one of the first APL terminals (an IBM 1050), hooked to the M44/44X system in Yorktown, which is a 7044 computer coupled with a 7055 computer that controls a number of terminals. "This system is used to simulate a number of 44X computers, including one per 1050 terminal; the 44X is the computer seen and programmed by the user operating from a 1050 terminal. It is primarily for users of FORTRAN IV" but the 1050 can also be used to run "APL (Iverson Language) programs" on Yorktown's 360/50 (Iverson worked at the Yorktown facility) [88]. APL soon becomes quite popular, both at Watson Lab and CUCCA. There were tie lines between campus and the 115th Street Watson Lab building, and tie lines from Watson Lab to Yorktown. The Watson receptionist (Annie Hall) could, upon request, connect the two, allowing campus 2741 data terminals to access APL at Yorktown [106].

Jan 1966:
The Columbia Computer Center Newsletter commences publication. It would continue in one form or another until November 1994.

Oct 1966:
ADPC staff moves to Casa Hispanica at 612 West 116th Street (around the corner from Chock Full O' Nuts and a couple doors west of Campus Deli), sharing the small building with the Department of Spanish and Portuguese [20] and the IBM teaching facility [17]. Staff from the academic Computer Center also begin to move into this tiny building. Soon it is crammed beyond capacity and offices spill over into neighboring apartment buildings (520 W 114th Street plus a long-gone building on West 117th Street, itself (the street) also just a memory).

1967:
Dr. Seymour H. Koenig (PHOTO), who received his Ph.D. in Physics from Columbia in 1952 (and his BS in 1949) and joined Watson Lab the same year, is appointed its Director [9]. By this time Watson laboratory has RJE access to the big IBM 360s in Yorktown, but when then the link is down they use the CUCCA facilities [9].

1967:
Library automation begins about here. I remember some form of automation starting in the 1966-68 timeframe when I was a student assistant in Butler -- there was already a Library Systems Office on the Mezzanine then; I used to schlepp decks of cards and listings back and forth to the Computer Center for them. By 1967, circulation was already computerized in Central Circulation and Burgess-Carpenter (where I worked at the time), and a collaboration was underway with Stanford and the University of Chicago regarding cataloging and acquisitions [24]; perhaps this was the origin of RLIN. CLICK HERE for more about library automation. AND HERE.

Mar 1967:
In response to IBM's May 1965 proposal, and after lining up sources of funding for it, the Computer Center announces its plan to upgrade and modernize its equipment and to unify academic and administrative computing in a Computer Center Newsletter article written by (of all people) President Grayson Kirk [V2#2-3]. In the first stage, October 1967, an IBM 360/50 was rented [19, 20, 24], to allow the 7090-to-360 conversion to begin.

Aug 1967:
Second stage: An IBM 360/75 was purchased and linked to the 360/50. In the ensuing months, staff learned OS/360, JCL, and some new programming languages like PL/I and SNOBOL, as well as new versions of old ones like WATFOR (the University of Waterloo version of Fortran), and then quickly began to modify the operating system for purposes of accounting and resource limitation, and also to add support for IBM 2741 and other terminals that were not supported yet and then to create a conversational monitor called CLEO to allow job submission and retrieval from terminals [24].

Aug 1967:
The US government mandates a chargeback scheme for computer time, launching the Computer Center on a neverending series of increasingly baroque charging schemes involving "hard currency" and "funny money." The first such scheme was a simple $150 per hour of CPU time (which, in those days, was the same thing as elapsed time), with some grandfathering of existing unsupported projects (Letter of Warren Goodell, 1 Aug 1967, AcIS archives).

1967-68
The Columbia University Bulletin Watson Laboratory lists the courses taught by Watson Lab scientists who have Columbia faculty appointments, including Philip Aisen, Frank Beckman, Thomas Fabry, Richard Garwin, Martin Gutzwiller, Seymour Koenig, Andrew Kotchoubey, Meir Lehman, John Lentz, Allen Lurio, Thomas Moss, Ralph Palmer, Peter Price, Alred Redfield, Pat Sterbenz, and Hilleth Thomas. After the Computer Center opened in 1963, Watson Lab is no longer the focus of computing; its course offerings concentrate on biology, mathematics, and physics, but several computing courses are still listed, including EE E6827x-E6828y Digial Computer Design (Prof. Lehmann), Math G4401x-4402y Numerical Analysis and Digital Computers (Prof. Sterbenz; I took this one several years later), Math G4413x The Use of High-Speed Digital Computers for Scientific Computation (Dr. Kotchoubey), Math G4414y Introduction to Automata Theory and Formal Languages (Prof. Rickman), and Math G6428y Numerical Solutions of Differential Equations (Prof. Thomas).

1968:
The Department of Electrical Engineering becomes the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. This was to be the locus for computer science instruction and research until the establishment of a separate Computer Science Department in 1979.

Jan 1968:
Raphael Ramirez starts work as an operator in the machine room. CLICK HERE to read his reminiscences of the early days.

Feb 1968:
The IBM 7040 was removed [19]. CLEO, an interactive terminal monitor developed here, was released and announced [24].

Apr-May 1968:
The Columbia student uprising of 1968. Computer Center management and some of the staff feared the worst -- invasion, occupation, wreckage -- but nothing happened to the Computer Center at all. Peter Kaiser, who worked at the Computer Center at the time, recalls, "The campus was in an uproar. So was much of America, and the political powers that be were frightened and acting ugly; I have vivid memories of the NYC police lined up ready to do violence to the students who had occupied the administration building, which they eventually did by invading the building and beating up everyone in sight. Before the police stormed the building, though, the computer center's administration feared that the center itself would be occupied, so there were worried talks about what to do if that ever happened. In the event it didn't happen, but the uproar delayed the delivery of the 360." Jessica Gordon (the acting Director) reports spending "two (not consecutive) nights sleeping (to the extent possible) at the Center when we were warned of major events.... One day I was standing on College Walk with a group of others [including Raphael Ramirez] watching the special Tactical Police [Force]..., jack-booted thugs, marching onto campus. As they passed, one of them turned to us and said 'Hi there, sports fans!'". As a participant, I have no recollection of the Computer Center ever being considered as a target for occupation or attack, nor does the Computer Center's Annual report for 1967-68 make any mention of it [24]. However, there might have been a picket line afterwards, since picket lines went up in front of most academic buildings.

Jul 1968:
ADPC joins the Computer Center with its new director (yet to be chosen after York Wong resigned to resume his studies, but who would be Jon Turner) reporting to Ken King. Now there is One Computer Center. Conversion of ADP applications from IBM 1401/1410 to IBM 360 architecture begins; this would take until 1973 [20]. Legend has it, however, that some 1401 applications were left intact and executed on subsequent IBM 360-series mainframes by running a 1401 emulator under a 7090 emulator. Warren Goodell's 14 June 1968 letter announcing the change stresses that even more important than the consolidation of all applications on the new equipment is "the prospect of increased freedom for interchange of ideas and techniques of programming and systems analysis between staffs now separated by artifical organization boundaries" (AcIS archive).

Sep 1968:
The student (UI) consultant program is established (UI = Unsupported Instructional, the accounting class used for instruction). This program is still active today. Students with knowledge of Columbia's computer systems and applications are hired part-time to help users in the public areas. Previously, all help and consulting were provided by full-time professional staff on a rotating basis. Afterwards, full-timers continued to take their turns, but now could devote more time to systems and applications development and support. For more about the origins of the student consulting system, READ THIS.

Dec 1968:
The IBM 7094, 1401, and 360/50 are removed. The 1401 is moved to the Controller's Office [19]. IBM 360 equipment at the end of 1968 consisted of [24]:

With the exception of the last item, all model numbers are IBM.

Mar 1969:
The IBM 360/91 supercomputer (PHOTOS), one of the first "third generation" computers and the biggest, fastest computer on earth at the time, is installed and coupled with the 360/75 [19]. Thus for the second time in 15 years, Columbia is home to the world's fastest computer. Only fifteen 360/91s were made and four of them were retained by IBM for their internal use (other 360/9x sites included Princeton University and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on West 112th Street, just a few blocks away); the giant computer took every inch of space in the Computer Center machine room... extensive renovations had to made to accommodate its sprawling dimensions [20] (this is an understatement; in fact the Computer Center entrance had to be demolished just to get it in the door and most interior walls removed to make space for it [V2#6]).

The 360/75 became the Attached Support Processor (ASP) for the 91, essentially a job scheduler and input/output controller, freeing the 91 for intensive computation. I don't have a photo of our own Model 75, but HERE is one from IBM.

Rather than rent the coupled 360/75/91 system as IBM proposed, the University purchased it outright for seven million dollars [19], to be amortized over seven or eight years (whether seven or eight was a point of much contention, as it affected the chargeback rates levied upon research grants; in fact it was in operation for more than eleven years; thus the decision to purchase saved about fifteen million dollars). Of the total cost, three million dollars was for the 360/91 CPU, memory, and second drum; this was only half the list price due to the educational allowance that was negotiated. The rest was for the 360/75 and its peripherals.

My own (perhaps inflated) recollection is that the 360/91 covered about an acre of floor space, most of which was devoted to full-size cabinets each containing 16K of core memory, for a total of 2MB at about 8 square feet of floorspace (and about 48 cubic feet) per 16K, plus surrounding floorspace for access, times 300. Each memory cabinet had a glass door so you could look in and see each bit. All the disks, tapes, printers, Teletypes and everything else were in there too, plus a vast tape library and specialized test equipment such as the BOM (Byte Oriented Memory) tester.

All this was powered through a gigantic cast-iron motor generator weighing who-knows-how-many tons (just the flywheel probably weighed a ton) putting out 400-some Volts 3-phase power, and cooled by distilled water trucked in by Deer Park in big glass bottles in wooden crates. There was a control room in the basement full of pipes, valves, gauges, pumps, and water jugs and a mammoth cooling tower upstairs, venting half a million BTUs per hour into the atmosphere (Alan Rice, a physics PhD student who was also a night-shift operator, recalls an incident in which a heat alarm summoned the fire department, who were ready to chop the machine up with axes until he talked them out of it).

But the most impressive feature of the 360/91 was its control panel (PHOTO). The operators used to turn off the room lights and stare it at all night, waiting for the yellow "loop mode" light came on (executing a loop in the pipeline without accessing core memory); this was the sign of a well-crafted program. (For more about loop mode, READ THIS.

There was an ongoing bubble chamber experiment in the machine room, which began in the 7094 days. Stereo photographs of bubble chamber events were digitized using the High-Energy Particle Detector (HPD) Flying Spot Scanner (HPD might also stand for Hough-Powell Device), channel-attached to the 360/91, as was a very large IBM 2250 video display with light pen (this terminal alone was said to have cost $100,000), to allow scientists to interactively select interesting events for analysis. This kind of work required physicists to take the computer standalone for hours at a time, which became problematic in later years when it was in demand by the general academic and administrative computing population around the clock, and eventually the experiment was discontinued: the science for which the computer was originally acquired, and which provided much of the funding for it, was squeezed out by the mundane requirements of instruction and administration.

The Stromberg-Carlson "on-line CRT display" (NEED PHOTO) was in fact a kind of graphics plotter, about the size of a panel truck, originally in the machine room but later parked outside in the hallway where it couldn't hurt the other machines. Users created graphics images on the mainframe using a package called IGS, wrote them to 7-track magtape, and had the operators feed the magtape to the plotter. The images were projected on a screen inside the box; a 35mm camera -- no kidding -- would take a picture of the screen, and then somehow disgorge its film, which would be developed in chemical baths, washed, and mounted as a slide that would eventually pop out of the little output slot if all went well, which rarely was the case -- more often the machine leaked acid and/or caught fire. Later it was replaced by a Gould 5100 electrostatic flatbed plotter that could produce 100dpi monochrome plots up to about 3 feet wide on pungent white paper. Various plotting packages (including one that Howard Eskin and I wrote that fitted lines, curves, and splines to data points) were available for it on the mainframe only.

Apr 1969:
The Columbia Computer Center develops, funds, and conducts a 6-month training course in computer skills for 23 students from the local Black and Latino communities: key punching and COBOL programming, with highly successful (96%) post-graduation job placement and followup. (V4#20).

1 Oct 1969:
The first ARPANET transmission took place between the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Shortly thereafter connections were made to the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Utah. The ARPANET expanded to thirteen sites by January 1971, 23 sites by April 1972, and eventually grew into today's wordlwide Internet. Membership was limited to US Department of Defense research grantees until the early 1980s, at which time Columbia University would join.

Dec 1969:
The IBM 1130 at Lamont Geological (now Earth) Observatory in Palisades NY is connected to the Computer Center's IBM 360/91 by leased line for remote job entry (see Glossary), partially replacing the previous messenger service. This was a first in long-haul networking at Columbia University (V4#23). (Peter Kaiser reports that Columbia Teachers College also had an IBM 1130, and it was connected as an RJE station in the same way prior to 1969, but since TC is just across 120th Street, it's not exactly long haul networking.)


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Sep 1970:
The IBM Watson Research Laboratory at Columbia University closes after 25 years of operation and a remarkable record of discovery and achievement. The idea of corporate-sponsored multidisciplinary pure research pioneered here had proven so successful that IBM built a new and much larger facility in 1961 in Yorktown Heights, NY, with others soon to follow in San José, Zürich, and elsewhere, but its research headquarters remained at Columbia, IBM's first research laboratory, until 1970. The IBM T.J. Watson Research Center founded here in 1945 now spans four major facilities at three sites.

The Columbia Computer Center offices and the Columbia Purchasing Department move to the Watson Lab building on 612 West 115th Street. The IBM-Columbia relationship continues for some time afterward mainly in the form of faculty appointments (in 1976 I took a graduate-level numerical analysis course in the Engineering School from one such professor, Pat Sterbenz, author of the book Floating-Point Computation). IBM left behind a machine room with raised floor (back of 7th floor, where they had their 1620), a fully equipped classroom (back of 1), and lots of furniture including my 1940s-vintage Steelcase desk with metal Physics Dept ID plate attached. During its residence at Columbia University, IBM Watson Laboratory staff had been granted 67 patents and published 359 articles in recognized scientific journals [9].

Dorothy Marshall [11] writes, "The third floor was entirely without inner walls and contained large milling machines and other noisy tooling machines, as well as pipes, hoses, and exhaust ducts [but] the staff at Casa Hispanica felt they were extraordinarily crowded" [so were glad for the additional space]. Nola Johnson writes in the same issue, "I remember when we were packed like sardines in Casa Hispanica. There would be three or four of us in one tiny room, complete with keypunch and fireplace."

Until about the mid-1970s, CUCC staff submitted jobs from Watson (as they had done from Casa Hispanica), and messengers went back and forth delivering decks of cards and rolled-up printouts. In fact, the rolled-up printouts still arrive each day, from a daily batch job that was submitted decades ago and still runs faithfully; nobody knows exactly what it does or how to cancel it.

31 Jan 1971:
Professor Wallace Eckert, founder of the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory, attends the Apollo 14 launch. The lunar orbit calculations upon which the Apollo missions were based were done by Eckert at Watson Laboratory and on the SSEC computer [42,92], designed at Watson Laboratory under Eckert's direction in the late 1940s, and later improved on the Lab's NORC, IBM 650, and 1620 computers, and still later on the Computer Center's IBM 7094. Eckert died six months later.

Aug 3-5, 1971:
At the second annual Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) computer chess championship at ACM 71 in Chicago, the Columbia Computer Chess Program (CCCP) came in tied for 3-6 in a field of 8. CCCP was written by Columbia student (and now CS faculty member) Steve Bellovin and CUCCA's Aron Eisenpress, Ben Yalow, and Andrew Koenig. For more about the development of CCCP, READ THIS.

Aug 1971:
Stanford University's Wylbur [49] is installed on the 360/75, replacing a previous system called CRBE. Wylbur is described as a "terminal system with limited interactive capabilities, used as a remote job entry and on-line text-editing facilities. ... Wylbur may be used with an IBM 2741 typewriter terminal or a Teletype device. At present CUCC's Wylbur does not support IBM 2260 terminals" (early video terminals in the 2nd floor Computer Center terminal room); the Jan 1972 Newsletter announces their replacement with a "similar CRT device", the Hazeltine 2000 (four of them) [V6#7]. The IBM 2741 was a Selectric typewriter embedded in a small-desk-size cabinet crammed with electronics and wires, which communicated at 134.5 bits per second, half duplex (when it was the computer's turn to transmit, it physically locked its keyboard). There was also limited dialup access; in those days this was at 110 to 300 bits per second by acoustically coupled modems. More about Wylbur below.

Oct 1971:
Ken King resigns as Computer Center Director and moves to CUNY as Dean of Computer Systems. Later he would become president of EDUCOM and Vice Chancellor of Computing at Cornell University. Dr. Warren F. Goodell, VP for Administration, Ken's boss, assumes Acting Director position (V6#6), but since he was not on site, Jessica Hellwig (Gordon), who had previously been on the IBM Watson Lab computing staff [21] had day-to-day responsibility.

(Newsletters of the early 70s were devoted mainly to JCL hints and tips, announcements of meetings and conferences, announcements of OS/360 upgrades, explanations of cost accounting, and lists of unclaimed tapes in the tape library -- up to 6 pages of numeric tape IDs on one occasion (in the Earth Week issue no less: V6#5, 15 Apr 1971) -- plus the annual April Fools Issue, usually featuring parodies of cost accounting. Prior to 1971, they also contained abstracts or reports of research projects, e.g. "Motivating Learning in Interracial Situations" (V5#2); "French Business Elite Study", Jonathan Cole et al; "Transport and Fluid Mechanics in Artificial Organs", Ed Leonard et al (V5#13); as well as Computer Science Colloquia.)

Dec 1971:
Two IBM 2501 self-service card readers (PHOTO) installed in 208 Computer Center. "The use of self-service card readers affords CUCC users much greater security for their decks at both the submission and the retrieval points of running a job. Users will be able to read in their own decks and keep them while the job is running -- thereby eliminating the risk of loss or mishandling of the deck by the Center. Also, since input decks no longer need be left in the output bins, the exposure of users' JOB cards -- and therefore their project numbers -- to anauthorized persons [some things never change] will be significantly reduced. In addition to this increased security, the 2501's will also provide greater efficiency since the user will be able to discover and correct immediately such problems as off-punched cards [hanging and pregnant chad were evidently not an issue in 1971], rather than having to wait for the job to be processed by the Center." (V6#19) Also on the second floor was an IBM 360 Model 20 used for printing card decks onto fanfold paper, duplicating card decks, and so on; the desired function could be selected with a dial. There was (and had been for some time) a key punch room on the first floor. Later the Model 20 was moved to the key punch room.

Apr 1972:
TPMON installed, allows terminal lines to be switched among different applications such as Wylbur (and what else?) rather than dedicated to a specific one.

Sep 1972:
IBM OS/360 21.0 installed (V6#33).

1973:
The following was posted by Arthur T. Murray on alt.folklore.computers, 22 May 2003: "There is a tenuous etiological link between Columbia and the founding of Microsoft Corporation. Here in Seattle WA USA, a Columbia Ph.D. grad in astronomy, Dr. James R. Naiden -- now in his late eighties -- around 1973 was teaching Latin at The Lakeside School. 'Doc' Naiden observed that the students were eager to get into computers, so he asked (Naiden was always starting things, e.g., he hired Vilem Sokol to run the Seattle Youth Symphony for many years; he also started a history-of-literature or some such group, still allegedly running at the University of Washington) the Lakeside Mothers Club to donate some money from their annual Lakeside Rummage Sale to buying some computer time-share for the kids -- back then there were no personal computers. The Mothers put up one thousand dollars, which Bill Gates and Paul Allen ran through in a matter of weeks. Upshot: Columbia >> Doc Naiden >> Lakeside School >> Microsoft Corp."

Jan 1973:
V6#46 mentions twenty-five IBM 2741 terminals being replaced by (presumably compatible) Anderson-Jacobson 841 terminals, which were cheaper to rent ($88 versus $100 per month).

Feb 1973:
The Self-Service Input/Output (SSIO) Area (PHOTO GALLERY) is opened on the first floor of the Computer Center building. Equipment included two card readers, two IBM 1403 printers, one online card punch (NEED PHOTO), a sorter, a collator, an interpreter, a duplicator, four Hazeltine 2000 user terminals, and one job inquiry console -- all "self service" -- plus a large number of IBM 029 key punches, and a resident "Insultant" whom I remember well from my student days. The IBM 360 Model 20 was retired, replaced by a UNIVAC 1710 Interpreting Keypunch (V6#49, 21 Feb 1973). Now, for the first time, users could not only submit their own jobs but also get the results themselves as soon as the job had run. Sometimes, standing in line at the card readers, were social scientists with "data sets" spanning 4 or 5 boxes of cards (2000 cards per box); submitting jobs of this size rarely proceeded without incident (jams, dropped decks). The normal student Open Batch job deck was a quarter inch thick and generally went through the system quickly. A Hazeltine 2000 ASP Job Inquiry station let you watch your job rise through the queue so you could elbow your way through the crowd to the printer when your job output started. Every night from 7 to 9pm was "System Time", meaning the Systems Group from Watson Lab had the 360/91 to themselves and the readers and printers were shut down. The SSIO area was a miserable place during those two hours. More about SSIO HERE. More about self-service computing just below in the entry for Sep 1973.

22 May 1973:
Birth of Ethernet (a local area networking technology that would reach Columbia in the early 1980s and persist for decades), developed by Bob Metcalfe of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which also gave us the graphical user interface and desktop metaphor.

May 1973:
Resignation of Joe Gianotti (Assistant Director), Ira Fuchs (systems programmer, who would go on to direct the CUNY facility and to found BITNET, become President of CREN, etc.), Aron Eisenpress, Ben Yalow, and other members of the Systems group, to join Ken King at CUNY, which was acquiring brand-new then-leading-edge IBM 370/168 hardware (V6#54). Soon more would follow.

May 1973:
Dr. Bruce Gilchrist is appointed the new Director of the Columbia University Computer Center (he would assume full-time duties in July). He also receives an appointment to the faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Bruce was the inventor of the fast adder while at the Princeton Institute of Advanced Study (1955), then Director of Computing at the University of Syracuse (mid-to-late 1950s), joined IBM in 1959 and became manager of IBM's Service Bureau and Data Processing divisions (1963-68). While at IBM Bruce was Secretary and then Vice President of the Association for Computing Machinery, ACM (1960-64), and afterwards was President and Executive Director of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, AFIPS (1968-73).

Sep 1973:
Bruce introduced the Open Batch system (V6#60), opening up "The Computer" to the masses for the first time, and renamed CUCC (Columbia University Computer Center) to CUCCA (Columbia University Center for Computing Activities), in recognition that computing was beginning to take place outside the machine room. SSIO soon became unbelievably crowded.

Oct 1973:
The IBM 1410 is removed [19].

1974:
Snapshot: When I came to the CUCCA Systems Group in 1974, Dr. Howard Eskin was manager of Systems (197?-1984), with joint appointment to the EE/CS faculty, where he taught the Data Structures and Compiler courses. The big languages for systems programming then were 360 assembler, APL, PL/I and SPITBOL (a SNOBOL dialect). CUCCA included both academic and administrative computing under a single director, all in the Watson building at 612 W 115th Street. Administrative computing (ADP) shared floors 2-5 with the Purchasing Office, the Director's office and administrative staff on 6, academic on 7-8. Offices had chalkboards for scribbling ideas and diagrams. People used Hazeltine terminals at 1200 bps, connected to a multiplexer in the back of 7 that was connected by leased telephone line to the 3705 in the machine room, and that always conked out on rainy days. There was no e-mail. The Penthouse was a kind of cafeteria, with tables and chairs (I remember checkered tablecloths and gingham curtains) and a working, if rarely-used, kitchen. The back of the first floor was a large classroom (now divided into the network and mail rooms); across from the elevator was a big Xerox copying room (Joe Iglesias), and there was a grand lobby and reception area, approximately where the "art gallery" is now, plus some administrative offices (Helen Ransower). There was a shower in the basement (later converted to a darkroom by Andy Koenig, and later to a weight-lifting room by Lloyd, the messenger/front-desk guy, an Olympic hopeful). The Penthouse later became a ping-pong room (for Vace), then AIS offices, later it was divided between the Kermit machine/production room and a sometimes-office sometimes-conference-room. The back of the 7th floor was an IBM machine room dating from the 1950s, complete with raised floor, "space phone" floor-tile pullers, and communication cables radiating out to all the offices. The famous 1957 book about IBM, Think [8], speaks of teak paneling and cozy fireplaces, but those were in the first Watson Lab, not this one.

In those days, the Computer Center had a certain academic standing not only through faculty appointments, but also for its R&D activities and library. The non-circulating research library (not to be confused with the Thomas J Watson Library of the Business School) in room 209 of the Computer Center Building was a full-fledged branch of the Columbia Library, complete with card catalog and librarian (the original librarians were Julia Jann and Hugh Seidman; Nuala Hallinan [20] was librarian from 1966 to 1973, succeeded by Evelyn Gorham). The holdings, cataloged in Butler Library, included computer science books and journals as well as computer manuals and Computer Center handouts [25]. New acquisitions continued until at least 1973. Eventually (about 1980) the collection was transferred to the Engineering Library.

Several technical staff members performed pure R&D, for example Richard Siegler who worked half-time on an an AI medical diagnosis assistant in SPITBOL with Dr. Rifkin at the Medical Center. An annual catalog, the Columbia University Bulletin, Computing Activities [7] was published, as well as a Technical Abstract of each year's research projects. CUCCA was co-sponsor (with EE/CS) of the University Colloquium in Computer Science. There was an alliance with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on 112th Street, which had one of the four existing IBM 360/95s.

The academic user community was quite small. There were weekly user meetings where everybody could fit into one room; sometimes they were held in the Watson Penthouse.

1974-78:
Heyday of Wylbur, and the age of the Hazeltine 2000 video terminal mainly on Olympus (aside from four Hazeltines available to users in 208 Computer Center: V6#22). Wylbur was an interactive linemode editor that could be used from a hardcopy or video terminal. It was far more than an editor, however; it was the equivalent of the latter-day "shell"; users lived in Wylbur all day, writing Wylbur execs (like shell scripts), programs, and JCL; submitting jobs, querying jobs, sending screen messages (but not e-mail) to each other, and so on. Wylbur originally came from Stanford but was improved beyond recognition by Dave Marcus and later Vace Kundakci, who also converted it to TSO and later to VM/CMS. It's still used today on our IBM mainframes, but unfortunately we could never export it due to licensing issues. Eventually Wylbur terminals -- hardwired to the 3705 -- were available to departments; sometimes these were video terminals, sometimes IBM 2741 (IBM hardcopy terminals made from Selectric typewriters).

When developing software on the mainframe, writing in assembler, Fortran, PL/I, etc (compiled, not interpreted, languages), programs would often "dump core" because of faulty instructions (bugs, mistakes). In those days, a core dump meant a literal dump of literal core memory to the printer, in hex, sometimes several feet thick. To find the fault, programmers would have to decode the core dump from the listing by hand, separating instructions, addresses, and data -- a lost art (and good riddance!) When the DEC-20s arrived on the scene, it became possible to analyze and debug core images (and even running programs) interactively and symbolically with a tool called (what else) DDT, and debugging tasks that once took days or weeks became quick and even fun. DDT-like tools live on today in Unix as 'adb' and 'gdb'.

May 1974:
Snapshot: Wylbur has 500 users. CALL/360 has 50-100 users. There are 2000 batch users. 50% of each programmer's time is spent helping users. ADP submits 10% of the batch jobs but uses 50% of the machine. Because of their EAM backgrounds, the Registrar's and Controller's Offices consider the 360/91 a "large sorter". 90% of billing is for funny money. Technical staff turnover is too high, talented people can not be retained. [33]

1974-75:
First "proof of concept" home computers introduced (Mark-8, Altair).

1975:
IBM 3705 communications front end replaced by an NCR COMTEN (which lasted until August 1998), after a two-week training course in the Watson Lab classroom in the back of the 1st floor.

Jul 1975:
A DEC PDP-11/50 minicomputer (PHOTOS) was installed, running the RSTS/E timesharing system (we considered UNIX, but it was not nearly ready for large-scale production use in a hostile environment). This was the first true general-purpose public-access timesharing system (not counting APL and CALL/OS (aka CALL/360), which were both OS/360 subsystems (essentially batch jobs, each of which controlled a number of terminals simultaneously); the latter was only for the Business School and APL, though open to the public, required special terminals which were not to be found in abundance, and was not exactly user friendly). RSTS/E was to be a small pilot project to absorb the CALL/OS users and attract new ones. 32 people could use it at a time (because it had 32 terminals). Accounts were free. Within a few months of installation, it was already logging nearly ten times the usage that CALL/OS had at its peak [19].

The primary programming language (like in CALL/OS) was BASIC (another reason why RSTS was chosen over UNIX, which didn't have BASIC), but Fortran and Macro-11 were also available. As I recall, the PDP-11/50 cost about $150,000. It occupied a fairly large room (208) in the Computer Center down the hall from the IBM machine room, and was comprised of four full-width cabinets (CPU, tape drive, communications, I forget what else) and a 92MB RP04 3330-type disk drive, plus a 2K fixed-head drive for swapping (RS04?). I took care of it myself (backups and all) for maybe a year, then Ben Beecher joined me and later also some part-timers. Ben and I sat in the room with it full-time for several years. Our terminals were DECwriters (later VT05, VT50, VT52, and finally VT100, and at one point a GE Terminet, that worked and sounded like a bandsaw). But even without the Terminet, the room was so loud we had to wear airport ear-protectors. Ben was RSTS manager after the DEC-20s came in 1977. Eventually RSTS had a user population of 1700. It was retired in 1982.

Jul 1975:
The IBM 1410 in the Controller's Office is replaced by an IBM 370/115 [19].

Mid 1970s:
Here begins the decline of centralized campus computing. Minicomputers begin to sprout in the departments, encouraged by government grants that would buy equipment but wouldn't pay for central computer time. (The same trend was evident at other universities; it created the need for campus networking, and thus -- since a way was needed to interconnect all these campus networks -- the Internet.) Some of the early departmental minis I remember were the SEL (later Gould) 810B in the Dept of Applied Physics (nearly as big as a subway car, 16K of memory, 2 registers, Teletype, paper tape, card reader, drum printer, and an oscilloscope-like CRT display for graphics). Applied Physics also had an Imlac graphics processor (which never worked) and several early PDP-8 models for controlling experiments.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, I worked in Applied Physics and used the departmental computers for both work and EE/CS projects. The SEL (Systems Engineering Laboratories, later Gould) 810B was the most advanced, since it had i/o devices and could be programmed in Fortran and assembly language. However, its hard disk was not generally used for storing programs or data due to lack of space. Instead, programs were read from cards or paper tape; this required toggling in a bootstrap program on the console switches: a series of 16-bit words was deposited in successive memory locations and then executed to activate the Teletype as the control device, which could be used in turn to activate the card or paper tape reader to read the program. Production programs were generally punched in object format onto paper tape (since the paper tape reader/punch was much faster than the card reader). The PDP-8 computers, as I recall, had no Teletype, card reader, or paper tape, and were programmed directly from the console switches.

The Physics Department in Pupin Hall had a DEC PDP-4, several PDP-8s, a PDP-9, and a PDP-15; Electrical Engineering had a PDP-7 on the 12th floor of Mudd, that we studied down to the gate level in the 1970s EE/CS Computer Architecture course. (The PDP-7 is also the machine for which the UNIX operating was originally written at Bell Labs in the late 1960s.) The keypunch room was on the 2nd floor of Engineering Terrace near the back exit, connected by tunnel to the SSIO area. There were often long waits for punches. The 1976 Bulletin [7] also lists:

plus various special-purpose computers for Fourier transforms, etc, some of them possibly analog (rather than digital) on campus, as well as all sorts of computing equipment at the outlying campuses (no doubt a tale in itself).

1976:
Andy Koenig's RSTS e-mail program, the first e-mail at CU. Andy was a prominent member of the CUCCA technical staff (reponsible for at least APL and PL/I) who went on to Bell Labs and fame with C++. His dad is Dr. Seymour H. Koenig, who was at Watson Lab from 1952 to 1970, and its director from 1967 [9,17]. Andy's frequent co-author is Barbaro Moo, also formerly of CUCCA.

Nowadays most of the University conducts its business by e-mail, and it has been an enormous productivity booster, eliminating telephone tag, enabling one-to-many messaging, and filling an ever-increasing role in instruction and research. As early as 1983 (the 9 Feb 1983 Newsletter, V15#2, is full of allusions to this), professors were sending assignments to their classes by e-mail and collecting results the same way, with the added benefit of questions and answers and other discussions that could not fit in the classroom schedule.

Readers who were not exposed to electronic mail prior to the Internet explosion of the mid-1990s probably won't appreciate how much more useful and pleasant it was before then, even in its original text-only format. Today (2001) I typically have 200 messages waiting for me each morning, of which 98% are spam, advertisements, promotions, junk mail, get-rich-quick schemes, chain letters, "office humor", pornography, and deliberate (but unsuccessful) attempts at implanting viruses (Windows e-mail attachments containing viruses or worms have no effect on my UNIX-based plain-text mail client) -- or security alerts or complaints about all of these. In the 1970s and 80s, by contrast, practically every e-mail message was legitimate (and usually only 1-2K bytes in length).

Even when e-mail is exchanged between consenting parties, the demands posed by multimedia attachments -- Microsoft Word documents, spreadsheets, images, audio and video clips, even entire music CDs or motion pictures -- have coerced the University to constantly upgrade its network and mail server capacity, and of course the costs are inevitably passed back to the consumer in the form of tuition or overhead increases and/or cutbacks in other areas.

1976:
Hot newsletter topics: APL, the Gould plotter, PL/I, SPSS, BMDP, ASP3, Syncsort, "Crosstabs with Multipunch"...

Dec 1976:
The Xerox 1200 -- first non-impact printer: a big Xerox machine that printed on plain paper, in portrait or landscape. Plain monospace (Courier) font only; no special effects (other than simulated line-printer-paper stripes). I don't remember exactly where the input came from -- either it had an IBM mainframe channel connection, or else it read from 9-track magnetic tape, but in any case it was possible to print on it from both the IBM and DEC systems.

1977: (Month?)
Because the IBM 360/91 was more suited to scientific calculations and lacked decimal arithmetic, and because of security questions posed by the Open Batch system, which opened it up to the student population, ADP acquires a separate mainframe exclusively for administrative work, an IBM 370/138 located in the Computer Center machine room and running VM/CMS (later to be upgraded to 370/148, 3031 (1979), 3083 (1983), 3090 (1986), etc). A new Personnel (now we would say "Human Resources") system was developed for the 370 in house, and administrative applications began to migrate from punch cards and batch to interactive online systems [20]. The arrival of the IBM 370 launches an effort to convert administrative applications from batch to online, with IBM 3270 block-mode terminals allowing interactive access to administrative systems such as student records, accounts receivable, and so on.

Jul 1977:
The IBM 370/115 in the Controller's Office is removed. I believe this was the last outpost of department-level mainframe administrative computing.

Jul 1977:
The blackout of 1977. No electricity for two days (July 13-14). Howard (Eskin) and I were in Watson Lab the evening of the 13th working on the floor plan for the 272A Engineering Terrace terminal room when the lights went out. We were also in the middle of our first DEC-20 installation, a six-week process (so two lost days were not a disaster).

Aug 1977:
Our PDP-11/50 was invaded (via modem) by a gang of prep-school kids, who had their way with it undetected for several weeks. This was the first hacker breakin to a Columbia computer from the outside, and it went to court. It cost us nearly a week of round-the-clock systems work and delayed the DEC-20 opening by a week. Later the same group invaded other RSTS systems and even (as I recall) destroyed a cement company in Quebec. The prep school in question had purchased a PDP-11 with RSTS and let the students run it without supervision; thus the students had hands-on access and full privileges, with ample opportunity to probe their own system for vulnerabilities, write Trojan-horse replacements for system software, etc, in-house before attacking external sites, and indeed they did a good job: their modified LOGIN program let them in silently, with full "root" privileges; the modified accounting programs did not list their sessions; the modified DIRECTORY program did not list their directories or files; the modified SYSTAT program did not show their jobs, and so on. Eventually they tipped their hand by accidentally printing a password list on a public printer, and we tracked them down using methods remarkably similar to those used by Cliff Stoll 10 years later to catch the German hackers at Berkeley [46] (see 1986-87 below), such as Y-connecting hardcopy terminals to the modems to log dialin sessions.

Aug 1977:
Our first DECSYSTEM-20, CU20A (PHOTOS), was installed for large-scale timesharing. Accounts were free and available to all (or maybe there was a one-time $5.00 fee; later, per-semester or per-course fees would be added). It cost 800,000 dollars [19] and was much larger than the PDP-11, a row of double-width orange cabinets about 10 feet long, plus four 178MB RP06 washing-machine-size 3350-type disk drives, but unlike the PDP-11, had little in the way of lights and switches (if you didn't count the PDP-11/40 communications front end hidden inside it). It had 256K 36-bit words of main memory, two 800/1600bpi TU45 tape drives (later TU77, TU78), an LP20 drum printer (mainly for backup listings), and an LA36 system console hardcopy terminal. It also had a DN20 communications processor (PDP-11/34 concealed in orange full-size cabinet) for remote job entry (see Glossary) to the IBM mainframes. CU20A was originally a model 2040, and so it had core memory and no cache; later it was upgraded to a 2050 and then a 2065; the core became MOS and cache was added, memory increased to 2MB. Each user got 35KB (that's KB, not MB or GB) of disk space. The first DEC-20 marked the beginning of the "online campus" in which the computer was used not just for calcalation and programming, but also communication among users and (eventually) with the outside world.

The DEC-20 was a member of the DEC's 36-bit PDP-10 line of computers, which descended from the PDP-6, first produced in 1964, and which itself has its roots in the 36-bit IBM 700 series that goes back to 1952. PDP-10s, however, were distinct from 20s: they had a different operating system (TOPS-10 instead of TOPS-20); they came in a variety of models (KA, KI, KL, KS), whereas DEC-20s came in only KL and KS models; PDP-10s were more suited to hands-on lab work, with all sorts of devices and attachments lacking from the -20s such as real-time bus-attached instruments; DECtapes, paper tape, and graphics devices; they could be installed in multiprocessor configurations; and they were blue rather than orange. DEC-20s could run TOPS-10 applications in an "emulation mode", but not vice versa, and until the very end, quite a bit of DEC-20 software was indeed native to TOPS-10 (e.g. the linker and most of the compilers).

The DEC-20 pioneered all sorts of advanced concepts such as a swappable monitor (kernel), lightweight processes (threads), page mapping, shared pages with copy-on-write, hardware assisted paging, and other techniques to allow large numbers of users access to a limited resource (CLICK HERE for details). Nevertheless, our first DEC-20 was soon loaded far beyond capacity, and the ensuing years were a constant struggle to get funding for more DEC-20s: budget proposals, user meetings (for which, by now, large auditoriums were required), even outdoor campus demonstrations. But DEC-20s were expensive; they demanded copious floor space and air conditioning, as well as 3-phase power with isolated ground (a 10-foot copper stake literally driven into bedrock outside the CUCCA loading dock). Annual maintenance alone was something like $100,000 per machine, and each one carried an additional $10,000 electric bill. Therefore adding DEC-20s was difficult and painful. There were all sorts of revenue-raising schemes and eventually we had 4 of them, CU20A through CU20D, serving 6000 users, up to 70 or 80 logged in simultaneously on each. Additional DEC-20s for instruction and research were installed at Teachers College and in the Computer Science department.

DEC-20s were fairly reliable for their day. Unlike the IBM mainframe with its scheduled two-hour nightly System Time, the DEC-20s were kept running and available all the time except for a couple hours (usually outside of prime time) every week or two for "preventive maintenance" by DEC Field Service. But by today's standards they crashed frequently anyway, usually because of power glitches; so often, in fact that somebody had a batch of %DECSYSTEM-20 NOT RUNNING T-shirts made up (this was the dying gasp of the DEC-20 as it went down). Whenever a DEC-20 was up for more than 100 hours, people became quite excited. The record was just shy of 800 hours (about a month); MTBF was under 100 hours (4 days). By comparison, today (8 Feb 2001) I have an HP workstation in my office that has been up continuously for 883 days (that's more than 21,000 hours), despite numerous brownouts and momentary power failures, and that's without a UPS (eventually its running streak was interrupted at 900-some days when electricians needed to shut off power to the floor to replace the circuit-breaker panel).

For lots more about the Columbia DEC-20s, CLICK HERE.

(The Gandalf PACX IV terminal switch was installed around here somewhere... Prior to that terminals were hardwired using various forgotten technologies like 20mA Current Loop. The PACX was a speed-transparent 1000x1000 switch, driven by little blue "PACX boxes" on the user end, with thumbwheels to dial the desired service and an on/off switch.)

1977-78:
Use of e-mail takes off. Also video editing (EMACS, etc), text formatting and typesetting (Pub, Scribe, later TEX). In April 1978, we write a "bboard" (bulletin board) program, a kind of precursor to netnews, where everybody on campus could sound off in public. Various bboards were available, including course-specific boards, topical boards, and a "general" (any topic) board, and were unmoderated and uncensored. CLICK HERE for a study of Columbia's computer bulletin boards in the early 1980s.

Jan 1978:
The 272A Engineering Terrace terminal room opens (V10#2). This was the first public terminal room outside the Computer Center building. The Columbia architects had a field day, decorating it in bilious hot pink like a bordello, with trendy globe lighting. (The April Fools 1978 issue of the Newsletter (V10#5) presents the "coveted Louis XVI Alive with the Arts" award to the Department of Buildings and Grounds [now Facilities Management] for "their exceptional work in recreating the atmosphere of an 18th century French palace. ... Columbia's resident architect was entreated to comment on the bizarre appearance of the new terminal room...") Notwithstanding the decor, the room was laid out according to our floorplan, divided into cubicles about 4 feet high so people would have privacy when sitting, but could stand up to chat and hand things back and forth. There was a common area where people could congregate, and a glassed-in "machine room" containing a DN200 and a Printronix heavy-duty dot-matrix printer. Each cubicle had a terminal and a spacious working surface for books and papers and its own reading light. Large cubicles had LA36 DECwriters (hard-copy 132-column dot-matrix printers operating at 30 cps on pin-feed green-and-white striped fanfold paper) and the smaller ones had Perkin-Elmer Fox-1100 CRTs operating at 9600 bps (this was the first affordable CRT, costing about $500, compared to most others that cost a thousand dollars and up). Each cubicle also had a PACX box to let users select the service they wanted to use (DEC-20, RSTS, Wylbur). Eventually the lab was re-architected, expanded, and . . . REDECORATED. Too bad if you missed it (does anybody have a color photo of the original?)

Mar 1978:
APL conversion from IBM to DEC-20 was a big topic for many months. Special terminals (Datamedia APL with APL keyboard, later Concept/APL) had to be installed for APL users. To further encourage IBM to DEC migration, I wrote a mini-Wylbur ("Otto") for the DEC-20; Joel and his brother worked on a real Wylbur for some time but it's not done yet.

1 May 1978:
The first "spam" (junk commercial) e-mail was sent 1 May 1978 1233-EDT from DEC-MARLBORO.ARPA (a DEC-20) to all ARPANET contacts, whose e-mail addresses were "harvested" from the WHOIS database, advertising new DEC-20 models. More about this HERE.

May 1978:
OS/360 21.8 (which was released by IBM in 1970) installed on the IBM 360/91. Eight years in the making! The ex-CUCC systems people who defected to CUNY had to come back and teach nightly classes on OS/360 and what they had done to it (many things, including over 200 modifications for accounting and resource-limitation purposes) before their replacements could bring up the new release without fear of losing something vital.

May 1978:
Tektronix 4010 graphics a big topic in the newlsetters.

(Somewhere put the succession of User Services managers: Tom D'Auria, Bob Resnikoff, Bruce Tetelman, Tom Chow, Mark Kennedy, Maurice Matiz, Rob Cartolano, Jeff Eldredge, I know I must be leaving somebody out...) and SSIO (Marianne Clarke, Lois Dorman, Chris Gianone, ...) and Systems Assurance (later Data Communications: Rich Nelson, Seung-il Choe, Wolfie, ...) and CUCCA business managers (Peter Bujara, Neil Sachnoff, Patty Peters, Bob Bingham, Julie Lai...) About User Services, Maurice Matiz adds:

User Services existed only up to early in my era. After Vace's appointment and my appointment (I believe the only two managerial and higher level appointments that required a trying and complete interview by the whole University occurred in late 1989) did the groups that now define AcIS get created except that User Services comprised three groups.

User Services stayed until Jeff Eldrege's group was spun out of my group, which had grown to over 25 people, in late 1994. (My diagramed proposal is dated 11/28/94.) At that time we changed names. Jeff's group became the Support Center and my group was renamed Academic Technologies. Also spun out at the time was what became EDS to report to Walter Bourne.

Dec 1978:
First mention of UNIX by CUCCA in public (referring to the BSTJ UNIX issue [15]). V10#18.

1979:
The Computer Science Department was created as a separate entity (previously it was part of the EE Dept) with Joseph Traub from CMU as Chair, and a $200,000 donation from IBM. Joe had been a Watson Fellow in Applied Mathematics in 1958-59 [9]. The Computer Science Building was constructed 1981-83 [12]. Before long a DECSYSTEM-20, several VAX-11/750s, and numerous workstations (early Suns and others) would be installed in the new CS facility.

Jan 1979:
Public terminals were available in SSIO (20), 272A Engineering Terrace (14), Furnald Lobby (4), 224 Butler (4), and Hartley Lobby (4). V11#2. Systems Assurance staff (Bob Galanos) would make the rounds on a daily basis to fix broken terminals, usually by replacing fuses taken out by students to "reserve" terminals for their own use.

Feb 1979:
Scribe, Diablo, printwheel lore dominates the Newsletter. Big business in printwheels. The Diablo was a typewriter-like terminal with a daisy-wheel print mechanism capable of proportional spacing, superscripts and subscripts, and even boldface (by doublestriking) and italics (by swapping printwheels). The CUCCA newsletter was printed on the Diablo for some years, and Diablos were deployed in public areas for users. Scribe included a Diablo driver, which produced .POD ("Prince Of Darkness") files for it, and we wrote software to "spool" these files to the Diablo itself, allowing pauses to change paper or printwheels. Printwheels were available in a variety of fonts and alphabets, but weren't cheap ($98 springs to mind).

Aug 1979:
COMND JSYS package written for SAIL (so we could write user-friendly programs for the DEC-20 in a high-level language). Andy Lowry and David Millman.

Sep 1979:
HP2621 industrial-strength video terminals installed in Mudd and elsewhere, including a new lab in Carman Hall. This was the face of CUCCA to our users; many of them thought the DEC-20s were made by HP. These are monochrome text terminals with good editing capabilties (for EMACS) and solidly built. Some had built-in thermal printers. A few units are still to be found here in good working order.

1979-80:
Chris Ryland and I write a 200-plus-page guide to DEC-20 assembly-language programming. We were thinking of turning it into a book but Ralph Gorin of Stanford University beat us to it.


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1980 Photo Gallery:

1980:
Instructional computing capacity badly needs expansion. At this point, CUCCA has three instructional systems: the IBM 360/91 Open Batch system (soon to be retired), the PDP-11/50 (fully saturated), and a single DECSYSTEM-20, CU20A, which is in constant demand and heavily overburdened. There is much gathering of statistics to understand usage patterns. In response to student and faculty demands, the Collery Committee (Arnold Collery was Dean of Columbia College) was appointed to make recommendations. The instructional computers were overloaded, but why? Was the new usage real or frivolous? A witch-hunt was launched against "text processing" (preparing papers on the computer, sending e-mail, etc). Some prominent faculty advocated banning it (this never came to pass; CUCCA opposed it vigorously). CPU and connect-time limits were to be instituted. Fees were to be increased. Various disincentives would be established against using the computers during "prime time."

The tug of war between demand and resources is a persistent theme in academic computing. There has never been, and probably never will be, a clear linkage between demand and supply. Whenever resources (such as computer time, disk space, modems, network bandwidth) become scarce, as they always do, funding for expansion does not flow automatically (nor should it). First there is a demand for a precise accounting of how, for what, and by whom the current resources are being consumed, the gathering of which in turn taxes the resources still futher. Once the information is obtained, demands to flush out inappropriate use -- whose definition varies with the times (e.g. network capacity versus Napster in 2000) -- quickly follow.

Of course instructional computing on the DEC-20s was true to this pattern. CU20A drove itself near to melting by accounting for itself. And then complicated limits were imposed on CPU time, connect time, and every other imaginable resource (using locally written software) until the interactive computing experience was surpassingly unpleasant for everyone: students, faculty, and staff alike. Relief was still more than a year away.

One of the measures taken to alleviate the load on CU20A was to abolish the free perpetual student user IDs and replace them with class-related IDs that lasted only for the duration of each course. While this ensured that the DEC-20 was used only for "legitimate" purposes, it also made it impossible for students to build up a corpus of tools and information they could use throughout their Columbia experience. A series of discussions took place throughout 1980 exploring different possibilites for providing students with some form of self-service, inexpensive, removeable media. The result was Kermit.

Jan 1980:
CUCCA announces its intention to connect to ARPANET, V12#1 (but without any firm prospects of doing so, since in those days the only entree was a big Defense Department grant, which we didn't have and didn't want). In the meantime, however, staff (but not end-users) had access through our DECnet link to COLUMBIA-20.ARPA, the Computer Science DEC-20 (July 1983), and prior to that by dialup to the NYU Elf and guest accounts at Rutgers, Harvard, Stanford, CMU and elsewhere.

Feb 1980:
DECnet first operational (between CU20A and the DN200 in Mudd).

Feb 1980:
The DEC-20 MM (Mail Manager) e-mail program becomes popular. V12#2

Jun 1980:
We were considering joining TELENET and TYMNET (commercial X.3/X.25 based networks) but never did; it was way too expensive [1]. These were strictly terminal-to-host networks, but would have allowed travellers to dial up with a local call from almost anywhere in the USA or Canada, and conceivably could have taken the place of in-house modem pools.

Sep 1980:
Donald Knuth visits and gives a series of lectures on TEX.

Oct 1980:
Second DEC-20 installed, CU20B, for use by funded researchers and staff only; to be paid for out of income, since the budget request for a second instructional DEC-20 had been denied, again, even though the first one was seriously overloaded, and despite vocal support form students and faculty (and us of course). CU20B removed considerable load from CU20A and bought us some time until we finally were able to expand the instructional resources a year later with CU20C. (In fact, for a short period, we were able to put some students on CU20B, in their own "partition", isolated from the paying users.) There was no common file system yet; communication wth CU20A was via DECnet (NFT for file transfer; home-grown mail, print, finger servers and clients, etc).

Nov 1980:
The IBM 360/91/75 is retired, replaced by two IBM 4331s (PHOTO), CUVMA and CUVMB. These are featureless boxes that are (as you might expect) more compact and cheaper to run than the 360/91 (and lower too, so you can use them as coffee tables), and they had a new operating system, VM/CMS, which allowed Virtual Machines (VM) to run other operating systems on the same machine, thus keeping our old applications afloat. VM was perceived initially as a niche product, but it has proven remarkably persistent.

The 360/91 was so big it had to be cut up with chainsaws to get it out of the building. The Gordian knot of cabling under the floor was unceremoniously disposed of with giant cable snippers the size of posthole diggers. The computer chunks were trucked away and thrown into acid baths to extract the gold. Only the 360/91 console was spared. We had it moved to the lobby of Watson Laboratory and arranged to donate it to the now-defunct Computer Museum in Massachusetts, but it took a year and a half for them to pick it up. In the interim, bits and pieces were removed by passersby as souvenirs. (More about this in the June 1982 entry.)

1981-82
ADP takes over the remaining pockets of decentralized administrative computing: the student systems in Philosophy Hall and the financial and payroll systems in Hogan Hall, and to some extent also the Health Sciences campus.

Jan 1981:
Superbrains arrive. The Intertec "Superbrain" had been chosen as the first microcomputer we would deploy publicly, despite its embarrassing name, because its solid single-piece construction made it virtually user-proof, and it did indeed stand up to years of (ab)use. It ran CP/M 2.2, an 8-bit (64K) operating system.

Apr 1981:
Bill Catchings and I design the basic Kermit protocol. The first Kermit protocol transfer took place on April 29th on a loopback connection between two serial ports on CU20B. CLICK HERE for more about the history of Kermit.

May 1981:
I talk J. Ray Scott of Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, PA, into installing a leased line between Columbia and CMU and joining our two campuses by DECnet (at least that's how I remember it). CU and CMU informally but effectively merge their DEC-20 systems staffs and run common customized applications and subsystems (esp. the GALAXY spooling system, which we modified to allow printer sharing among multiple DEC-20s and spooling to the Xerox 9700). Soon the network, called CCNET, expanded to several other universities, notably Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, which played an important role in the development of Kermit protocol and software until 1987, and produced Kermit programs for DEC's VMS, TOPS-10, and P/OS operating systems.

Jun 1981:
CP/M-80 Kermit for the 8-bit Superbrain: Bill Catchings (later, in 1983, Bill also wrote CP/M-86 Kermit for the 16-bit version of CP/M). Shortly after this, the Superbrain was deployed in Mudd. It had no applications to speak of besides Kermit, which was used by students to archive their DEC-20 files onto floppy disks (the purpose for which was Kermit developed). Floppy disks (the then-modern 5.25" ones, not the frisbee-sized ones used on other CP/M micros) for the Superbrain were sold in SSIO, $6.00 each (!). Later, but before 16-bit micros like the IBM PC appeared, we set up (in Watson Lab) a "network" of Superbrains sharing a hard disk, with an EMACS-like editor called MINCE and a Scribe-like text formatter called Sribble. For a very short time it was our most impressive demonstration of personal / workgroup desktop computing. (MINCE later became Epsilon and was popular for some years on DOS PCs.)

12 Aug 1981:
The 16-bit IBM PC was announced; the Columbia Computer Center orders 20 of them on Day One, sight unseen. The IBM logo makes all the difference. About half of them go to high-profile faculty (who immediately want them to be able to communicate with our central IBM and DEC mainframes; hence MS-DOS Kermit). The original PC had a monochrome monitor (color optional), one or two 160K floppy disks, a small amount of memory (anywhere from 16K to 256K), two RS-232 serial interfaces, no hard disk, no networking. It ran at 4.77MHz, had BASIC built into its ROM (which could be used without an OS or disk), and ran DOS 1.0, the minimalistic disk 16-bit operating system that made Microsoft's fortune. Within a short amount of time, it had become the computer that would dominate the rest of the century and beyond, and spread over the campus like wildfire. But it still took some years for the PC to wipe out the VAXes and PDP-11s in the departments. Up through the early 90s there were still dozens of VAX/VMS installations, and entire departments and schools (such as Columbia College) ran on them, with VT100 terminals or DEC word processors (PDP-8 based DECmates) on their desktops.

The PC has been a mixed blessing. Untold numbers of people-hours have been lost forever to tinkering -- this slot, that bus; expanded memory, enhanced memory, extended memory. . . Blue Screens Of Death, rebooting, relinstalling the operating system, searching for adapters, hunting for drivers, installing OS and driver upgrades, resolving interrupt conflicts, partitioning disks, backing up disks, adding new devices, configuring networks, fighting application and OS bugs, hunting for patches, fighting viruses, and on and on. Previously this kind of thing was done by a small central full-time professional staff but now it is done by everybody, all the time, at incalculable cost to productivity and progress. Plus how many PC users really back up their hard disks? Not many in my experience, and it is not uncommon for important un-backed-up files to be lost in a disk crash or similar disaster, thus negating weeks, months, or years of work. ON THE PLUS SIDE, however, . . . (? ? ?)

My personal theory is that IBM never expected the PC to be so successful. It was thrown together in a rush by a small group (not at Watson Laboratory!) from off-the-shelf components in an effort to get a foothold in the fast-growing microcomputer market. This was not IBM's first personal computer. Besides the 1956 Auto-Point Computer ("personal" but by no means desktop), IBM had also tried and failed with the 5100 and the CS-9000 in the 1970s and early 80s, both personal desktop models (we had some 5100s here; the CS-9000 was targeted at chemical engineering applications as I recall, and had a special control panel and interfaces for instruments, but included a 32-bit CPU and modern programming languages like Pascal, and could easily have been the high-end workstation of the early 1980s). According to a reliable source, IBM originally wanted the PC to have a Motorola 68000 CPU (which had a simple, flat 32-bit address space) like the CS-9000, but could not get such a product to market in time, so settled for the Intel 8088, a 16-bit segmented architecture with 8-bit data paths. Worse, it had a primitive 16-line interrupt controller, which to this day severely limits the number of devices that can be on the bus. The rest is history. I believe that if IBM had known that the PC would dominate the next two, three, four, or more decades, it would have invested more time, money, and thought in the original design.

Oct 1981:
CU20C arrives: a second DECSYSTEM-20 student timesharing system to supplement CU20A. Still no common file system; each DEC-20 was a relatively separate world, but at least they were connected by DECnet. If you had a student user ID, it was on one or the other, not both.

Dec 1981:
HP plotter supplies (personal ink cartridges, etc) were a hot topic in the newsletter. The HP plotters installed in Mudd (and SSIO?) came in 4- and 8-color models, and there was a wide variety of software for them, including DISSPLA/TEL-A-GRAF on the DEC-20s and SAS/GRAPH and SPSS on the IBM mainframes that could make 3D plots with hidden-line elimination, fancy fonts, etc. They were totally mechanical: pen and ink on paper, and could produce beautiful line drawings.

Jan 1982:
J. Ray Scott, Director of the Carnegie-Mellon University Computation Center, writes an article in the CUCCA Newsletter (V14#1) describing the CCNET connection between Columbia and CMU, and CMU's facilities (including an ARPANET gateeway and various compilers and applications that had not been licensed at Columbia). In the first example of network-based inter-university resource sharing at Columbia, CU users were invited to apply for user IDs on the CMU systems.

Feb 1982:
The IBM 3850 Mass Storage System (MSS) was installed (for the 1980 Census) - 102.2 GB. The MSS was gigantic in every sense, covering most of the South wall of the machine room. Essentially it was a big honeycomb, each cell holding a cartridge (PHOTO) that resembles an M-79 rifle grenade (sorry, it does) containing a winding of 2.7-inch-wide magtape with a capacity of 50MB. A mechanical hand comes and extracts the cartridge and carries it to a reader, which removes the shell, and unwinds the tape and copies it to one of four staging disks; then the tape is re-wound, the shell replaced, and the cartridge returned to its cell. All this was transparent to the user; the MSS looked like a 3330 disk drive to user-mode software. The disks acted as a cache, so if your file was already on the disk, the little mechanical man didn't need to go get the cartridge. (Before the MSS, we had an IBM 2321 Data Cell Drive, which worked in a similar way, except instead of cartridges, it used flat strips of tape that were much harder for the little men to handle, so the tape strips were easily mangled.) Like the 360/91, there were only a few MSS devices in the world.

The MSS cost about a million dollars, but Columbia got its MSS in an IBM grant. In return, Columbia would add support for it to IBM's VM operating system (in particular, it would add windowing and lookahead features to reduce "cylinder faults" and redundant cartridge fetches, and thus speed up sequential access; this was done by Bob Resnikoff of the Computer Center and Ates Dagli of the Center for Social Sciences (CSS)). CSS was responsible for loading the census data (which came on endless reels of 9-track magtape) and for arranging access to it from within Columbia and from outside (V14#16). When the grant expired, Columbia was able to purchase the MSS at a steep discount.

Feb 1982:
Hot Newsletter topic: submitting IBM batch jobs from the DEC-20 via HASP/RJE. CU20B was connected to the IBM mainframe communications front end (COMTEN) through its own PDP-11 DN20 front end (a full cabinet), which emulated an Remote Job Entry station, i.e. a card reader for sending data to the mainframe in form of card images, and a line printer for receiving data from the mainframe in the form of print jobs, but using DEC-20 disk files instead of cards and paper. The CUCCA systems group developed user-friendly programs for submitting batch jobs to the VM systems from the DEC-20 and retrieving the results. These were later to form the basis of the DEC-20/BITNET mail gateway.

Mar 1982:
RSTS/E retired; RSTS users migrated to DEC-20s, V14#1. The PDP-11/50 was traded for another badly needed RP06 disk drive for our DEC-20s [1].

Apr 1982:
BITNET announced (Vace, V14#5). This was a network of IBM mainframes based on RSCS (basically, card reader / line printer simulation) protocols, originating with Ira Fuchs at CUNY, formerly of Watson Lab, and rapidly spreading to universities all over the world, lasting through the late 1990s, now remembered mainly for LISTSERV (a distributed automated mailing-list management system). Early members included CUNY, Columbia, Yale, Brown, Princeton, the U of Maine, Penn State, the NJ Educational Network, Boston U, and Cornell University (DIAGRAM). Columbia got the CU prefix (CUVMA, CUVMB), much to the chagrin of Cornell University (CORNELLA, ...) Would this be the first instance of domain name hijacking? :-) (Twenty years later, the Cornell and Columbia teaching hospitals would merge to form New York Presbyterian Hospital; evidently "Cornell" and "Columbia" were omitted from the name so that neither one would have to follow the other.)

Apr 1982:
IBM Mainframe VM/CMS Kermit (Daphne Tzoar). This passed through a number a hands since the initial release, some of which prefer to remain anonymous, and has been cared for by Dr. John Chandler at the Harvard/Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory since about 1990; John made it portable to the other important IBM mainframe OS's: MVS/TSO, CICS, and MUSIC, and added support for conversion between the many IBM EBCDIC Country Extended Code Pages and ISO standard character sets, allowing cross-platform transfer of text in many languages.

May 1982:
Support was added to our e-mail client and server software to take advantage of our new CCNET and BITNET connections, and the first inter-campus e-mail began to flow, limited at first to just a handful of universities, but growing rapidly as CCNET and BITNET nodes are added, and gateways from them to ARPANET, CSNET, and other networks. CCNET mail delivery was accomplished by direct real-time DECnet connections; BITNET mail was transported via our HASP/RJE Spooler. Our three DEC-20s used their DECnet connections for mail amongst themselves, as well as with other campus machines and the wider CCNET. CU20A and CU20C and other campus DECnet nodes sent BITNET mail by relaying it over DECnet to CU20B's RJE system. In those days, e-mail addresses had to include a "top-level domain" that indicated the network, e.g. USER@HOST.ARPA, USER@HOST.BITNET, USER@HOST.CCNET, etc. Even trickier was the "source routing" used in Usenet (in those days, a "network" of UNIX machines that dialed each other up with UUCP periodically to exchange files and mail) and some others, and/or to mail to somebody who was on a network that your host wasn't on, through a relay that was on both nets. In such cases you had to know the entire route and the syntax tricks to traverse each branch of it, and often multiple relays. Here are some examples from the 1980s Kermit mailing list archive:

  MOON@SCRC@MIT-MC
  decwrl!rhea!vax4!arson!roberts@SU-Shasta
  "INFO-KERMIT@COLUMBIA-20.ARPA"@su-shasta
  info-kermit%columbia-20.arpa.mulga.UUCP@Berkeley
  decvax!mulga!nemeth.uacomsci@UCB-VAX.ARPA
  Ken Poulton <kdp%hp-labs.csnet@csnet-relay.arpa>
  <info-kermit%columbia-20.arpa%ucl-cs.arpa%ykxa@ucl-cs.arpa>
  "ETD1::LABOVITZ" <labovitz%etd1.decnet@afwal-aaa.arpa>
  ames!tis.llnl.gov!lll-tis!lll-crg!lll-winken!uunet!convex!otto!jimi!-
  unsvax.uucp!bartlett@ucbvax.Berkeley.EDU

The last one is broken into two lines for readability; it's really one line. To get a good feel for the proliferation of networks and the tricks of navigating amongst them in the days before the Internet swept all else away, see John Quarterman's book, The Matrix [55]

Jun 1982:
CU20D, our third and final instructional DEC-20, was installed.

Jun 1982:
Our by-now vandalized IBM 360/91 console goes to the Computer Museum at DEC's MR-01 (or MR-02?) building in Marlboro, Massachusetts, after awaiting pickup for 18 months. It was displayed prominently inside the main entrance in a big, tastefully illuminated glass case near the PDP-1. Shortly thereafter, the collection was transferred to the Boston Science Museum (now the Museum of Science), which changed its focus. Most of the computing artifacts went to the Computer Museum History Center, temporarily located at Moffett Field, California (an Air Force base, where the 360/91 console sat in "deep storage" for many years before being transferred in about 2001 to deep storage at the Computer History Museum's new site in Mountain View, California).

Jul 1982:
An Imagen laser printer was installed in Watson; our first laser printer and our first printer capable of true typesetting. Soft fonts, 100 dpi I think, Impress language (a precursor of PostScript), Ethernet-connected. It was only for internal CUCCA use (production of Newsletter and handouts, etc).

Aug 1982:
The Xerox 9700 (PHOTO) [announced by Xerox in 1977] arrived, replacing the Xerox 1200 after some overlap (V15#1). The 9700 offered the first typesetting to the Columbia community at large, as well as high-volume, high-speed plain-text printing. This room-sized 300dpi Xerographic laser printer was installed in the back of the first floor of Watson Lab (the present mail and network rooms) due to lack of space in the Computer Center, and it definitely needed space. It printed 2 pages per second, could handle duplex, portrait/landscape, 2-up, 4-up, etc, had Courier (fixed) and Helvetica and Times Roman (proportional) fonts, with italic and bold styles and selectable sizes. Formatting was done by Scribe and other packages and spooled to 9-track magnetic tapes that were delivered to Watson every evening and printed overnight. Xerox 9700 printing was available to all users (students, faculty, staff, outside paid accounts) on all the DEC-20s and IBM mainframe systems. The DEC-20 Xerox 9700 spooling software ("PRINT /UNIT:X9700") was developed jointly by the combined CUCCA-CMU Systems Groups over CCNET. Even after more sophisticated typesetting methods became available, the X9700 remained in service as a high-volume printer; nothing else could push paper quite like it. To this day, I think Controllers and Rolmphone statements are still printed on a 9700 at a service bureau.)

Sep 1982:
VMM announced (e-mail for the IBM mainframe: MM for VM, Joel and then Vace).

Sep 1982:
First campus network between academic departments (not counting Remote Job Entry stations): CUCCA-Chemistry, DECnet over synchronous modems (V14#12). By this time Chemistry had a VAX-11/780 and some smaller VAXes.

Sep 1982:
TOPS-20 V5 installed on the CUCCA DEC-20s, featuring extended addressing (32 256KW sections = 36MB, instead of only one section), a new multiforking Exec (what we would now call "job control"), and a programming language for the Exec (CMU's PCL, what we would now call "shell scripts").

Oct 1982:
About here we were looking into getting the AP Newswire online. Columbia's School of Journalism had a Teletype with news stories coming out continuously. The plan was to feed this into one of our DEC-20s and make a BBoard out of it, with a rather rapid expiration of articles given the limited disk storage. But there were licensing and bureaucratic impediments so it never came to pass. About 1990, Columbia bought a subscription to ClariNews (in which the various news services are funneled to Usenet newsgroups). This lasted until 2003, by which time the Web had long since rendered it redundant.

Nov 1982:
The CUCCA Terminal and Plotter User Manual [14] was published, full of photos and detailed instructions on using the equipment in our public areas. CLICK HERE to see a sampling of video terminals; note the accompanying PACX boxes.

Dec 1982:
The Teachers College DEC-20 connects to the campus DECnet.

1983-1986:
Every Newsletter issue announces new BITNET and DECnet nodes.

Jan 1983
20th Anniversary of the Computer Center. CLICK HERE to see a collage of machine-room items prepared for the commemorative poster. The Purchasing Office moves out of the Watson building and the space is occupied by ADP; now the building is 100% Computer Center and would remain that way until 1991. ADP begins to offer office automation services, including PC and LAN installations for administrative use.

1 Jan 1983:
The ARPANET switches from its original protocol, NCP, to TCP/IP.

Jan 1983:
IBM PC Kermit. Originally by Daphne Tzoar, adapted from Bill Catchings' CP/M-80 Kermit (actually, if I recall correctly, Bill did the original translation from 8080 MASM to 8088 Microsoft assembler in a single EMACS session, and then Daphne made it work and added features). Later it passed to Jeff Damens. We did versions 1.00 to 2.28 here, with various pieces contributed from elsewhere. Professor Joe Doupnik of Utah State University took it over in 1985, and has been with it ever since. We were actually ordered to write this program because several prominent professors (Herb Goldstein, Bob Pollack, and Jonathan Gross) were using their new PCs to write a book, The Scientific Experience, that would be used in a new course, Science C1001-1002, Theory and Practice of Science, in Columbia's Contemporary Civilization (the jewel in the crown of the Columbia College Core Curriculum) and wanted to be able to collaborate by uploading chapters to CU20B, where they could be shared. And they did. MS-DOS Kermit was a fixture on the Columbia computing landscape until the Web took over in 1994-95, and popular all over the world. It's still remarkably popular today, providing VT320, Wyse, DG, ANSI, and Tektronix terminal emulation for Linux under dosemu, as well as data transfer for many DOS-based embedded and experimental devices, such as THIS ONE in the International Space Station. CLICK HERE to visit the MS-DOS Kermit website.

Jan 1983:
Amdahl UTS installed on the IBM mainframe as a virtual machine under VM (Alan); this was the first UNIX on the central systems. But CS, Biology, and P&S had been running other forms of UNIX for some time.

(9-track magnetic tapes were big in these days, but every kind of computer used a different format: ANSI, DUMPER, BACKUP, MAGSAV, IBM OS SL, tar, cpio, etc, so writing tape import/export/conversion utilities was a regular cottage industry.)

Mar 1983:
CCNET included CU, CMU, CWRU, CS, TC.

Mar 1983:
All but two key punches removed due to lack of use (V15#4). The SSIO area is now a mainly a public terminal area, CUCCA business office, and consulting facility.

Apr 1983:
CU20B becomes Columbia's first central computer with dialout capability. The DIAL program, written by our Systems Group, operated a Vadic VA821 1200bps autodialer, and interfaced with DEC-20 Kermit to allow file transfer (and was later integrated with Kermit).

18 May 1983:
DECSYSTEM-20 (and DECsystem-10) 36-bit computer line canceled by DEC due to their failed attempts to produce a faster and cheaper followon product (Jupiter). This was a huge blow to Columbia and most other US universities, which until this point were like a big (but increasingly anxious) DEC-10/20 club. The ARPANET had been built mainly on DEC-10s and -20s, and most computer science research and tools ran there. Big changes would come.

Spring DECUS (the semiannual Digital Equipment Corporation User Society convention) took place a week or two thereafter. At the June 2001 DECWORLD event at the Computer Museum History Center, Roseanne Giordano, DEC's LCG [DEC-10 and DEC-20] product line manager at the time of the cancellation, recalled that DECUS organizers, fearing violence from the crowd, installed plainclothes police in the front row to protect the speakers.

Jun 1983:
Snapshot: Public terminal, printer, and graphics equipment. Terminals: Datamedia 1520 (6), Perkin Elmer Fox 1100 (10), HP 2621 (66), DEC VT101 (28), Concept APL (8), Superbrain (1), Diablo (1), LA36 (20), Tektronix (2), HP plotters (4), self-service Printronix printers (5). Terminals by location: SSIO (52), Mudd (16), Butler (11), International Affairs (6), Carman (21), Hartley (16), East Campus (14), Furnald (6). The Superbrain is still the only desktop computer in a public area; it remained in service until at least 1986.

Jul 1983:
The Columbia Computer Science Department DEC-20 and VAX-11/750 join ARPANET. The CS DEC-20 is connected to CU20B with DECnet, thus providing the first ARPANET access from CUCCA machines (staff only).

Nov 1983:
We attend nondisclosure presentations of the Macintosh, which as to be the first mass-market personal computer with a graphical user interface, modeled on that of the Xerox Alto and the Xerox Star (the Star was commercially available in 1981 but it was too expensive for the popular market).

Nov 1983:
We (I) take on responsibility of approving campus microcomputer purchases, since in those days there were countless different incompatible ones. Every requisition had to come across my desk; if it was for something weird I'd call the person who ordered it and talk about communications and compatibility, either changing their mind or rubber stamping it after they swore they didn't care and never would.

Dec 1983:
Apple Macintosh announced.

1983-84:
It is in approximately this time frame that Alan Crosswell becomes Lead Unix Systems Programmer and also assumes management responsibility for the DEC-20s, as I move on to something called "Systems Integration", meaning finding ways of hooking Columbia's many disparate micro-, mini-, and mainframe computers together. Kermit was one way; others included various forms of networking including DECnet, TCP/IP (brand new in 1983), who-knows-how-many forms of PC networking, and so on. Alan is formally appointed Systems Manager in 1990.

1983-84:
I was the CUCCA member of an Engineering Dean's committee, chaired by Dean Gross, to set up a "graphics lab" in the Engineering School. Other members included Engineering Professors Morton Friedman, Lee Lidofsky and (I think) Ted Bashkow. Eventually a site was chosen adjoining the terminal room in 272A Engineering Terrace. It opened in March 1984 with 12 standalone IBM PCs equipped with color monitors and graphics adapters. This was almost certainly Columbia's first PC lab. The graphics lab was turned over to CUCCA in October 1989, combined with the original lab in room 272A, and renamed Gussman Lab.

Jan 1984:
CLIO (Columbia Library Information Online) debuts as a text-based inquiry system accessible via Rolm dataphone and Telnet. It is based on BLIS software from Bibliotechniques (a spinoff of the University of Washington), and runs on our IBM 3083 mainframe.

Feb 1984:
Hermit ("clustered PC project"): a 3-million-dollar equipment grant from DEC, proposed by us (me and Howard Eskin) in March 1983, to build a distributed environment of Macs, PCs, and UNIX workstations clustered around MicroVAX hubs which, in turn, were connected to the central DEC-20 mainframes for file / identity / e-mail service. Included were dozens of Rainbow PCs and Pro-380 (PDP-11) workstations, several MicroVAX-IIs, a VAX 11/730, a VAX 11/750, a VAXstation, an LN03 laser printer, Ethernet, and the Common File System (shared disk) hardware for our DEC-20s including a then-massive amount of central storage. This was to be a stunning example of "systems integration;" the primary objective was to provide users transparent native-mode access to their central files and identities from all different kinds of desktop workstations (PC, Mac, UNIX). I was the PI, my boss was Howard Eskin, the programmers were (at various times) Bill Catchings, Bill Schilit, Jeff Damens, Andy Lowry, Delores Ng, Howie Kaye, Fuat Baran. (V16#2, V16#6, V18#2; Columbia Daily Spectator, 23 Apr 1984).

Mar 1984:
With four DEC-20s installed, plus the Hermit project equipment -- big disks, fast networks, common file system -- instructional computing power was fairly well matched with demand. Now access was the bottleneck. A study by the Academic Advisory Committee of the Engineering Advisory Council, Computers in Columbia Engineering Education, March 1984, complained of "the Sleeping Bag Syndrome: students should not be forced to line up for terminal time at graveyard shift hours." Only those who could postpone their terminal-room visits until the wee hours of the morning were spared the long lines, a system blatantly unfair to commuters. Obtaining space for terminal rooms (or anything else) on the Columbia campus was (and is) even more difficult than obtaining the money to build them. Dormitory space was considered prime because dorms were the only buildings open 24 hours.

Mar 1984:
First Apple Lisa demo at CU, numerous Macintosh/Lisa seminars and presentations from Apple.

Apr 1984:
IBM Portable PC announced by CUCCA for resale. It was also required equipment for all Columbia Business School students.

Apr-May 1984:
Macintosh mania. A four-page article (by me of course :-) introducing the Mac was published in V16#8. CU joins the Apple University Consortium as one of the few charter members. AUC membership required us to buy Macs in bulk for resale on campus. 2000 were ordered right away. Within a short while, we had written the first version of Macintosh Kermit for it (Bill Catchings, Bill Schilit, and me). Mac (and PC) sales continue in one form or another until turned over to J&R, which opened a Columbia-only branch in the basement of Philosophy Hall in the late 1990s but then jumped ship about 2001.

May 1984:
Floor plan of DEC-20 machine room by Bill Schilit of the Systems Group, showing the size and placement of the various components (3 DEC-20s, their disk drives, and communications front ends are shown; not shown is the fourth DEC-20, the tape drives, or the system consoles). OK, this is not really the floor plan. It's a template for making floor plans. The idea was to gather up all the discarded copies of the newsletter that had this diagram on the cover, cut out the pieces, and then make a real floor plan out of them (Tom De Bellis points out this diagram was made before all the Hermit grant stuff had arrived, thus was used to lay out how to make everything fit). Also see THIS DEC-20 MACHINE ROOM PHOTO.

Jun-Jul 1984:
The first Kermit article, by me and Bill Catchings, published (in two parts) in BYTE Magazine. Also see the Kermit Bibliography.

3 Aug 1984:
CU20B joins ARPANET (now called the Internet). Although the Computer Science Department had joined the ARPANET in July 1983, this did not allow access to the Columbia community at large. Putting CU20B on the ARPANET was the first step in this direction (researchers from all schools and departments and CUCCA staff only, not students). CU20B's ARPANET hostname was COLUMBIA.ARPA. No other Columbia computers (except the ones in the CS department) were on the ARPANET, but of course CU20B had network connections to the other DEC-20s, some internal CUCCA machines, the campus DECnet and the external DECnet-based CCNET, and to BITNET. Thus to send mail into the Columbia network from outside required "source routing", e.g. user%CU20A@COLUMBIA.ARPA. For some years, CU20B was to serve as a mail gateway among these networks, using locally written software. Over the next year or two, CUCCA would purchase a VAX-11/750, called the Gateway VAX, and install it in the CS department, where it was connected to the CS ARPANET IMP and back to the CUCCA hosts via Ethernet. The Gateway VAX ran 4.2BSD UNIX and it made Internet e-mail available to the whole Columbia community, including students, for the first time.

Sep 1984:
Three HP-150 MS-DOS microcomputers and one Macintosh were installed in the 272A Engineering Terrace terminal room. They were not on any kind of network and had to be reserved by sign-up sheet. The HP-150s were an equipment grant from HP, along with some color pen plotters that were attached to them. A version of Kermit was written to allow them to communicate with the central systems through PACX lines and transfer files to and from their 3.5-inch diskettes.

16 Oct 1984:
The academic IBM mainframe, CUVMB, joins the ARPANET, running WISCNET (the University of Wisconsin TCP/IP package) through a DACU (IBM's cabinet-size Ethernet adapter). This machine was for researchers and staff only, so there is still no ARPANET access for students.

Nov 1984:
Project Aurora, a 6.5-million dollar IBM grant administered by CUCCA, a "campus-wide move in information and instruction toward the electronic university." Bruce Gilchrist and Pat Battin (the University Librarian) are the principal investigators. Aurora paid for an IBM 3083 mainframe to support the Columbia Libraries Information Online (CLIO) system, and also funded some 30 research projects in the schools and departments.

1985:
Low-cost Apple Laserwriter PostScript printers proliferate and suddenly typesetting becomes commonplace as LaserWriters are set up as spooled printers so they can be controlled not only by Macintoshes but also DEC-20 and UNIX systems with Scribe and TEX.

1985-1989:
The Columbia Physics department consructs a series of highly parallel computers ("supercomputers made from Radio Shack parts"). 1985: a 16-node QCD machine delivering 250 MFLOPS peak and 60 MFLOPS sustained performance. 1987: A second-generation QCD machine containing 64 nodes, delivering 1 GFLOPS peak and 300 MFLOPS sustained performance. 1989: A third-generation QCD machine containing 256 nodes delivering 16 GFLOPS peak and 6.4 GFLOPS sustained performance [43]. This work would continue into the 1990s and beyond.

Jan 1985:
CUVMA (IBM VM/CMS academic mainframe) gets Ethernet (DACU) and TCP/IP (WISCNET) (Vace).

Jan 1985:
Internet Domain Name registration begins. Some of the first registered domains are: symbolics.com, cmu.edu, bbn.com, ucla.edu, mit.edu, mitre.org, dec.com, stanford.com, sri.com, sun.com, ibm.com, att.com, nsf.net, apple.com, cisco.com.

Feb 1985:
First version of C-Kermit (4.0) released. (Previous versions were called UNIX Kermit; C-Kermit was modularized to allow easy adaptation to other platforms, and eventually was ported to over 700 of them, across 10 major operating system families.) Lots of people all over the world have contributed code, including Andy Tanenbaum (Minix) and Linus Torvalds (Linux). C-Kermit has been part of HP-UX (by contract) since 1996, and has recently been incorporated into some of the popular Linux distributions, such as Red Hat. CLICK HERE to visit the C-Kermit website.

May 1985:
Watson Lab Ethernet connection to Computer Center; Steve Jensen's 115th Street trench and Broadway crossing with cement-encased conduits containing fat yellow coax, the difficult Western and final leg of Columbia's first Ethernet backbone (PHOTO GALLERY). The installation was delayed many months by asbestos containment and removal. Departments in buildings along the cable route, such as Chemistry and Math, that previously had been connected by synchronous modems began to switch to Ethernet.

Sep 1985:
The COLUMBIA.EDU Internet domain becomes operational. Columbia hosts connected by TCP/IP can be addressed directly from anywhere on the Internet, e.g. by email addresses like user@CU20D.COLUMBIA.EDU or user@CHEMVAX.CHEM.COLUMBIA.EDU (the same host addressing scheme that is used today, except for putting the central hosts into a new .CC subdomain in March 1988). For the first time, students have access to the Internet but for all practical purposes, it is limited to email and anonymous FTP, since the World Wide Web does not yet exist and netnews will not become generally available at Columbia until 1988. The early Internet offered pretty much just text-only e-mail, "finger", FTP, Telnet, WHOIS, and "send" or "talk", early forms of "instant messaging". What else could you want?

Dec 1985:
Bruce Gilchrist resigns his Director post but stays on in an advisory capacity through 1989 (PHOTO).

Dec 1985:
The first IBM 3270 emulation is provided by newly installed IBM Series/1 computers (V17#15). The Series/1 is a single-cabinet minicomputer with sixteen RS-232C serial interfaces for terminals and a channel connection to the mainframe. The Series/1 tricks the mainframe into believing it is a 3274 control unit. Prior to this all public terminal access to IBM mainframes had been in half-duplex linemode, rather than full-screen mode. Now ordinary ASCII terminals (and emulators of them) could conduct full-screen 3270 sessions on the IBM VM/CMS mainframe, and they could do it without reconfiguration (as was necessary for linemode connections). The Series/1 converted between full and half duplex, block mode and character mode, and IBM 3270 data streams and the escape sequences and character sets used by many different types of terminals (even APL terminals), plus it provided flow control and buffering. The Series/1 computers were later replaced by IBM 7171s, 4994s, and tn3270 software in terminal servers and on UNIX hosts.

(Around here, large departmental PC labs began to appear, for example in the Business School and in the Learning Center.)

1986-1987
West German hackers use Columbia's Kermit software to break into dozens of US military computers and capture information for the KGB, as described by Cliff Stoll in his 1989 book, The Cuckoo's Egg [46]. At one point, while Cliff watched on a jury-rigged T-connected terminal, the hackers were using Kermit to download a copy of the Telnet source code so they could implant a password logger, upload the result, recompile it, and install it: "Line by line, I watched Kermit shovel the program over to the hacker... But I couldn't just kill Kermit. He'd notice that right away. Now that I was closing in on him, I especially didn't want to tip my hand. I found my key chain and reached over to the wires connected to the hacker's line. Jangling the keys across the connector, I shorted out his circuit for an instant. This added just enough noise to confuse the computer, but not enough to kill the connection... It worked like a charm. I'd jangle my keys, he'd see the noise, and his computer would ask for a replay of the last line..." This slowed the transfer down so much that the hacker eventually lost patience and gave up -- but it didn't stop Kermit! As long as the connection stays up, no matter how awful, Kermit pushes the file through. Cliff also measured the delay between Kermit packet and acknowledgment to estimate the hacker's distance from California (6000 miles, a fairly accurate estimate of the distance to Hannover).  

1 Jan 1986:
CUCCA and Libraries merge. Information is information, right? (V18#2). CUCCA now reports to the University Librarian, Pat Battin. (In fact, it seems that CUCCA and Libraries merge periodically; in some sense, CUCCA has always reported to the University Librarian; in another sense the real merger came only later, under Elaine Sloan.) The administrative half of CUCCA, ADP (now AIS, Administrative Information Services), is severed and reports to Low Library, and eventually (1991) moves from Watson Lab to Thorndike Hall at Teachers College.

Jan 1986:
Columbia's first networked PC lab opens in 251 Engineering Terrace, populated with the UNIX (Pro/380), MS-DOS (Rainbow) and VAX workstations from the Hermit grant, plus eight 512K ("fat") Macintoshes and two Mac/XLs, a LaserWriter printing station, an IBM PC, and the original Kermit Superbrain (V18#2).

Jan 1986:
Kermit Project founded. Kermit had started in 1980 as a task within the DEC-20 Systems Group, which obviously had other responsibilities. By the mid-80s, Kermit had become popular all over the world, and we were receiving hundreds of requests for it every week from sites that were not on the network. Meanwhile, other sites were sending in new Kermit implementations of their own. Fulfilling these requests and maintaining the Kermit software archive (and mailing list, etc) had become a full-time job, so a full-time Kermit group, led by Christine Gianone (formerly the business manager in SSIO), was created to manage and distribute the software and take over the online archive, the mailing lists, tech support, and so on. The programming was still done by members of the Systems group and external volunteers. Software distribution charges were instituted to cover costs. The old raised-floor machine room in the back of the 7th floor of Watson Lab (added in 1959 for the IBM 1620) became the Kermit room, containing the Kermit Project computers and media production equipment.

May 1986:
The height of CCNET, which now includes Columbia, CMU, CWRU, NYU, Stevens, Vassar, and Oberlin (V18#5). An October 1986 listing shows about 200 "nodes" on the network with DEC operating systems including TOPS-10, TOPS-20, VMS, Ultrix, RSX-11/M, and P/OS. Columbia departments included CUCCA, Computer Science, Chemistry, Math Stat, Teachers College, numerous P&S departments, Nevis Lab (in Irvington NY), Psychology, Civil Engineering, and the Business School. Other universities (mainly in Ohio) would join later, but in a few more years the Internet would make CCNET obsolete.

May 1986:
First public description of Columbia's Ethernet backbone network, and enunciation of policy for departmental connections to it (V18#5), which was accomplished by us writing a letter for the Provost to sign.

Jul 1986:
First issue of Kermit News.

Aug 1986:
Mathematics joins Ethernet backbone.

1986: (month?)
Richard Sacks takes over as acting CUCCA Director. (Howard leaves somewhere in here...)

Sep 1986:
The Scholarly Information Center (SIC) is proclaimed by Pat Battin, University Librarian.

Sep 1986:
More about the campus backbone: "A bright yellow half-inch coaxial cable runs through the steam tunnels up and across the west and north edges of the Morningside campus. This cable is the campus Ethernet backbone, a large part of which was installed as part of an external research grant from Digital Equipment Corporation [the Hermit Project]." (Alan Crosswell, Networks at Columbia, SIC Journal V1#1, Sep 1986). The backbone ran from Watson Lab to Mathematics to Chemistry to the Computer Center to Computer Science to Mudd (DIAGRAM). At the time coax-based IBM PCNET and Token Ring PC networks were commonplace networking methods for PCs.

Oct 1986:
Kermit, A File Transfer Protocol (Frank) published by Digital Press, with a Foreword by Donald Knuth. It remained in print for 14 years.

Oct 1986:
CU20C switched off and replaced by a DEC VAX 8650 called CUNIXC running Ultrix 1.1, DEC's brand of UNIX, a 4.2BSD derivative. A pilot project assigned some CS courses to CUNIXC in Fall 1986. This was our first step in phasing out the DEC-20s after the line was discontinued by DEC in 1983. This stung so severely that we would never run a proprietary operating system again (except on the IBM mainframes, of course). The attraction of UNIX was that it was available -- with relatively minor variations -- on all kinds of computers, great and small. The 8650 was approximately equal to the DEC-20 in size, weight, and cost; it was chosen because we could recycle many of the DEC-20 peripherals, and because (unlike other UNIXes) it supported DECnet, which we still used for departmental connections. Lots more HERE about the conversion from TOPS-20 to Unix.

(About UNIX... There is much that appeals about UNIX. Its well-known original attributes (simplicity, terseness, consistent building-block tools) were spelled out in the seminal BSTJ issue [15]. In addition, it is platform independent, so sites like ours are not tied to a particular vendor. Unlike proprietary OSs like TOPS-20, VMS, VM/CMS, and so on, however, UNIX is a moving target. Ever since control of UNIX left Bell Labs, every implementation (Ultrix, OSF/1, AIX, HP-UX, SunOS, Solaris, IRIX, Linux, FreeBSD, etc etc) is different in sometimes subtle but always aggravating ways, and (with a few notable exceptions such as OpenBSD) every new release of every version tends to break existing applications (whereas programs written for TOPS-20, VMS, MVS/TSO, or VM/CMS twenty and thirty years ago still work, without even recompiling). Any program more complicated than "hello world" is rarely portable from one UNIX to another without some "porting" work at the source-code level. To compound matters, documentation is increasingly scant. In the 1970s and 80s, every operating system (even UNIX) came with a "wall" of printed manuals that documented everything in excruciating detail. But now documentation is considered a waste of time and effort, since everything will change anyway. In modern UNIX, the only reliable documentation is the source code.)

Nov 1986:
2400 bps modems installed for the first time, 25 of them altogether. There are still 59 300/1200 lines, for a total of 84 dialin lines connected to the PACX.

Dec 1986:
First IBM RT PCs received at Watson Lab (V18#12). This was IBM's first RISC Technology (RT) UNIX workstation, the precursor to the RS/6000, which is still popular at Columbia and elsewhere. IBM's brand of UNIX is called AIX.

Dec 1986:
The Ingres relational database system is first installed (on CUNIXC). This would become the basis for CU's ID and authentication systems and other UNIX-based databases.

1987:
Snapshot: The 1987 edition of the CUCCA Guide to Research and Instructional Facilities lists four DEC-2065's (but only three remain), the IBM mainframe with VM/CMS, a DEC VAX 8700 running Ultrix, 150 public terminals (HP2621s and DEC VT101s) plus DEC Rainbows and Apple Macintoshes in public labs, 80 dialup lines at 300, 1200, and 2400 bps. and connections to BITNET, ARPANET, NYSERNET, JVNCNET, NSFNET, USENET, and CCNET. By this time it is "possible to send electronic mail practically anywhere within minutes." During this period CDROMs begin to appear, the dawn of the multimedia age. CLIO goes online to PACX users. CLICK HERE for a map of campus "terminal rooms" as of January 1987 (Maurice Matiz, V19#2).

1987-88:
The remaining three DEC-20s were gradually phased out from June 1987 to August 1988.

1987-88:
The Kermit Project gives presentations at international conferences in the USA, Switzerland, France, and Japan. In Japan we learned the problems of Japanese text entry, coding, display, and interchange that would influence future directions in Kermit protocol and software.

Jan 1987:
Morningside campus is connected to the John von Neumann Supercomputer Center in Princeton and to JVNCNET via a 56Kb leased line. And to NYSERNET via 56Kb leased line to Cornell. The Big Snowball Fight.

Feb 1987:
Biology joins Ethernet backbone.

Feb 1987:
CUCCA (Frank) commissions Sparc SPITBOL due to imminent demise of DEC-20s (indicating we had already decided on Sun for future expansion; SPITBOL (SNOBOL), which some of us still used heavily, was one of the few DEC-20 applications that had not been adapted to UNIX in general or the Sparc in particular).

Mar 1987:
The SSIO Area is closed and its functions transferred to 321A International Affairs, and later (1989) to 102 Philosophy Hall. The SSIO terminal rooms are replaced by public labs in the International Affairs building (and later in other locations) in which microcomputers, PCs, Macintoshes, and other kinds of workstations are installed rather than terminals.

Apr 1987:
Hermit project canceled. Although we had achieved many of its goals (transparent central file access from DOS, Mac, and UNIX; shared printing, including graphics; even e-mail), it was overtaken by cheap Ethernet, NFS, and commodity LANs/internetworking in general. Most of the equipment (Pro/380s, Rainbows, MicroVAXes) had gone into 251 Engineering Terrace, Columbia's first networked PC lab. The Pro-380s were our first public UNIX workstations (running 2.9BSD, adapted locally to the Pro-380), and CCMD (DEC-20 COMND JSYS simulation in C for UNIX) and the UNIX version of MM (mail client) came out of it (more info on MM HERE). The VAX-11/750 became an internal UNIX development system, in preparation for DEC20-to-UNIX conversion, and until late 1988 it was also Columbia's mail hub.

May 1987:
The Engineering School Ethernet (Muddnet) is installed and connected to the campus Ethernet backbone. Muddnet came from an AT&T grant to the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), which also included an AT&T 3B20 minicomputer in the Computer Science department and a large number of 3B2 desktop workstations, all running AT&T UNIX System V R3. The 3Bx's fell into disuse after after a short while, but the Ethernet taps were recycled and used to provide connectivity for years.

Jun 1987:
CU20A switched off.

Jul 1987:
VAX 8700 up as CUNIXC, replacing the VAX 8650.

Sep 1987:
U of Toledo (Ohio) joins CCNET.

Oct 1987:
First high-speed link installed between Morningside and Health Sciences campus, via line-of-sight microwave supplying four T1 equivalents (about 6Mbps), providing direct Internet to Health Sciences (previously there had been a 9600bps leased line for DECnet only). This works because the Morningside and Health Sciences campus are both on Manhattan high points (see the old aerial photo).

Nov 1987:
The Physics Department joins the Ethernet backbone.

Nov 1987:
Columbia Appletalk Package (CAP) and Appletalk UNIX File Server (AUFS) released, written by Bill Schilit and Charlie Kim of Watson Lab, provides Appleshare file and print service to Macintoshes from UNIX, speaking Appletalk over Ethernet (V19#9). CAP and AUFS quickly became popular all over the world and Charlie went on to work at Apple.

1987-1993:
Network Planning Group (NPG): University-wide planning sessions setting networking direction and policy for CU as a whole (Morningside and Health Sciences, Administrative and Academic), chaired by me. Met weekly until 1993. Began by planning for Rolm installation (wiring plant, PACX/Rolm data migration), eventually moved on to local-area, campus-wide, and wide-area networking in general. Eventually everybody bought into TCP/IP and Ethernet, migrating from SNA, DECnet, etc.

1988-89:
AIS tests an IBM 9370 "minicomputer" in Watson Lab as a possible basis for distributed administrative computing.  

Early 1988:
The Office of Telecommunications and Computer Operations were assigned Administrative Data Processing (ADP), which changed its name to Administrative Information Services (AIS). AIS was removed from CUCCA, and now reported to the University's central administration, rather than to the University Librarian, thus ending the 17-year CUCCA name and era. The academic and administrative staff, however, continued to work together in Watson Lab [20]. The Office of Telecommunications has overall responsibility for the Rolm phone system including the Rolm cable plant. The split complicates the networking of the University, since some aspects (wiring and distribution frames) are done by Telecomm, whereas others (backbone network, hubs, routers, and configuration) are done by the Academic portion of ex-CUCCA (soon to be AcIS), and the two sides do not report anywhere in common short of the President. Working around this structural anomoly was the primary reason for NPG. Meanwhile, the central academic computing systems remain in the machine room but now AIS is the service provider (of operations support) and AcIS the client.

Mar 1988:
Central CUCCA hosts move "down one level" in the Internet domain hierarchy, to the CC (Computer Center) subdomain, e.g. CU20B.COLUMBIA.EDU becomes CU20B.CC.COLUMBIA.EDU. The older names remain in effect until the first of June.

Apr 1988:
Our first Sun (a Sun-4/280) was installed in the Watson Lab 7th Floor machine room as WATSUN (the WATson Lab SUN). Watsun (later upgraded to Sparc-10 and then Sparc-20), which ran SunOS 4.0 and 4.1 (4.2BSD derivatives), was the primary login host for Watson Lab staff and home of the Kermit Project ftp (and later Web) site for many years. Later (when?) it would move to the Watson Penthouse as the need for office space becomes increasingly urgent, and the old IBM raised-floor machine room would be gutted and divided into four offices for 6-8 people. Watsun was retired in 2003.

May 1988:
CU20D switched off. All instruction moved from DEC-20s to VAX UNIX. CU20B (research and staff) runs until . . .

Aug 1988:
CU20B (Columbia's last DEC-20) was switched off. For more about the legacy of the DECSYSTEM-20, CLICK HERE. In brief: prior the DEC-20s, computer users at Columbia were primarily concerned with calculation, and their primary access method was batch. After the DEC-20 (and because of it) they were hooked on e-mail, bulletin boards, "talk" (interactive real-time chatting), text editing and typesetting, and the Internet -- just as they are today. The nature of computing had changed completely and forever. All that remained was to put a pretty face on it.

Aug 1988:
Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory connected to Morningside campus via Ethernet over T1.

Aug 1988:
Ethernet backbone extended to East Campus.

Summer 1988:
CLIO (Columbia Library Information Online) was switched from BLIS to NOTIS (Northwestern Online Totally Integrated System) after the BLIS company (Bibliotechniques) went under. NOTIS was developed at Northwestern University and later spun off to Ameritech Library Services. CLIO continues to run on the IBM mainframe.

Sep 1988:
CUCCA reorganization. Richard Sacks officially director. Elaine Sloan is new Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian.

Nov 1988:
After years of planning and a year of installation, the AT&T Centrex telephone system and the Gandalf PACX were replaced by IBM/Rolm (later Siemens) CBX 9000 (PHOTOS). Now instead of a PACX box and a phone, users had a phone with an RS-232 connector (if they paid extra for the "data option"). This was a massive project involving untold amounts of construction, tunneling, drilling, and wire-pulling, including a trench across Broadway and many trenches between the buildings on campus and across side streets. Preparation for the cutover was done using a Rolm CBX 8000 in Watson Lab. 2500 data connections were moved from the PACX to the Rolm. Columbia's telephone exchange was changed from 280- to 853- and 854-. Christine and I published a series of articles in McGraw Hill Data Communications magazine on the topic and Neil Sachnoff wrote a whole book [41]. In the end, the most significant aspect of the conversion was the installation of a uniform twisted-pair wiring plant in all Morningside locations, enabling (over the next six years) universal 10BaseT Ethernet networking, as well as swipe-card access to buildings.

Prior to 1988, the Columbia University ID (CUID) was paper. With the Rolm system came laminated picture IDs with magnetic strips that worked in swipe-card readers all over campus, as well as in off-campus university buildings -- anyplace reached by Rolm wiring. The same wiring system that was used for telephones, serial-port terminal connections, and twisted-pair Ethernet was also used to connect to the central access server that lets you open doors.

Prior to this, PACX data installations required pulling wire from the PACX to each destination, digging trenches, drilling holes through granite, etc, and could take many months. With the CBX, it was just a matter of making some cross-connections in a distribution panel -- every phone jack was also a network jack. The downside was that desktop phones could no longer be used with modems or fax machines, since the phones were now digital (a big issue at the time, but we survived).

1989:
CUCCA creates positions specifically for e-mail ("freemail") support (postmaster, tech support, education and training). Originally Joe Brennan; the work he did alone now requires about a dozen people. Freemail is launched January 1990. Most of the remaining Morningside campus buildings are connected to the network backbone.

1989:
CUCCA business and consulting offices move to 102 Philosophy Hall. This is the same room where Prof. Edwin H. Armstrong invented FM radio. Here we have two views of Armstrong's laboratory in 102 Philosophy in the 1930s [VIEW 1] [VIEW 2] and one of the Armstrong Tower (from the Columbiana photo archive). The Armstrong Tower (transmitter for the first-ever FM radio station, W2XMN, 1936) is across the Hudson River in Alpine, New Jersey, but at some point Columbia sold it off. Later (early 1990s) we thought we might use it for microwave access to Lamont, since it has line-of-sight to both Columbia's Morningside Heights (Manhattan) campus and to Lamont in Palisades NY, but couldn't afford the new owner's rates. (Actually this idea has come up just about every 10 years since the 1960s -- I saw it first suggested in Dean Halford's 1963 letter [36].) After the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the Armstrong tower was used again by the major networks to broadcast their signals [56].

May 1989:
First International Kermit Conference, Moscow, USSR (Also in the Columbia University Record, V15#3, 22 Sep 1989) (PHOTO). Attended by about 70 computer specialists from Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Mongolia, Poland, and parts of the USSR ranging from Novosibirsk in central Russia to Tallinn in Estonia, this is where the details of Kermit's character-set translation protocol were settled, allowing interchange of text in Cyrillic among machines using diverse incompatible encodings -- ditto for East and West European languages written with accented Roman letters, as well as Hebrew, Greek, and other scripts.

Apr 1989:
An Encore Multimax 310 UNIX mainframe (later upgraded to 510) replaces the VAX 8700, our first departure from DEC for big academic central computers since 1975. The Encore's attraction was its multiple processors. It was fast. Its UNIX (UMAX) was based on 4.3BSD. This change effectively removes the Computer Center from the campus DECnet, which gradually vanished from the scene over the next 10 or 12 years.

Summer-Fall 1989:
Microcomputer labs open in 321A International Affairs (16 Macs); 215 International Affairs (40 Macs plus some terminals); 272 Engineering Terrace (30 IBM PS/2 Model 70s). Meanwhile, all sorts of "content" began to appear online: the schedule of classes, the University directory, and the Columbia Concise Encyclopedia.

Sep 1989:
Richard Sacks resigns as director of CUCCA on September 27th. Vace Kundakci (correct spelling: Vaçe Kundakçı), manager of the academic IBM mainframes and prior to that systems programmer (since 1977), takes over as acting director.


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Jan 1990:
Using MS-DOS Kermit (Christine) published by Digital Press, with a jacket blurb by Cliff Stoll (Yow!), author of The Cuckoo's Egg [46]. A second edition was published in 1992. German and French translations were also published, as was another book about MS-DOS Kermit in Japanese (see the Kermit Bibliography).

May 1990:
Vace Kundakci takes over as Director, renames CUCCA to AcIS (Academic Information Systems), as distinct from AIS (Administrative Information Services, formerly ADP).

Mid-1990:
Alan Crosswell becomes Systems Manager, responsible for all central academic computing systems (IBM and other), a post last held by Howard Eskin and vacated 5 years before. By this time the only systems that matter are Unix-based (DEC, then Encore, then Sun, plus workstations from Sun, NeXT, and HP) -- the academic IBM mainframe is used mainly by the Libraries and a handful of external paying users.

(Somewhere around here CCNET was disbanded because of the Internet.)

Jan 1991:
The Senior Vice President of Columbia is bitten by the outsourcing bug and brings in a consulting firm, American Management Systems Inc (AMS), to take over and "clean out" administrative computing (AIS). Seventeen people are fired. Although a couple of service improvements resulted (mainly a new Student Information System, SIS), many millions of dollars were wasted on "cutting edge" projects that never panned out and a number of talented people were lost. Eventually AMS left the scene and equilibrium was restored.

1991:
We buy a truckload of NeXT UNIX (NeXTSTEP) workstations for both staff and labs; a major commitment, and (I believe) an attempt to stem the tide of PCs and Macs, which were intrinsically unsafe and labor intensive for their users and owners (the PCs more so than Macs, which have always had a great deal of support from a large contingent of the technical staff) and for AcIS staff in its role of support-giver. The NeXTs were configured and managed centrally; user logins were via network to the central University database; user directories were on centrally located, managed, and backed up NFS-mounted disks. But before long NeXT was out of business.

1991:
There is much expansion, renovation, and upgrading of public computer labs during 1991 (and ever since). The academic and administrative IBM mainframes (4381, 3090, and 3083) are all replaced by a single IBM ES/9121, which is partitioned into separate academic and administrative virtual machines (a feature of IBM's VM operating system).

Jan 1991:
Three Sun-4/280s (full-sized cabinets) are installed in the machine room as CUNIXA, CUNIXB, and CUNIXD running SunOS 4.1. These (and the Encore) were soon replaced by Sun pizza-box sized servers, and SunOS was replaced by Solaris. Where central computers once weighed tons, cost millions, filled acres of floor space, required massive cooling and exotic forms of power, now they're dirt-cheap commodity items running at unheard-of speeds with seemingly limitless amounts of memory and storage, that can be carried under your arm and plugged into an ordinary wall socket at ambient room temperature. Of course, today's applications and data saturate this vast capacity just as effectively as yesterday's simpler applications overwhelmed the resources available then, and so it shall always be.

Mar-Oct 1991:
Kermit protocol for conversion of Japanese text among diverse encodings, and for efficient transfer of predominantly 8-bit text encodings over 7-bit transports.

(Around here, disk service begins to shift from locally attached disks to RAID file servers, and the backup system changes from the traditional manual 9-track tape operation to automated network backups to a DAT-drive "juke box". All the software was locally written and included all the academic servers, Sun as well as the IBM mainframe. Later a commercial backup system, Veritas, took the place of the original homegrown one. Capacity as of Jan 2001: 400 x 40GB tapes = 16000GB (16TB) to cover 1.7TB usable space on the academic file servers.)

Jan 1992:
Conversion of Morningside campus backbone from Ethernet coax to optical fiber begins; cutover in Spring 1992.

Apr 1992:
AIS moves out of Watson Lab to new quarters in Thorndike Hall at Teachers College (MAP) and in the Computer Center Building [20]. Floors 1 through 5 of Watson Lab were left vacant for a period, and then, even though the AcIS space on floors 6-9 was (and remains) severely and increasingly overcrowded, the lower five floors -- with their rich history and key role in science and computing -- were converted to art studios.

Nov 1992:
Using C-Kermit (Frank and Christine) published by Digital Press, concurrent with the release of version 5 of C-Kermit. A second edition would follow in 1997, as well as a German translation.

1992-1993:
Columbia's Kermit software handles the communications in the British relief mission to Bosnia.

1993:
The era of the search engine begins. First there was Archie, then Hypertelnet, then Gopher, then the Web. In 1993, ColumbiaNet is hot, a million accesses per year (a figure soon to be dwarfed by the Web, see Web statistics table). ColumbiaNet is a text-based menu-driven service (remember text?). Here's the main menu, preserved for posterity:

Main Menu:

           1: Directory Information (WWW)
           2: AcIS--Academic Computing (WWW)
           3: CLIO Plus--Library Catalogs, Indexes, Encyclopedia
           4: Calendar, Events, & Schedules
           5: Classes, Finals, Grades, Holds, Bulletins
           6: Student Activities & Services
           7: Faculty & Research
           8: Job Opportunities
           9: Connections to Computers & the Internet
          10: University Administrative Services
          11: Handbooks, Reports
          12: Organization & Governance; The Record
          13: Misc Info--News, Weather, Quotations, Books
          14: Community Interest
          15: ColumbiaNet News: New News: AP, Reuters Available
_________________________________________________________________________
Select 1-17  or  S=scan-all-menus  Q=quit
90% seen  N=next-page  B=bottom  H=help  I=info

Spring 1993:
By now the Internet is ubiquitous. University Technology Architecture published, setting University-wide standards for networking, a common TCP/IP-based network for all computing, administrative and academic, at Columbia; this was the end product of NPG. Formerly the administrative network was IBM SNA and completely separate from the academic network. While this arrangement might have had its advantages from a security standpoint, it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage and for end users to cope with.

Summer 1993:
The Schapiro Residence Hall (across 115th Street from Watson Lab) is wired for Ethernet as a pilot project for campus-wide networked dormitories. Schapiro is also the first building to be served by the new fiber backbone.

Dec 1993:
New AcIS modem pool announced, consisting of 80+ V.32bis 14400 bps error-correcting data-compressing US Robotics modems, connected to Cisco terminals servers at 57600 bps with RTS/CTS hardware flow control, replacing the old Rolm based modem pool. When the Rolm was first installed in 1988, 1200/2400 and 9600 bps modem pools were connected directly to it, and these provided Columbia's main dialup access until 1994 (a total of 84 lines). Beginning in 1993, AcIS began to install modern error-correcting data-compressing modems of its own in Watson Lab. This was done for several reasons:

  1. The top speed of a Rolm port was fixed at 19200 bps.
  2. Rolm data ports did not support hardware flow control, which is essential for error-correcting data-compressing modems;
  3. SLIP and PPP connections could not be made through Rolm ports (at least not by an ordinary mortal).

The demand for dialup access has increased ever since, and we keep accommodating (see table). The modems themselves have since been upgraded to V.34 (28800 bps) and then V.90 (56K bps). Modems were originally used for text-based shell sessions. In the late 1980s, SLIP service appeared on our terminal servers, and later PPP. Gradually, shell access gave way to Internet connections over PPP, which had the advantages of allowing multiple sessions on the same connection including Web browsers and GUI PC-based e-mail, plus end-to-end data integrity (no more "line noise" -- of course the noise is still there, but it's detected and corrected by retransmission automatically by the modems and the IP and TCP network layers, so you don't see it).

Jan-Apr 1994:
The Columbia website debuts; see statistics below. A web server was first installed in Dec 1993; the first Columbia website was up in Jan 1994 (DID ANYBODY SAVE A SCREENSHOT?), and the website was announced and publicized in Apr 1994. Early original content included the Architecture digital library (1994-95), the Art History digital library (1993-95), the Oversized Geology Maps project (1994-96), and the Bartleby full-text literature project [Source: Rob Cartolano]. Before long, a Web front end to NOTIS-based CLIO was also available (DATE?).

May 1994:
In AIS News V4#2, the Directors of AcIS (Vace Kundakci) and AIS (Mike Marinaccio) present the full range of e-mail options available to Columbia: Pine, MM, VMM, MailBook, the newly emerging PC and Macintosh based POP clients, and e-mail with MIME attachments.

Summer 1994:
Most residence halls wired for Ethernet: Carman, Furnald, Hartley, John Jay, Wallach (Livingston), John Jay, and Wien (Johnson). Residence Hall Networking Option (RHNO) offered to students in the Fall. The first electronic classrooms were set up.

Sep 1994:
The public labs are switched from NeXT to HP 9000/712 UNIX (HP-UX) workstations; a big attraction is their ability to run both Mac and PC (Windows) emulators as well as UNIX applications -- perfect for the public labs but far too pricey for individual desktops.

Sometime in 1994:
I turn over my "Network Tsar" responsibilities to Bill Chen and devote full time to the Kermit Project, which I began 14 years earlier and could never quite give up. Shortly thereafter, Jeff Altman joins as a second full-time developer. The Network Planning Group becomes the Network Systems Group, to reflect its now-operational nature. Token Ring and SNA networks phased out.

Oct 1994:
Columbia's Kermit software serves as the primary communications method in the Brazilian national election, the world's largest election ever at the time.

Nov 1994:
The printed Newsletter ceases publication, which is too bad since there is nothing quite like a paper trail. Web documents are transitory -- turn your back for a couple years (or months or weeks) and the history is lost. The newsletter was the Computer Center (or CUCC, or CUCCA) Newsletter until November 1988, after which it suffered a series of makeovers and name changes: Columbia Computing, Computing News, Academic Computing, SIC [sic] Journal, etc, and then gave up the ghost. For all practical purposes, Columbia computing history stops here. There was an ASCII archive of newsletters through 1988 on the DEC-20s, but it was lost when CU20B was switched off.

Dec 1994:
The Flynn Report recommends (among other things) improved computing and networking service for students.

1994-95:
Windows and the Web take over. The diverse, rich, idiosyncratic history of computing stops here. For the first time, computing and networking are opened up to the general public. The locus of computing and networking shifts from science and academia to the mass market.

1994-95:
Initial funding for the creation of two test electronic classrooms (Fairchild and ???) for the 1994-95 year.

1994-present:
AcIS is primarily occupied with the Web, Web-based services, "content", labs, kiosks, Sun servers and NFS "toasters", multimedia classrooms, wired dorms, mobile and wireless computing, video conferencing, webcasting, distance learning, all the while fending off attacks from within and without -- viruses, spam, open mail relays, junk mail, denial of service attacks, worms, etc -- that occur continuously from all corners of the globe, and constantly struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth, storage, and dial-in modems, often just to accommodate services like Napster, Kazaa, Internet Relay Chat, Instant Messaging, and people emailing cartoons, photos, and movies to each other or serving streaming video from their dorm rooms. Superficially, users rely on AcIS less than before, now that they have their own desktop computers and applications. But in fact they rely on AcIS more than ever for essential daily services like virus protection and screening, e-mail and Web access, not to mention the Sun and RAID server farms that provide these services -- as well as safe, backed-up storage -- and the unglamorous infrastructure of network wiring, hubs, and routers (installation, maintenance, updates, expansion, management, configuration), plus the ongoing "feeds" from the administrative student information, human resources, and alumni systems, allowing automated identity creation, security, web-based student services, web-based courses, and all the rest, serving virtually every student, staff, and faculty member of the University, a community of over 40,000 users (plus another 50,000+ alumni with e-mail service).

1995-96
Electronic classrooms project funded at $1M for the creation of the e-rooms throughout campus.

Oct 1995:
Kermit 95 for Windows 95 released; this (and C-Kermit) would be the main preoccupation of the Kermit Project for the years to come, plus active involvement in IETF and Unicode standards. Kermit is a laboratory where we can learn about, experiment with, develop, and finally package, document, and deploy file transfer and management protocols, Internet clients and servers, character-set translation techniques, secure authentication and encryption methods, and algorithms of all kinds big and small, even transport-level network stacks. Even a programming language.

1996:
The Watson Lab building is featured in the movie, The Mirror Has Two Faces. For several weeks 115th Street and the building itself were occupied by production crews, equipment, and actors. The final shot in the movie zooms in to a Watson window. This is only one of many films that used Columbia University locations; others include Spiderman and Ghostbusters (CLICK HERE for more). The Columbia neighborhood is also a frequent setting for TV shows such as Law & Order (where "Hudson University" is a fictionalized Columbia University) and New York Undercover (1994-1998).

Fall 1997:
The 50th anniversary of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) passed unnoticed at Columbia, even though the ACM was founded here.

Jul 1999:
Rolm Dataphone connections (top speed: 19200 bps) were discontinued because by now everybody had Ethernet in their Rolmphone jacks; the Annex and Cisco terminal servers to which the central data modules were connected were switched off and removed.

Summer 1999:
The HP workstations were retired from the public labs and replaced by actual PCs and Macintoshes -- emulation is never quite like the real thing, and there wasn't that much interest in UNIX any more. The PCs run Microsoft Windows. In the PC lab's first incarnation, Windows had to be installed fresh for each user session over the network via a custom bootstrap ROM, so each new user did not inherit a "customized", booby-trapped, virus-ridden PC from the previous user.

Dec 1999:
In Pupin Laboratory, site of the world's first automated scientific calculations 65 years earlier, the Computational Field Theory Group of the Columbia University Physics Department, working with IBM TJ Watson Research Center and Brookhaven National Laboratory, begins construction of a multiteraflops supercomputing resource, the QCDOC machine (Quantum Chromodynamics On a Chip). In April 2002, the group received a five million dollar grant from RIKEN, the Japan Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in support of this work. CLICK HERE for further information.

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Aug 2002:
AcIS reclaims the 4th floor of Watson Lab. Some art studios are relocated to Prentis Hall. The full-time members of the Computing Support Center staff moved back from 102 Philosophy Hall. Walk-in services remain in 102 Philosophy but the telephone help desk is now in Watson Lab.

Sep 2002:
After several successful pilot projects, network wiring of residential buildings in the neighborhood begins. Initial service is 10Mbps, increased to 100 in Feb 2003.

22 Nov 2002:
"Today is the first day in history that Columbia is using Internet service from a company (Texas based Broadwing) which we had nothing to do with building. Until today, even though we had bought service from companies like PSI and Applied Theory, we used services which we (through Nysernet) had something to do with their creation and expansion, at least in their earlier stages. Let's now hope Broadwing stays in business." – Vace Kundakci (AcIS Director).

Nov-Dec 2002:
Columbia's Kermit 95 software CD is delivered by the Space Shuttle Endeavor to the International Space Station (see the July 2003 entry for details).

Jan - Feb 2003:
Installation of per-host outbound bandwidth throttling to reduce the impact of peer-to-peer "file sharing" (Napster, Gnutella, Kazaa, etc) on network performance.

Jan - May 2003:
As the University drowns in spam (unwanted e-mail), AcIS prototypes filtering mechanisms.

May 2003:
IBM System/360 nameplate, Console power switch, and about 100 lamps sent to the newly relocated Computer Museum History Center in Mountain View, California, for reattachment to our IBM 360/91 Console, which we donated in 1980 with these pieces missing.

16 Jun 2003:
AcIS activates its spam filters. At this point, incoming mail traffic is 500-600,000 messages per day, of which about 20% are filtered. The filtering policy, however, is conservative to avoid blocking legitimate mail, so this figure does not reflect the actual amount of spam and viruses, not to mention the fallout from them (e.g. bounce notifications resulting from forged mail).

Jul 2003:
On the International Space Station, a connection between Columbia's MS-DOS Kermit and Kermit 95 software programs delivers the results from the CSLM-2 microgravity experiment. This experiment is to be run at different times through 2005. CLICK HERE for the full story.

7 Jul 2003:
New CLIO (Columbia Library Information Online). The previous version, based on NOTIS software running on the IBM mainframe, dated from the 1980s, before the Web and the popularization of the Internet. The first CLIO system, based on Bibliotechiques BLIS software, debuted in January 1984; when Bibliotechiques folded a second version of CLIO, based on NOTIS (Northwestern Online Totally Integrated System), came up in summer 1988. NOTIS was developed at Northwestern University and later spun off, then bought by Ameritech Library Services, which was itself snapped up and evidently dissolved by a "private investment group" in 1999.

The new Web-centric CLIO is built on Endeavor Information Systems Inc. Oracle-based Voyager software, running on AcIS-administered Sun Solaris servers, and is also used at the US Library of Congress, the US National Libraries of Medicine and Agriculture, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Penn, and elsewhere. At this point, 92% of the University's holdings are cataloged online, a total of 4 million records, with plans for the remainder (with exceptions like maps and rare books, plus divisions that never joined the main catalog such as the Law and TC Libraries) to be in the catalog by 2005. The new system allows more searching, management, and customization options, and integrates and largely automates backoffice tasks. Perhaps more significantly, it is designed to accommodate Unicode, potentially allowing native-script cataloging of materials in Russian, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, and most other languages. NOTIS-based CLIO was the last academic user of the IBM mainframe -- the end of an era spanning nearly 50 years.

Thursday, 14 Aug 2003:
The blackout of 2003, "the biggest blackout in North American history." Electrical power failed about 4:15pm all over New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario, as well as parts of Vermont and Massachusetts, affecting 50 million people. Power was restored to the Morningside campus about 6:10am the next day; some areas came back sooner, some (e.g. Chelsea) were without power as long as 30 hours. The network and hosts began to come online 10:00am-2:00pm Friday, and by 6:00pm all the essential online services (Email, Web, Cunix and related software, Courseworks, network, library, modems, etc.) were available; ID management services were restored at 8:39pm Friday. Subways and trains resumed operation Saturday morning.

28 Oct 2003:
Columbia's central Sun servers upgraded from Solaris 2.5.1 to Solaris 9.

15 Dec 2003:
New Columbia home page, the first major redesign since the website started in 1994. Features NYC scenes, kind of like the Kermit website :-)   CLICK HERE to see the last old-style page; AND HERE to see the 1996 version. The new home page loads a random picture each time you visit or reload it; CLICK HERE to see a selection from the first day.

2004:
Columbia University 250th anniversary commemorative stamp
Columbia University's 250 Anniversary.
COLUMBIA.EDU 20th anniversary commemorative shirt
COLUMBIA.EDU 20th anniversary.

4 May 2004:
28 years after its first use at Columbia, electronic mail is declared an official medium of communication. As of 1 July 2004, all students are required to read their e-mail. By this time, nearly all students have their own computers; the dorms are all wired, as are neighborhood apartment buildings; computer labs are found throughout campus; and wireless networking is available in key outdoor common areas and various classrooms and lounges.

25 May 2004:
Columbia's last academic IBM mainframe, CUVMB, was turned off at 10:10am, terminating 36 years of continuous IBM 360-architecture service to Columbia's academic community (and before that, other IBM mainframe architectures going back to the 1950s, and before that IBM accounting and calculating machines reaching back to the 1940s, 30s, and 20s). Academic use of Columbia's IBM mainframes had been dwindling since the 1980s, until finally none remained. Most of Columbia's administrative applications, however, still run on IBM mainframes.  

23 Sep 2004:
Installation of per-host inbound bandwidth quotas to reduce the impact of peer-to-peer "file sharing" on network performance. This was the headline in today's Spectator, reflecting the widespread perception that the purpose of the network, if not the university itself, is to permit students to download and trade audio and video without paying for it. The initial limit is 400MB per hour.

11 Nov 2004:
Columbia University decides that it was not such a great idea after all to split academic and administrative computing (early 1988), or to consider computing a library function (January 1986), and commenced a search for a new VP of Information Technology to head a recombined, reconstituted, restructured, and possibly relocated central computing organization, the details of which will not be known until after new VP arrives. CLICK HERE for the announcement.

29 Nov 2004:
Spectatator picks up the story, attributing the reorganization to a series of "AcIS glitches" such as hacker and virus attacks; "Students are all too familiar of [sic] the shortcomings of AcIS... An anonymous SEAS junior said that AcIS is 'completely incompetent and [doesn't] know how to manage anything'." In reality, it would be rather difficult to point to any site that supports a user community upwards of 60,000, mostly on their own Internet-connected Windows workstations, that "knows how to manage" hackers and viruses, which, after all, arrive continuously from every corner of the planet, each one exploiting an as-yet-unknown vulnerability, periodically bringing down major corporations and entire governments, sometimes the Internet itself, not mention other universities. Evidently Spectator is also unaware that AIS and AcIS were a single organization until the University divided them. Putting them back together is a simple matter of undoing an old mistake, although it's not clear that the decision was made by anybody who knows that. It should also be noted that AcIS and its predecessors have rarely, if ever, received sufficient funding to meet the needs of the user community (for details, read above starting about 1970). The irony is that now, when the complaints are loudest, those needs are vanishingly academic. In the same Spectator issue, the staff editorial states that, in light of recent crackdowns on illegal downloading of copyright material (MP3s and video), "Columbia now has the responsibility to help students legally download movies and music." Now we know what we are here for.  

1 Jul 2005:
Candace Fleming appointed Columbia Vice President of Information Technology, to preside over the once-and-future joint AcIS/AIS organization, yet to be (re)named.

2 Aug 2005:
AIS + AcIS = CUIT (Columbia University Information Technology).  

30 Aug 2005:
50th anniversary of Columbia's first computer, an IBM 650 at Watson Lab: the first stored-program computer at Columbia that was available for general use by Columbia researchers and courses. (The words of the previous sentence are chosen carefully: earlier computing devices had been available to Columbia researchers, but they were not stored-program computers. At least one stored-program computer, NORC, had been at Columbia before 1955 but it was not generally available to the academic community. Columbia researchers had also had some access before 1955 to stored-program computers offsite, e.g. at IBM headquarters downtown; these computers were not at Columbia.) For all but the handful of brave pioneers who used the earlier plugboard-programmed machines, the 650 was indeed the first computer. Within a couple years, it could be programmed in FORTRAN and other symbolic languages, and quickly became so popular that a second one was added.

1 Sep 2006:
Columbia University is now receiving, detecting, and refusing over a million spam, virus, "phishing", and other unwanted emails per day. Of course many still come through, but it is better to allow some spam to pass than to block legitimate mail.

28 Feb 2008:
Alan Crosswell, who has been here almost as long as I have, appointed Associate Vice President and Chief Technologist.

15 Jan 2009:
The CUIT Helpdesk Support Center, formerly known as the Client Service Center (and before that as the SSIO [Self-Service Input/Output] Area, and the CUCCA Business and Consulting Office), moves from 102 Philosophy Hall (see March 1987 entry) to 202 Philosophy.

25 Jan 2010:
Herb Grosch dies at 91 years of age. An authentic computer pioneer, he worked here from 1945 to 1950 and in recent years was an energetic and colorful contributor to this history.

Introduction ] [ Timeline ] [ Epilog ] [ Tables ] [ Acronyms ] [ Glossary ] [ Sources ] [ Links ] [ SEARCH ] [ FAQ ]

Epilog

A theme that runs throughout this story is the neverending tug-of-war between supply and demand. Computers were extremely expensive in the early days, and space has always been the most valuable resource at Columbia's confined urban campus. The first computers were obtained largely through grants for specific research projects, but soon other uses were found for them and the University became increasingly dependent on them. After the grants expired the computers had to be continuously maintained, upgraded, and replaced. The eternal questions have been: How to pay? What to sacrifice? Where to put the equipment? How to get the space? How to recoup the expense? How to increase access? How to allocate limited computing resources? How to expand resources that are swamped by increasing demand? Who subidizes and who is subsidized?

It's interesting to ponder the transformation of Columbia from a quill-pen operation in the 1700s to the "wired" (and, increasingly, wireless) one it is today. Computers, obtained originally for scientific work that could not be done any other way, were also turned to administrative tasks such as registration, student records, payroll, and so on. What was the cost in money, space, and personnel before and after? And then later when centralized computing (based on a single multimillion dollar computer system) became fully distributed, with a PC on every desk, how did that change the overall expenditures, consumption of space and electrical power, personnel rosters, and the productivity of each person? Any clear answer would take a great deal more research than was done here, but the following table is suggestive:

  1925 2000 2006
Students 24188 22199 24417
Officers of Instruction 1771 2890 3392
Officers of Administration 92 2800 4628
Full-Time Support Staff 1198 3303 3548
Tuition (dollars per point)   8 834 1122

Sources: The 1925 figures come from Columbia's 1924-25 Catalog [5] and from the 1924-25 Annual Report [35]; the student count does not include another 12,916 summer session students; the officers of administration include 38 who are also on the faculty. The 2000 figures come from the Columbia University Statistical Abstract of the Office of Planning and Institutional Research (on the Web). The growth in faculty is accounted for almost entirely by the Health Sciences. The 2006 figures are from "2006 FACTS" and the Student Financial Services website.

Although the role of computing in staff and tuition increases is far from clear, it is evident that Columbia University was able to offer a first-class education to about 20,000 students annually with a lot less overhead and at far less expense without computers than with them, even accounting for inflation (which averaged 3.1% per year from 1925 to 2000 or 987% over the period; thus if tuition had merely kept pace with inflation, it would have risen only to $79 per point rather than $834). Of course, one can't necessarily blame computers for a topheavy bureaucracy -- since the 1950s, huge amounts of additional work in the form of reports have been mandated by government at every level. Anyway, as any student who registered in the old days can tell you, the new systems are a big improvement. And let's not overlook that fact that Columbia is a far bigger employer than it was in 1925. Jobs are good!

When the Computer Center opened in 1963, there was one big computer for everybody to use, cared for by a small professional staff, initially just 15 people. Today, the combined staff of AcIS and AIS numbers well into the hundreds, and this doesn't count an unknown number of full and part-time computer people in the administrative and academic departments, nor junior faculty and graduate students shanghaied into system-administration roles, nor the fact that almost everybody at the University devotes copious time to "managing" and fighting with their own desktop computers into the bargain, not to mention dealing (or worse: not) with the constant onslaught of viruses, worms, and hacks from all corners of the world. One is tempted to wonder in exactly what way computers are labor-saving devices :-)

But love 'em or hate 'em, computers and networks are with us to stay. They first came to Columbia for scientific and statistical work; now they are used mainly for social and entertainment purposes, plus preparation of papers, a certain amount of course work, and for carrying on the business of the University. All students and faculty are presumed to have computer, network, and Web access; it is required in many courses and for numerous tasks such as looking up class schedules, room assignments, and grades, and as of Fall 2001 can also be used for online registration.

The benefits of the Web are well known but its dangers little discussed, at least not beyond the well-known safety hazards (credit-card theft, pedophiles, viruses) and annoyances (bugs and new features requiring constant software upgrades). Let's look at some of the more fundamental pitfalls that tend to be ignored as we rush to replace all that is old by what is new:

Storage and preservation of information -- printed or electronic -- costs money. Money is a scarce resource, also needed for food, shelter, medical care, exhorbitant CEO compensation, and so on. The legacy of humanity belongs to those with the desire and the money to preserve it, and to keep preserving it, and they are ones who will decide what is worth preserving and what to discard.

Introduction ] [ Timeline ] [ Epilog ] [ Tables ] [ Acronyms ] [ Glossary ] [ Sources ] [ Links ] [ SEARCH ] [ FAQ ]

Old News

CU Computing History Site in Network World
How to really bury a mainframe (University of Manitoba), 17 December 2007.

Columbia University 250th Anniversary (2004)
CLICK HERE to visit Columbia's extensive website commemorating the university's 250th anniversary (and HERE and HERE and HERE for some computing history bits).

Now Online (Oct 2005) - NEW
Programming with Punched Cards by Dale Fisk of IBM (PDF).

Introduction ] [ Timeline ] [ Epilog ] [ Tables ] [ Acronyms ] [ Glossary ] [ Sources ] [ Links ] [ SEARCH ] [ FAQ ]

Tables

1. Number of Dialin Modems

Year Old New Total Remarks
1971 23 0 23 (V6#13: 5 CRBE + 18 Wylbur)
1985 59 0 59  
1986 84 0 84 (First 2400 bps)
1988 84 0 84 (Moved from PACX to Rolm)
1993 84 10 94 (First V.32bis)
1994 84 82 166  
1995 84 154 238 (First V.34, first SLIP/PPP)
1996 0 250 250  
1997 0 298 298  
1998 0 482 482  
1999 0 644 644 (All V.90 56K)
2001 0 736 736  
2002 0 805 805  

"Old" means no error correction, compression, or hardware flow control. "New" modems are connected to (or integrated with) TCP/IP terminal servers; old ones were connected to serial ports on the PACX or Rolm. Prior to 1985 it's hard to figure out -- specific phone numbers went to specific computers, etc; few comprehensive tables were published in the Newsletter or Guides to Facilities. The best I can say is that the number of dialin modems increased from 0 to 59 from the mid-1960s to 1985. Modem-pool expansion finally leveled off in 2002-2003, when DSL connections became possible from the home and AcIS began to bring neighborhood apartment buildings onto the high-speed campus network.

2. Columbia Web growth

Year Total CU AcIS
1994 3580000 310000 220000
1995 63051290 10102390 3817480
1996 121977400 34795600 13646120
1997 242023100 103805700 24188300
1998 350233000 173890700 32039700
1999 496350208 248657952 41192400
2000 782613655 339680073 52106380
2001 975530540 442895314 103766239
2002  1203698999  597895887  72669298
2003  1347966061  682969914  96849101
2004  1394513293  534202948  143452610
2005  1425516685  576447890  149184118

The numbers reflect total accesses (hits) per year. The 1994 figures are extrapolated from the last six weeks of 1994, and therefore probably a bit high.

3. Registered Network Addresses By Campus

Month/
Year
Morningside Health
Sciences
Lamont Total
1/1994 3709 381 713 4803
1/1995 6344 2356 767 9467
1/1996 10264 4026 936 15226
1/1997 13556 5991 1004 20551
2/1998 18279 9067 1407 28753
2/1999 23621 11576 1690 36887
2/2000 27504 14077 2056 43637
2/2001 31630 16731 2317 50678
2/2002 41334 20423 2505   64262
2/2003 44078 25216 2842   72136

4. E-Mail Messages Per Week

Year Count
1991 37600
1992 55400
1993 82700
1994 188900
1995 299600
1996 442900
1997 586784
1998 798688
1999 1100000
2000 2400000
2001 3460000
2002   3960000

Introduction ] [ Timeline ] [ Epilog ] [ Tables ] [ Acronyms ] [ Glossary ] [ Sources ] [ Links ] [ SEARCH ] [ FAQ ]

Acronyms

AcIS      Academic Information Systems (of Columbia University)
ADP       Administrative Data Processing (of Columbia University)
AIS       Administrative Information Services (new name of ADP)
ANSI      American National Standards Institute
APL       A Programming Language (With Its Own Character Set)
ARPA      (US Defense Department) Advanced Research Projects Agency
ASCC      Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (early IBM computer)
ASCII     American Standard Code for Information Interchange
ASP       Attached Support Processor
AUC       Apple University Consortium
AUFS      Appletalk UNIX File Server
BAL       Basic (IBM 360 and 370) Assemly Language
BASIC     Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code
BASR      Bureau of Applied Social Research (of Columbia University)
BCD       Binary Coded Decimal
BCDIC     Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code
BITNET    Because-It's-There Network ("It" = RSCS")
BNF       Backus-Naur Form
BPS       Bits per Second
CAP       Columbia Appletalk Package
CBX       (IBM/Rolm/Siemens) Computerized Branch Exchange
CCNET     Computer Center (or Columbia/Carnegie) Network (DECnet)
CE        (IBM) Customer Engineer
CLIO      Columbia Libraries Information Online
CMU       Carnegie-Mellon University
COBOL     Common Business Oriented Language
CPC       Card Programmed Calculator
CP/M      Control Program / Microcomputer
CPS       Characters per Second
CRBE      Conversational Remote Batch Entry
CREN      Consortium for Research and Education Network
CRT       Cathode-Ray Tube, e.g. a video terminal
CUCC      Columbia University Computer Center
CUCCA     Columbia University Center for Computing Activities
CUNY      City University of New York
CWRU      Case Western Reserve University
DACU      Device Attachment Control Unit (early IBM Ethernet adapter)
DASD      Direct Access Storage Device (IBM term for "disk", pronounced dazdee)
DAT       Digital Audio Tape
DCMUP     Same as DCS (not sure what it stands for).
DCS       Directly Coupled System (Columbia's IBM 7040 and 7094)
DEC       Digital Equipment Corporation
DOS       Disk Operating System
EAM       Electric Accounting Machine (using punched cards)
EBCDIC    Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code
EDUCOM    blah blah
EMACS     Editing Macros (video editor by Richard Stallman)
FORTRAN   Formula Translator (first high-level programming language)
FE        Field Engineer (DEC)
FS        Field Service (DEC)
FSF       Free Software Foundation
GNU       GNU is Not UNIX (recursive acronym of the FSF)
GUI       Graphical User Interface
HASP      Houston Automatic Spooling Program
HP        Hewlett Packard Corporation
IBM       International Business Machines Corporation
IETF      Internet Engineering Task Force
JCL       Job Control Language (OS/360, MVS, etc)
JSYS      Jump to System (DEC-20 monitor call)
JVNCNET   John von Neumann Supercomputer Center Network
KGB       (Soviet) Committee for State Security
LAN       Local Area Network (Ethernet, Token Ring, etc)
LCG       (DEC) Large Computer Group
LISP      List Processing (language)
LPM       Lines per Minute (speed of line printer)
MINCE     MINCE Is Not Completely EMACS (EMACS semi-clone for CP/M)
MOS       Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (memory, as opposed to magnetic cores or vacuum tubes)
MSS       (IBM) Mass Storage System
MTBF      Mean Time Between Failures
MTTR      Mean Time To Repair
NCR       National Cash Register Corporation
NFS       Network File System
NORC      Naval Ordnance Reseach Calculator (early IBM computer)
NPG       Network Planning Group (of Columbia U)
NSF       National Science Foundation
NSFNET    National Science Foundation Network
NYSERNET  New York Science and Engineering Research Network
OCS       Office of Communications Services (of Columbia University)
OS        Operating System
PACX      Private Access Computer eXchange
PDP       Programmed Data Processor
PL/I      Programming Language One
PPP       Point-to-Point Protocol
RAID      Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disk
RHNO      Residence Hall Networking Option (at Columbia U)
RJE       Remote Job Entry
RSCS      Remote Spooling Communications Subsystem
RSTS/E    Resource Sharing Time Sharing / Extended (DEC PDP-11 OS)
SAIL      Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (or Language)
SE        Software Engineer (DEC); Systems Engineer (IBM)   Also see: FE, CE
SEL       Systems Engineering Laboratories
SLIP      Serial Line Internet Protocol
SNA       (IBM) Systems Networking Architecture
SNOBOL    String Oriented Language (pun on COBOL)
SPITBOL   (pun on SNOBOL)
SSIO      Self-Service Input/Output (area at Columbia U)
SIC       Scholarly Information Center (at Columbia University)
SOS       Share Operating System (IBM 709)
SOS       Son Of Stopgap (PDP-10, DEC-20 text editor)
TOPS      The Operating System (for PDP-10s and DEC-20s)
UUCP      UNIX-to-UNIX Copy Program
VT        Video Terminal

Introduction ] [ Timeline ] [ Epilog ] [ Tables ] [ Acronyms ] [ Glossary ] [ Sources ] [ Links ] [ SEARCH ] [ FAQ ]

Glossary of Forgotten Terms

Also see: The IBM Glossary.
Batch
A way for users to run programs on shared computers. Jobs are submitted (e.g. as decks of cards) into a queue. Each job reaches the head of the queue, executes, and then the results are delivered the user (e.g. as a printout). This is a step up from the early days when users needed hands-on exclusive access to the computer in order to use it. Batch survives today on timesharing systems such as Unix (as "cron" jobs), VMS, and of course on IBM mainframes, but usually without the cards and printouts. Nowadays shared computers are accessed mainly through timesharing. Meanwhile, personal desktop computers have made hands-on exclusive access the norm once again.

Core
This word is still used synonymously with "memory", but in fact refers to a specific memory technology used from about 1955 to 1975, in which each bit was a ferrite core, whose charge was controlled and sensed by currents in wires passing through the core's hole. MORE HERE.

CRT
Cathode Ray Tube. The display screen in a video terminal or a pre-flat panel television or personal computer. More generally, any vacuum tube incorporating a mobile beam. 1950s-era computer memories were sometimes made of CRTs; for example, the IBM 700-series CRT memories packed 1024 bits into a single tube (contrary to the popular image of one bit per tube).

Drum
Similar to a hard disk, except the recording surface is on the circumfrence, rather than on the flat end(s), and the read/write heads are fixed rather than moving. Thus it is a spinning cylinder with a stationary head array extending from end to end, with one fixed head per track. Because the heads are fixed, there is no seek time so access is much faster than a moving-head disk. Drums were used as main memory in early computers like the IBM 650 and as swapping or paging devices in later computers such as the IBM 360/91 and the DEC PDP-11. An example is the IBM 2301 drum storage, about 1960. Also: (1) Any fixed-head disk or, by extension, any swapping device; (2) A Data Cell cylinder around which a tape strip is wrapped for reading and writing; (3) The print mechanism used in certain kinds of line printers, such as the DEC LP20: a constantly rotating metal cylinder with all the characters on it -- to print a specific character in a specific column, the corresponding hammer strikes the drum just when the desired character is behind the paper and ink ribbon; (4) the electrostatic print-transfer mechanism in Xerographic or laser printers.

Electric (or Electronic) Accounting Machine (EAM)
EAMs were the workhorses of the 1930s-60s for accounting, payroll, and so on, before there were real stored-program computers. They were mainly mechanical; accumulating sums in gear registers. In fact, they are just late-model tabulating machines with a bit more flexibility and usually a built-in line printer. CLICK HERE to see examples.

Paper Tape
A long strip of heavy paper, usually an inch wide, in which holes could be punched, 5 to 9 per row. For computer use, usually 8 holes were used: 7 data bits and 1 parity bit. Paper tape was also used in telecommunications (telex) and in the printing industry as the input medium for hot-metal typesetting machines and is still used for numerical control of milling and drilling machines. Computer applications of paper tape included automated data input and output, as on the ASR33 Teletype or the IBM 1620 computer, object-module output by compilers (on computers that did not have disks -- for example, the output of a Fortran compiler), and printer control loops (see story at the end of this page). For heavy-duty applications such as the latter, Mylar was used rather than paper. The typical recording density was 10 rows (bytes) per inch. Punching and reading speeds varied from 10 rows per second up to 2000. Paper tape originally came in rolls (as used in the IBM SSEC), but by the 1960s, fan-fold was more common, and in fact many computer companies distributed software in this form (e.g. for the DEC PDP-8). An incorrectly punched row could be "deleted" by punching all the holes; this is the origin of the ASCII RUB (Rubout, Delete) character, 0x7F (all 1's). Editing could also be accomplished by cutting and splicing. More at the University of Amsterdam Computing History Museum.

Plugboard, Patch Board, Patch Panel, Control Panel
IBM EAM equipment (accounting machines, sorters, reproducing punches, interpreters, etc) as well as some of its early calculators (computers) were programmed through control panels — rectangular boards with an array of holes, which are interconnected by wires to specify the desired functions, e.g. which card columns are to be sent to which accumulator, or printed to which printer columns, etc. Photos and more info: [HERE] [HERE] [HERE] [HERE] and [HERE].

Punched Card
A stiff cardboard rectangle in which holes can be punched and then later read by various devices (see Unit Record Equipment). Punchcards date back to the 1700s, and can be found in many formats. IBM punchcards (after 1928) were 7 3/8" inches wide and 3 1/4" high, with three rounded corners and the upper left corner cut diagonally, and twelve 80-column rows for small rectangular holes. Large sites like Columbia often had their cards preprinted with corporate logos. Until the early 1970s, virtually all computing jobs at Columbia were submitted on decks of cards punched on key punch machines. Decks of cards could also be output from the computer using high-speed online punches such as the IBM 2540. Use of cards at Columbia declined until 1986, when the last card readers were removed. As of 2000, however, many voting machines were still based on punched card technology.

Relay
An electromechanical device or switch that automatically controls the current in one circuit based on the current in another circuit, used in 1940s-era calculators and computers such as the Aberdeens, the SSEC, and the Bell relay calcalators.

Remote Job Entry
Or RJE. In the mainframe era, before interactive terminals, jobs were submitted on decks of cards and results obtained on a line printer or other local device. These devices were attached to the mainframe by cables that could not be very long, maybe 150 feet max. To access the mainframe from greater distances required a Remote Job Entry station: usually a card reader and line printer connected to some kind of controller, connected by (usually synchronous) modem to the central site. Typically an RJE user would put a deck of cards in the hopper, push Start, and wait an unpredictable amount of time for the results to come out of the printer. The IBM RJE interface was fairly well standardized, so it also came to double as a connection for other kinds of computers -- a kind of early networking, in which traffic in one direction was in 80-column card images, and traffic in the reverse direction was 132-column printer lines.

Tabulating Machine
A machine capable of reading punched cards and either sorting them into selected bins or adding up the numbers punched into selected columns. Tabulating machines were used from 1890 through the 1950s or 60s for statistical, financial, and even scientific applications. CLICK HERE for examples.

Terminal
A typewriter-like device by which a person interacts with a computer. It has a keyboard and either paper to print on or else a video screen (certain special kinds of terminals might also have Braille pads or text-to-voice interpreters). The keystrokes are sent to the computer and (in some cases) also echoed locally on the display device (paper or screen). Characters arriving from the computer are sent to the display device. Video terminals sometimes have an attached printer. Early hardcopy terminals included Teletypes and electric typewriters wired for communication, such as the IBM 2741; later ones include dot-matrix models such as the DECwriter. The best-known video terminal is the DEC VT100; video terminals were popular from the mid-1970s until about 1990 (and are still used today in certain specialized applications like data entry and transaction processing; every winter TV news reporters visit the NYC Heat Complaint Bureau, and every year they are still using IBM 3270 "green tubes"). The best-known graphics terminal is the Tektronix 4010. Although few real terminals are still in operation, terminals are widely emulated by the PC, Macintosh, and other workstation software that allows us to access our "shell accounts".
TTY
Teletype (see Terminal).

Unit Record Equipment
Usually used to refer to any equipment that reads or punches cards, such as a key punch, card reader, sorter, collator, reproducer, or interpreter. Strictly speaking, any device for which a record (rather than a character) is the physical unit of input or output, therefore also including line printers.

Introduction ] [ Timeline ] [ Epilog ] [ Tables ] [ Acronyms ] [ Glossary ] [ Sources ] [ Links ] [ SEARCH ] [ FAQ ]

Sources

  1. My recollections and notes, 1965-present.
  2. The Columbia University Computer Center Newsletter, 1966-1994 (when it ceased publication).
  3. Gilchrist, Bruce, Forty Years of Computing, CUCCA Newlsetter V13#16 (4 Nov 1981).
  4. Bashe, Charles J.; Lyle R. Johnson; John H. Palmer; Emerson W. Pugh, IBM's Early Computers, MIT Press (1985).
  5. Columbia University Catalogue, 1924-1925.
  6. Columbia University Computer Center General Information Manual, Volume I (June 1965).
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  52. IBM Oral History Project on Computer Technology, Interview TC-1, with W.J. Eckert (11 July 1964).
  53. Mackenzie, Charles E., Coded Character Sets, History and Development, Addison-Wesley (1980).
  54. Trimble, George R., "A Brief History of Computing", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Volume 23, Number 3 (July-September 2001).
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  60. Grosch, Herb, private correspondence (May 2003 - present).
  61. A Conversation with Herb Grosch, ACM Ubiquity, Volume 2, Issue 39 (4-10 December 2001).
  62. Schreiner, Ken, private correspondence (May 2003).
  63. Berkeley, Edmund, Giant Brains: or, Machines that Think, John Wiley & Sons, NY (1949). The first book about computers for a general nontechnical audience.
  64. Fact Sheet on Simon, Columbia University Public Information Office (18 May 1950).
  65. Eckert, Wallace J, and Rebecca Jones, Faster, Faster: a simple description of a giant electronic calculator and the problems it solves, McGraw-Hill, New York (1955).
  66. King, Kenneth, private correspondence (July-August 2003).
  67. Hankam, Eric, interviews (11 July and 4 November 2003).
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  73. Ceruzzi, Paul E. "Crossing the Divide: Architectural Issues and the Emergence of the Stored Program Computer, 1935-1955", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 19 No. 1 (1997).
  74. Winegrad, Dilys, and Atsushi Akera, "A Short History of the Second American Revolution", University of Pennsylvania Almanac, Vol.42 No.18 (30 Jan 1996). On the Web HERE.
  75. John McPherson, Computer Engineer, an oral history conducted in 1992 by William Aspray, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.
  76. Grosch, Herbert R.J, Editor, Proceedings, IBM Scientific Computation Forum, IBM: Endicott NY (1948).
  77. W.J.E. (Wallace J. Eckert), "The IBM Pluggable Sequence Relay Calculator", Mathematical Tables and Other Aids to Computation, Vol.3, No.23 (Jul 1948), pp.149-161.
  78. W.J.E. (Wallace J. Eckert) and Ralph F. Haupt, "The Printing of Mathematical Tables", Mathematical Tables and Other Aids to Computation, Vol.2, No.17 (Jan 1947), pp.197-202.
  79. McPherson, John C., Introduction and Biographical Note on Wallace Eckert in the 1984 reprint of [50].
  80. Stibitz, G.R., "A Note on 'Is' and 'Might Be' in Computers", Mathematical Tables and Other Aids to Computation, Vol.4, No.31 (Jul 1950), pp.168-169.
  81. W.J.E. (Wallace J. Eckert), "Mathematical Tables on Punched Cards", Mathematical Tables and Other Aids to Computation, Vol.1, No.12 (Oct 1945), pp.433-436.
  82. Eckert, Wallace J., "Calculating Machines", Encyclopedia Americana (1958).
  83. Eckert, Wallace J., Letter to Mr. G.W. Baehne, IBM, 270 Broadway, NYC (9 Jan 1934).
  84. Eckert, W.J., "Electrons and Computation", The Scientific Monthly, Vol. LXVII, No. 5 (Nov 1948).
  85. Eckert, Wallace J., Transcript, Systems Service Class No. 591 (Aerial Navigation) for the US Army Air Corps; Department of Education, International Business Machines, Endicott NY (8 Sep 1944).
  86. Jones, Walter D., "Watson and Me: A Life at IBM", edited by Don Black, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 25 No. 3 (Jul-Sep 2003), p.15.
  87. Eckert, W.J., "The Astronomical Hollerith-Computing Bureau", Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Vol.49, No.291 (Oct 1937), pp.249-253.
  88. Smith, Harry F., interview, 8 Sep 2003.
  89. Eckert, Wallace, Correspondence and papers, 1935-1971, archived at the Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota.
  90. Eckert, W.J., "Facilities of the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory", Proceedings of the Research Forum, IBM, Endicott NY (Aug 1946), pp.75-84.
  91. Gutzwiller, M.C., "Wallace Eckert, Computers, and the Nautical Almanac Office" in Fiala, Alan D., and Steven J. Dick (editors), Proceedings, Nautical Almanac Office Sesquicentennial Symposium, U.S. Naval Observatory, Washington DC, March 3-4, 1999, pp.147-163.
  92. Baehne, George W. (IBM), Practical Applications of the Punched Card Method in Colleges and Universities, Columbia University Press (1935); hardbound, 442 pages, 257 figures.
  93. Seidelmann, P. Kenneth, Research Professor, University of Virginia Astronomy Department, private correspondence, Sept-Oct 2003 and April 2004. Prof. Seidelmann was at the US Naval Observatory from 1965 to 2000 and is a historian of the Naval Observatory.
  94. Interrogation NAV No. 75, USSBS No. 378, Tokyo, 13-14 Nov 1945: Admiral Soemu Toyoda (Chief of Naval General Staff from May 1945), United States Strategic Bombing Survey [Pacific], Naval Analysis Division: Interrogations of Japanese Officials, Volume II, OPNAV-P-03-100 (1946), p.319.
  95. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Japan's Struggle to End the War. Chairman's Office, 1 July 1946, p.13.
  96. Stimson, Henry L., and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War, Harper, NY (1948), p.618.
  97. Krawitz, Eleanor, "The Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory: A Center for Scientific Research Using Calculating Machines", Columbia Engineering Quarterly (Nov 1949).
  98. IBM Technical Newsletter, No.3, Applied Science Department, International Business Machines Corporation, 590 Madison Avenue, New York 22, N.Y., 22-8823-0-3M-LB-P (Dec 1951).
  99. IBM Watson Lab Three-Week Course on Computing, Class Lists (1947-56).
  100. Buderi, Robert, The Invention That Changed the World ("How a small group of Radar pioneers won the Second World War and launched a technological revolution"), Simon & Schuster, New York (1996).
  101. Grosch, Herbert R.J., "Early Women in Computing", Communications of the ACM, Vol.38 No.4 (April 1995) (1996).
  102. Dick, Steven J., Sky and Ocean Joined: The U.S. Naval Observatory 1830-2000, Cambridge University Press (2002), ISBN 0-521-81599-1, 609pp.
  103. Backus, John, private correspondence, July 2004.
  104. Eames, Charles and Ray, A Computer Perspective: Background to the Computer Age, Harvard University Press. First Edition 1973; Second Edition 1990. Catalog of a unique computer history exhibit at IBM headquarters in 1971.
  105. Knuth, Donald, The Art of Computer Programming, Vol.3 "Sorting and Searching", Addison-Wesley (1973); Section 5.5, pp.382-384 [the link is to the 1998 revised edition].
  106. Eckert, W.J., "The IBM Department of Pure Science and the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory", Educational Research Forum Proceedings, IBM, Endicott NY (Aug 1947), pp.31-36.
  107. Bellovin, Steve, personal correspondence, January 2006. Now a member of Columbia's Computer Science faculty after many years at Bell Labs / AT&T Labs, Steve, as a Columbia student in 1968-69, worked at the IBM Watson Lab building on 115th Street doing system administration tasks on an IBM 1130.
  108. Pugh, Emerson W.; Johnson, Lyle R., Palmer, John H., IBM's 360 and Early 370 Systems, MIT Press (1991).
  109. Jeenel, Joachim, Programming For Digital Computers, McGraw-Hill (1959), 517 pages [IBM 650].
  110. Andree, Richard V., Programming the IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Computer and Data-Processing Machine, Henry Holt and Co., New York (1958).
  111. Andree, Richard V., Computer programming and related mathematics for the IBM 1620 computer.
  112. Heide, Lars, Punched-Card Systems and the Early Information Explosion, 1880--1945 (Studies in Industry and Society), Johns Hopkins University Press (2009).
  113. Grier, David Alan, Too Soon To Tell: Essays for the End of The Computer Revolution (Perspectives), Wiley-IEEE Computer Society (2009)

Sources are listed in the order they were encountered. Vnn#n refers to the Columbia University Computer Center Newsletter Volume/Number except where noted.

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Frank da Cruz / fdc@columbia.edu / Columbia University Computing History / 2001 - 2009