History of the Department of Computer Scince, 1960–2000

Computer Science Department

Illinois Institute of Technology

Introduction

When the Information Science Center became the Department of Computer Science in 1971, IIT was already offering undergraduate and graduate courses leading to a Master of Science in Information Science and a Master of Science for Teachers in Information Science; it was also offering non-credit courses for high-school students and teachers. Since 1971, Computer Science has become the largest department in the College of Science and is a key research component of the Chicago area. On Main Campus, we offer degrees at all levels, and through IIT Online we offer long-distance master's degrees nationally and internationally. We invite you to learn more of our history.

History of the 1960s

Before the creation of the Computer Science Department, formal programming courses were taught through the Math Department and the Information Science Center/Computer Center (both names were used during this period). As course offerings grew during the 1960s, computer science became an integral part of the education of not only computer scientists, but also undergraduate and graduate students in business, psychology, engineering, and the sciences. When Computer Science was recast as a department in 1971, it was already offering 35 undergraduate and graduate-level courses. The courses conformed to the Curriculum 68 Guidelines of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and CS was the 5th largest of IIT's 25 academic units.


IIT Computation Cent Newsletter, Oct 1966
Computer Center Newsletter, Oct 1966
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machine room

Article on High School students using computers in 1964
IITRAN Bulletin, Oct 1965
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Computers were first making their way into schools, and computer education required pioneers. Director Peter Lykos hired fellow Ph.D. chemist Robert Dewar, who began thinking about the problem of introducing programming to beginners. With others, Dewar created the IITRAN (pronounced it-tran) language. (See The IITRAN Programming Language, R. Dewar et al., CACM 12(10):569-575 (Oct 1969).) Based on a subset of PL/I, IITRAN had comprehensive diagnostics, a novel set of control structures, and even supported complex numbers. Charles Bauer (then with Lane Tech High School), Tony Peluso, and associates of theirs wrote self-instruction texts first for IITRAN and later for a number of programming languages. These books enabled college-level and high school-level students to learn to program without taking formal computer science courses.

Robert Dewar
Robert Dewar

IIT also advanced computer education through the Saturday High School program, a non-credit program for high school students and their teachers. Instructors for the program came from IIT and from industry, with IBM providing Edison Schroeder as a full-time instructor. In ten years, 15,000 high school students and 1,200 teachers studied under this program, which was eventually led by Tony Peluso and Charles Bauer (and after Peluso's untimely illness and passing, by Charles Bauer alone).

Article on High School students using computers in 1964
High School Students Use Computers, 1964
(click image to enlarge)

Article on High School students using computers in 1964
Take Charge of Your Career
(Popular Mechanics Sept. 1965)
(click image to enlarge)

Under another program, for Secondary School Computer Science Education (SSCSE), 800 high school teachers and 300 high school students took CS courses for credit at IIT and some high schools. IIT also offered computer support: In 1969, IIT began offering high schools remote access to an IIT computer, and in 1970, the Comp-U-Tel program enabled high schools to connect to IIT using ASR-33 teletype machines.

IIT also worked in undergraduate curriculum development and regional network development. IIT was one of a group of nine colleges and universities granted $885,000 by the National Science Foundation in 1968 to jointly investigate these areas. IIT was the lead institution in setting up the Chicago-based regional computer network, the largest regional center in the U.S. In 1969, IIT participated in a conference on the Impact of Computers on College Curricula. Topics included the use of computers to enhance curricula in various disciplines and the evolution of computer science as an undergraduate discipline.

machine room

The introduction of formal degree programs made IIT a leading institution for undergraduate and graduate computer science education in the Chicago area. The first degree program, the M.S. in Information Science, was offered by the Information Science Center in 1969 and still forms the core of the modern computer science program. The M.S. for Teachers in Information Science was started a year later and was supported by graduate courses created by Charles Bauer.

The next step, the creation of a Department of Computer Science, was lobbied for heavily by the Director of the Information Science Center, Peter Lykos. His efforts succeeded in 1971.

Thanks to professors Charles Bauer, Martha Evens, Peter Greene, Peter Lykos, Ed Reingold, and Jim Vandendorpe for contributing their memories.

History of the 1970s

1970

Supported by graduate courses created by Charles Bauer, the Information Science Center under Peter Lykos began offering the M.S. for Teachers in Information Science.

1971

The Department of Computer Science was organized in the fall of 1971. The M.S. in Information Science was renamed the M.S. in Computer Science, and two bachelor's degrees were introduced, the B.S. in Computer Science and the B.S.L.A. (Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts) in Computer Science.

The transition from the Information Science Center to the Department of Computer Science was aided by carrying over the ISC staff, Robert Dewar and instructors Mark Condic, Charles Fisher, and Richard Weiland, who had come to IIT from the Information Science program at the University of Chicago.

IIT hired Robert G. Tobey away from Argonne to head the new department. He was known for his work as a co-developer of FORMAC, one of the first systems for symbolic computation.

Anthony Wojcik was hired, with his Ph.D. fresh from the University of Illinois, to develop and teach courses in computer architecture.

The new department hired high school teachers to lead lab sections for first-year CS courses; nowadays exceptional undergraduate students are given this experience.

Some CS faculty from the 1970s

Faculty photo from an IIT Yearbook(click image for full page)

(Above: Peter Greene, Anthony Wojcik, James Vandendorpe, Edmond Schonberg, Martha Evens, Sharad Wagle, and Charles Bauer)

1972

The department started to recruit students for its Ph.D. program, newly designed by Robert Dewar and Robert Tobey.

Robert Dewar and his students released SPITBOL, a fast and robust SNOBOL4 compiler. SNOBOL (String Oriented Symbolic Language) used string pattern matching as its basic operation, with patterns more powerful than those now found in (e.g.) Perl. SPITBOL was soon used world-wide and is still available, under the GPLv3 license. (See http://code.google.com/p/spitbol.)

IIT hosted an IEEE tutorial conference on Concepts in Design of Computer-Oriented Systems. Topics included industrial process control, telecommunication switching systems, database design, logic design, integrated circuits, and reliability of digital systems.

Just to show you that computer scientists are not all work and no play, here's instructor Rick Weiland singing at the weekly coffeehouse at nearby St. James.

Instructor Rick Weiland singing at St. James coffeehouse

Rick Weiland

1973

The department expanded the Ph.D. program and also hired Wing Huen, who had just received his Ph.D. from Carnegie-Mellon University in operating systems.

1974

Peter Greene was hired to begin the program in artificial intelligence. He had been teaching at the University of Chicago after earning his Ph.D. in Mathematical Biology there.

Also admitted were two excellent Ph.D. candidates, James Vandendorpe and Thomas Christopher. Both became instructors, earned their Ph.D. degrees, and joined the faculty as Assistant Professors.

machine room

UNIVAC Machine Room

1975

Robert Dewar left IIT for New York University, where he wrote the first Ada compiler (with the help of Edmond Schonberg) and designed and developed the software architecture for several microcomputers.

Martha Evens, fresh from Northwestern University, was hired to teach Dewar's compiler courses, information retrieval, and natural language processing. She was the department's first faculty member with a Ph.D. in Computer Science.

1976

Carma McClure defended the department's first Ph.D. in Computer Science and went on to become a world-famous author and lecturer on software engineering. Wing Huen left for Bell Laboratories, where he designed and implemented the first operating system for the first digital switch.

Page from IIT Bulletin from Early 1970s

From An Early 1970s IIT Bulletin

(click image to enlarge)

1978

When Robert Tobey left IIT, Anthony Wojcik took over as Chair. He served until 1984, when he left for Michigan State University to become its chair of Computer Science.

Thanks to professors Charles Bauer, Martha Evens, Peter Greene, Peter Lykos, Ed Reingold, and Jim Vandendorpe for contributing their memories.

History of the 1980s

1981

Peter Lykos, Professor of Chemistry and formerly head of the Information Science Center, was named to a CEEB (College Entrance Examination Board) committee establishing standards for the Advanced Placement exam in Computer Science.

1982

Anthony Wojcik, Witold Wojciechowski (Ph.D. 1980), and Waldo Kabat (Ph.D. 1982) modified a theorem prover to verify the correctness of a logic circuit.

Anthony Wojcik circa 1982
Anthony Wojcik

1983

Martha Evens, Ph.D. student Howard Hill, and neurologist Dr. Daniel Hier developed an expert system to assist emergency room physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of stroke.

Martha Evens
Martha Evens, Dr. Daniel Hier, and Howard Hill

1984

Robert Carlson (Ph.D. U. Iowa, 1972) joined IIT as chairman and associate professor of computer science; Anthony Wojcik left to become chair of Computer Science for Michigan State University

Robert Carlson circa 1984
Robert Carlson

1984

Martha Evens and graduate student Tunghwa Wang (with Peter Johnson of Chemistry) developed an expert system for finding alternate ways to synthesize an organic compound.

Martha Evens
Martha Evens and Peter Johnson

1986

Computer Science classes were offered at the new IIT West satellite campus.

Computer science pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper visited IIT to give students a first-hand account of the development of large-scale computers. Admiral Hopper (Ph.D., Math, Yale) played major roles in the designing of the UNIVAC computer and the COBOL programming language and had received IIT's Henry Townley Heald award in 1985.

Admiral Hopper talking to IIT CS students
Admiral Hopper Talking to CS Students

IIT's new satellite downlink enabled IIT/V to broadcast classes live to about 30 companies and public access sites in the Chicago area.

1987

AT&T contributed $500,000 worth of computer equipment to the Computer Science department to support student work in distributed computing and networking. The gift included 40 At&T 7300 Unix-based personal computers — each with 1 megabyte of random-access memory, a 20 megabyte hard disk, and a 512-kilobyte floppy disk — and two ISN network management processors.

Robert Carlson received over $25,000 from AT&T for an experimental computer science laboratory.

Robert Carlson and Ilene Burnstein initiated a program to expose undergraduate students to research experiences. The CS department supported two first-year students as Research Scholars.

1989

An-Chi Liu (ECE) and professors Robert Carlson, Thomas Christopher, Peter Greene, and James Kenevan received NSF funding for their work on CISE Research Instrumentation. Robert Carlson also received funding from Argonne National Lab for his work with Technical Support Services in Analyzing Distributed Management Systems and Methods.

Martha Evens received funding from the Office of Naval Research for her work on Computer Generation of a Tutorial Dialogue.

The department received NSF funding for ten undergraduate students for the summer research experience for undergraduates.

History of the 1990s

1990

Anneliese von Mayrhauser was featured in two separate articles in the Daily Herald newspaper.

Charles Bauer was profiled in Technology News. He encouraged students to keep up with technological change by learning how to learn.

Charlie circa 1990
Charlie Bauer

1991

Senior CS student David Dreyer was one of three students selected by NSF to give a presentation on work he did with Ilene Burnstein and Bob Carlson under the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. He discussed an algorithm for converting a relational database into a nested entity relationship model.

1991

As part of the reorganization of main campus into the Lewis College of Liberal Arts and the Armour College of Engineering & Sciences, the CS department became part of Armour College.

1992

Women in CSWomen in CS

Martha Evens and Students at Women in CS

The ACM held a seminar on Women and Computer Science. Seven speakers, including Bob Carlson and Martha Evens, discussed topics such as the number of women in CS, societal and unconscious personal pressure on women, the glass ceiling, and the need to network with fellow professionals.

CS grad student George Smith's computer simulation of horse racing was featured in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and other publications.

The CS department and the IIT Alumni Association co-hosted the IIT 100, a competition for high school and college students that required teams to build and run miniature cars using a kit of parts.

IIT 100 Racers 1992
IIT 100 Racers

1993

Martha Evens was one of two winners of the prestigious Julia Beveridge Award, given to women who provide outstanding service to the IIT community.

1994

IIT's student ACM organization was highlighted in Technology News. At the time, the ACM provided students, staff, and student organizations with access to email, the Web, FTP, and USENET news services.

Xian-He Sun joined the faculty to boost its efforts in parallel and distributed computing. He is the current department chair, having served since 2009.

1995

As part of a reorganization of IIT's academic and administrative departments, the Computer Science and Applied Mathematics departments were merged into the CSAM department.

1996

The student ACM organization and CSAM department sponsored two RobotWars tournaments. Participants wrote programs for simulated robots, which fought in a simulated arena.

1997

IIT opened a branch in Bangalore, India; since then, IIT India has become a significant source of CS graduate students.

Bob Carlson was profiled in Technology News. He discussed improving the quality of education using such approaches as IITV and laboratory courses.

Bob Carlson circa 1997
Robert Carlson

The student ACM organization was profiled in Technology News. Topics included guest talks and events such as the annual programming competition and RobotWars.

1998

The CSAM department was split back into separate Computer Science and Applied Mathematics departments, to give each discipline its own well-defined department.