Growth of a Department

A Personal History of Computer Science at UNC-Chapel Hill

Early Childhood: 1970-74


With me left to hold the fort, Fred was awarded a Kenan leave of absence. He spent the spring and summer of 1970 in the Netherlands to begin work with Gerry Blaauw on their monograph on computer architecture. Left to my own devices, I blew the recruiting budget by hiring five new faculty members: Martin Dillon, Howard Elder, Jim Foley, Gyula Mago, and Steve Weiss. They appeared for the 1970-71 academic year.

Martin was already in Library Science; we appointed him jointly for four years, and he continued to teach information retrieval for us for another two after returning full-time to Library Science. Howard had completed Ph.D. study at Cornell, and was our first specialist in system software; he soon decided that professional practice was more attractive than academia. After one year he switched to an appointment joint with the Computation Center, and after a second year left to join Bell Labs. Jim came from the Computer, Information and Control Engineering program at the University of Michigan; his research was on computer architecture, graphics, and the application of queueing, simulation, and probability to computer systems. Gyula's interests were in switching and automatic theory and in logical design. He was finishing his doctorate under David Wheeler at Cambridge; we couldn't afford an interview trip, hence hired him sight unseen for a one-year visit with the hope of a regular appointment to follow. It followed indeed, and he's still here, now as full professor. So is Steve, a Cornell student of Gerry Salton (himself another Aiken student); Steve's research was on information storage and retrieval and on natural language processing. He has been our chairman now for nearly six years.

Fred's choice of "Information Science" as a name had proved unfortunate, because the library science community was laying claim to that name and because George Forsythe at Stanford was successfully promoting "Computer Science" as the name of our academic discipline. To make the change politically palatable, we switched in two steps. In May 1968, we became "Computer and Information Science," and in January 1971, "Computer Science."

The next few years saw a steady state, with no change in faculty complement until Mehdi Jazayeri's arrival in Spring 1975, as we assimilated the new faculty members, and rethought what we were doing. As part of a University-wide self-study, we published in January 1973 a report in which we stated that it was "educationally unsound to have undergraduates specialize in an area as young and undeveloped as computer science."

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