Growth of a Department

A Personal History of Computer Science at UNC-Chapel Hill


In October 1988 the Bicentennial Observance Office of the University asked all deans, directors, and department heads whether their units had a written history that could be made part of the Bicentennial Observance library. On their letter, our chairman wrote to me, "Would you be willing to write a 1-2 page history, to be used for the Department's 25th anniversary?", coming up the following year. The request seemed innocuous enough and I assented. By the time I had a four-page outline, it was too late to abdicate. Almost six years late for that anniversary and several months late for both our 30th and the University's 200th, here is that history. It is in no sense an official document, but rather a personal history written by a non-historian who has not consulted any historian. I am responsible for all of its shortcomings. Read on at your peril.

Some of you who are reading this may wonder what is a computer science department. We are sometimes confused with a computation center, whose mission is to provide computer and communication services to an organization. We are instead an academic department, whose mission in a comprehensive research university comprises teaching, research, and service. We teach a broad spectrum of courses and students, we create new knowledge about computer systems and their applications, and we serve constituencies ranging from local to international.

In this history I shall tell you only a little about what we do, but more about how we do it and how we came to do it that way. I do so by means of two types of sections. Eight sections trace the chronological development of the Department. Interleaved with them are eight sections of a different type. Each of those treats an important issue in the development of the Department, but without restriction to a particular time period.

Next Section: "Gestation and Birth: 1962-64"

Page maintained by: Department of Computer Science, UNC-Chapel Hill
Server Manager:
Content Manager:
Last Content Review: 14 May 1999
© 1994 Peter Calingaert. All rights Reserved.

  • To the main History page

  • To the Department's home page