User services from a twelve-year perspective

Abstract

Twelve years ago user services within a university computing center was much different than today. In 1966 the computing center was the highlight of the university administration's promotion of the campus. All computing center employees were available; no one group was called “user services”. An employee could spend as much time and as many computer cycles as he could invent uses for in order to put the fancy new second-generation computer to some useful work. This stage lasted until the large IBM 360 computers arrived, for computing centers à la IBM. The 360 line of machines was so big and so powerful that a computing center could not hire enough people to assist interested professors and still keep the machine relatively busy. And so the concept arose of teaching the users to use the machine themselves. About the same time the concept of time sharing and terminal access to computers was introduced. With assistance from user services departments, many professors and staff became knowledgeable users of computing services. Thus, many diverse activities are simultaneously taking place on time sharing systems at universities. Secretaries may be doing word processing and professors may be calculating orbits of electrons.

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