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History of Computing @ Tech

This is a stub to begin the creation of a more complete history of computing at Georgia Tech. The current version of CoC History can be used as a framework, but I'm sure our alumni can fill in a lot more color.


By 1978, the rest of the keypunch machines (the IBM 029's) have been removed. All input is now done via CRT terminals. A TV screen in the lobby shows the status of running jobs.

A project for Grady Memorial Hospital is underway using a new language called "C".

Some ICS students spend a lot of time solving the mysteries of an online game that involves traversing through a fantasy world collecting miscellaneous artifacts and avoiding various perils from assorted creatures.

Students also have access to a PR1ME Computer.

A group of ICS students known as "BDA" (Beer Drinkers Anonymous or Better Days Ahead, depending on who needed to know) compete in intramural flag football, basketball, and softball. They also run up Stone Mountain as a team to raise money for a local charity.

The Spring 1978 graduation lists 15 BS in ICS students and 16 MS in ICS students.


A "remote" card reader and printer are installed in the "lobby" area of the Rich Computing Center. Students now have the option to run their programs without operator intervention and wait for output on the nearby printer. Turnaround may still be several hours at peak times in the quarter. Students separate output on their own and stack it neatly on a table for those not present to claim it.

The ICS lab contains an old DEC PDP 8/I and an old Burroughs B-5500. It also contains a DEC GT40 graphics terminal (esentially, a small computer with a special CRT that supports the display of lines) which can run a Lunar Lander game.

Any student can bootstrap the PDP 8/I by setting the toggle switches on the front to specify a memory address location (in binary), pressing the "load address switch," setting the toggle switches to specify an instruction (in binary), pressing the "load instruction switch", pressing the "increment address switch" to add one to the address counter, and repeating this process to load the dozen or so instructions to boot the machine. Once entered, the original address is toggled in, the load address switch is pressed, and the "run program" switch is pressed to run the program just entered in binary. That program loads the operating system from the hard drive, and the PDP 8/I is ready to go.

The ICS lab also contains a DEC VAX machine which supports the development of several software projects. One is a "full screen text editor" that allows a user to see more than one line of text in a file (i.e., a document) at a time. Another project is the development of a "text formatter" that translates codes embedded in documents to produce formatted text (e.g., text containing bold fonts and justified margins).

The curriculum at this time is essentially a set of core classes and two "areas of specialization". The core involved programming classes such as ALGOL and Assembler (a language called MIX), data structures, logic circuit design, computer graphics, and a two quarter sequence that concluded with students programming a simulation of a DEC PDP computer. The areas of specialization included "systems software" (classes such as compiler design, operating systems design, and database design) and "information systems (classes such as management information systems, health information systems, and information retrieval). A required one-hour course was taught by the library staff that covered all of the information resources in the library. Other courses offered included pattern recognition, FORTRAN, COBOL, PASCAL, and "Survey of Programming Languages" in which students wrote a program to solve the same problem almost every week -- but using a different programming language each time.


About half of the keypunch machines (the IBM 026's) are removed and cathode ray tube (CRT) terminals (also called "dumb terminals") are installed, running at 300 and 1200 baud. ICS and some upper level classes use these for writing programs. Some teletypes are also still in use. Many lower level classes still use keypunch machines to punch cards. Dialup access is provided.


Keypunch machines for punching 80 column cards are the primary means for writing programs in most classes. Card decks must be given to a worker who queues them for processing. Minimum turnaround time to receive output is about 10 minutes if you are a friend of the operations staff. During peak times at the end of the quarter, turnaround times of 8 hours or more are common.

Some students are careful to put sequence numbers on punched cards. A card sorting machine sits in a hallway to sort cards into the proper order after they have been dropped. Other students draw designs on the top of the card deck and pray that it doesn't get dropped. If it is, they use the design on top of the cards to reorder the deck.

The big computers are two Control Data Corporation (CDC) machines.


Classes and computing resources are housed in the Rich Computing Center, next door to the library on the north side and across the street from the College of Architecture.

The big computer is a UNIVAC. Interactive users use a teletype at 300 baud.

1982 Vax 11/780 with Ikonas framebuffer also a big USENET hub.


Networking group moves to MiRC


Networking group banished to GCATT building on 14th St.