|Campus, public invited to celebrate 50 years of Carolina computing March 18|
|Tuesday, March 02, 2010|
On March 30, 1960, UNC President William C. Friday helped dedicate the new computation center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. On March 18, 2010, President Emeritus Friday, Chancellor Holden Thorp and other special guests will celebrate 50 years of computing at Carolina.
The event will be held from 2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium at the FedEx Global Education Center. The campus and local communities are invited to attend the panel discussion. The event is jointly sponsored by Information Technology Services, the Department of Computer Science in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Information and Library Science.
Frederick P. Brooks Jr., Ph.D., Kenan Professor of Computer Science, will give the keynote address, and Larry D. Conrad, vice chancellor for information technology and chief information officer, will moderate a panel discussion afterward about the impact and diversity of multidisciplinary uses of computing in academia today.
Panelists will include:
The UNC-Chapel Hill Computation Center (UNCCC) began operation in 1959 with a Univac 1105 computer that was funded and used primarily by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Manufactured by Sperry-Rand, the $2.45 million Univac 1105 was one of the most advanced and powerful computers of its time. It was also thought to be the first major computer system in North Carolina.
The Univac 1105 had a memory capacity—in today’s terms—of less than 50 kilobytes, the equivalent of one scanned 8½-by-11-inch document page. The machine weighed 63,753 pounds and required steel beams embedded in the cement of the Phillips Hall basement to support it.
Fifty years ago, UNC system faculty members were able to use the computer on approximately 30 research projects in the fields of natural and social sciences, business, engineering, agriculture, forestry and the humanities.
The future of computing
According to the 1960 brochure “The Computer at Chapel Hill,” “Philosophers in the field have long been trying to evaluate the social, educational, industrial, intellectual, even spiritual, implications of the ‘computer revolution.’”
Twenty-four years later, University Provost Charles Morrow wrote, “The pace of technical development makes the distant future hard to discern.”
Five decades ago, probably no one could have foretold what the “distant future” has yielded.
Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil contends that we cannot simply project the level of advancement of the last 50 years into the next 50 years since the level of change accelerates as science and technology develops.
Conrad agreed. “The most I’ll try to predict is that technology will continue to advance and that advancement will fundamentally change what we do and how we do it,” he said. “Whatever is coming, I’m confident one thing will not change. Young adults will continue to embrace and leverage new technology while older adults will strive to keep up!”
While it is impossible to predict what the next 50 years in computing will hold, the March 18 event, “Celebrating 50 Years of Carolina Computing,” will provide a time to reflect on the past, consider the present and imagine the future of technology.
Information Technology Services contact: Beth Millbank, (919) 843-9201,
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