Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Computer Science

Computer Science came to Brown in 1956 under the wing of the Applied Mathematics Division, when an IBM card-programmed calculator (CPC) which could be fed 150 punched cards a minute was installed. In the fall of 1956 the applied mathematics course in practical analysis considered the history, theory and use of high-speed computers, and students in economics were introduced to the accounting and statistical applications of the computer. In January 1958 a new IBM650 Data Processing System (the only one of its kind between Hartford and Boston) was installed in the Applied Mathematics building. It was reported that this computer could make 138,000 logical decisions a minute and “produces noise and heat worthy of a small boiler factory.” The Computing Laboratory on George Street with its IBM7070 computer opened in 1961. Since 1965 faculty members specializing in computer science, Andries van Dam, John Savage and Peter Wegner, were hired to develop the computer science program, and in 1975 there was a Program in Computer Science under the direction of the computer science faculty. The Department of Computer Science was established in 1979. The next year Brown’s computer science faculty was ranked 15th in the country. In 1979 the department moved into Kassar House, to which were added in 1982 the Gould Laboratory and the Foxboro Auditorium, the first electronic workstation-based classroom. Also in 1982 the department was awarded a three million dollar five-year National Science Foundation grant to provide workstations and staff. The grant was followed by an additional five million dollars in equipment grants from various sources. Computing and Information Services (CIS) supports the use of information technology, maintaining the mainframe and the network system named BRUNET which connects 128 buildings and supporting the University information systems. The An Wang Professorship in Computer Science, the first endowed computer science chair, was endowed with $1.25 million dollars pledged by An Wang of Wang Laboratories. The new five-story Thomas J. Watson, Sr. Center for Information Technology was opened in 1988. Chairmen of the Computer Science Department have been John E. Savage, Andries van Dam, and Eugene Charniak.