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The Early Years of Academic Computing
MRIC 2014/15

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The Early Years of Academic Computing

William Y. Arms
Professor Emeritus, Cornell University
Phi Beta Kappa visiting scholar

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
Whitewater Room, UI Commons


The past 50 years have seen computing move from a fringe activity in universities to a central part of academic life. Today's university students never knew a world without personal computers, networks, email and the World Wide Web. Nowadays, the computers and software used at universities are commercial products, but this was not always the case. For 30 years, academic computing diverged from the mainstream. Universities built and operated their own state-of-the-art systems, leading the development of timesharing and local area (campus) networks. As a student, faculty member, and administrator Prof. Arms lived through many of these developments. For 17 years, he was in charge of computing at two leading universities, Dartmouth College and Carnegie Mellon. This talk tells the story.


William Arms is professor emeritus of computing and information science at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Throughout his career, he has been a leader in implementing innovative computing in higher education, including educational computing, computer networks, and digital libraries. Earlier in his career, he was a faculty member at the British Open University, the pioneer of distance education.

Prof. Arms has been influential in shaping the National Science Foundation’s digital library programs, including the Digital Libraries Initiative and the National Science Digital Library. His recent research has centered on the Cornell Web Lab, a large-scale project to analyze historic collections from the web. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Balliol College at Oxford University, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a doctorate from the University of Sussex, all in the United Kingdom. Prof. Arms’ father, Henry Shull, graduated from the University of Idaho in 1936 and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford that year.

Prof. Arms also will present a public lecture, “Academic Libraries in the Digital Age,” at 7 p.m. Monday, March 30, in the courtroom of the Menard Law Building, 711 S. Rayburn St.

For more details on Arms' visit and events, please click here.
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