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#34 Norwich on the Cutting Edge of Computing Technology

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, Fun Facts & Stats

IBM ComputerIn January 1962, Norwich entered the digital age when an IBM Model 1620 computer was installed in Norwich University’s new Computer Center. It was purchased to “provide Norwich students with the most up-to-date apparatus for solving the complex problems of space-age science and engineering education.”

The IBM 1620 was about the size of an upright piano, and was run using an accompanying paper tape reader. This model represented the transition away from room-sized mainframes toward computers of a more manageable size. The first director of the Computer Center was Jane Bonnette. When she was hired to run the center in 1962, she became the first female faculty member and the first woman to wear a Norwich uniform.

Students and faculty were invited to visit the Computer Center and use the machine to make calculations required for their coursework and research. The electrical engineering department was the first to offer computer-specific courses, with mathematics and business following in short order. Computer Center staff also gave non-credit lecture series so that the entire university community could become more informed about the budding technology. Since computers were still relatively uncommon, private firms and local schools were also encouraged to make use of the new equipment.

Technology marches ever onward, and the IBM 1620 was replaced with a newer model in 1970. Norwich added an interdepartmental computer science studies minor in 1978, which expanded to a full bachelor’s degree program in 1982. In 1983 and 1984, significant effort was made to further advance campus computing power by installing clusters of “microcomputers” across campus, including the iconic Apple Macintoshes the year they were released.

Norwich continues to lead the way when it comes to technology and education. You can learn more about the history of computer science at Norwich by visiting the University Archives. Available resources include the records of the Information Technology and Academic Affairs departments, as well as course catalogs and other university publications.