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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Emergence Of Computer Science As A Discipline

  by Sreeja C .S.; Reg no 1345003, PhD Scholar,Christ university
The history of computer science began long before the modern discipline of computer science that emerged in the 20th century, and hinted at in the centuries prior. The progression, from mechanical inventions and mathematical theories towards the modern concepts and machines, formed a major academic field and the basis of a massive worldwide industry. The 1960s was a time of tremendous technological advancement. In the 1960's, computer science came into its own as a discipline. In fact, the term was coined by George Forsythe, a numerical analyst. The first computer science department was formed at Purdue University in 1962. The first person to receive a Ph. D. from a computer science department was Richard Wexelblat, at the University of Pennsylvania, in December 1965. During this decade, Stanford University also established departments of computer science, ASCII became the standard for 7-bit code information exchange, the Basic programming language was developed, Doug Engelbart invented the mouse, and the US Department of Defence commissioned the Arpanet, the precursor to today's Internet.

Computer Science Education In India
The initial period 1955 to 1970 was a period of exploration with no specific government policies guiding this technology. However, there were a number of initiatives taken in education such as the establishment of the Indian Institutes of Technology and also starting the design and production of computers. The Bhabha Committee appointed by the Government of India in 1963 realized the importance  of  electronics  and  computers  in  national  development  and suggested  establishment  of  the  Department  of  Electronics  (DoE)  in  the Government  of  India  (GoI)  to  promote  rapid growth of electronics and computers. The history of the development of computers in India is inextricably linked to the political history of India.  The Directorate General of Technical Development of the Governmentof India drafted plans to support manufacture of all varieties of items.Planning also has some very good features. The first plan realized the importance of higher technical education and five Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) were planned. Government also gave scholarships to a number ofmeritorious studentsto study abroad or get practical training in industries. Later the government also set up Regional Engineering Colleges(REC)one in eachstate of Indiato provide good quality technical education. (RECs have now been renamed National Institutes of Technology,( NITs.)

Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur was the first Institute in India to start Computer Science education. The initial "computer-related" courses were started at IIT Kanpur in August 1963 on an IBM 1620 system installed in the nation's first "computer classroom," a novelty then even in many North American and European universities. Gradually, the Institute drew upon some of the brightest young Indians in Computer Science to serve on its faculty and initiated an independent academic program in 1971, leading to Ph.D. and M. Tech. degrees. The undergraduate program started later, with the first batch graduating in 1983. The department was formally established in 1984. Many of the nation's leading experts, educationists and consultants in computer science today are the alumni of this department. Currently, the department has a faculty of 22 whose interests span almost all areas of Computer Science. The department admits about 30 students every year in the B.Tech. program and 50 students in the M.Tech.  program. 15 students are admitted to the dual-degree program, which results in students getting both a B.Tech.  and an M.Tech. degree at the end of 5 years. There are about 15 students registered in Ph.D. program at a time. There are two software engineers and two other staff attached to the laboratory facilities. Besides, there are a number of research engineers working in various sponsored projects.

How Computer as a discipline evolved in IITK

One of the computer installed early in India was an IBM1620 in August installed early in India was an IBM 1620 in August 1963 at the Indian Institute of Technoloy,Kanpur (IITK). It was the first computer with a FORTRANcompiler to be installed in an educational institution in India.The IBM 1620 was imported with financial assistance of theUSAgency for International Development (USAID) which channeled the funding through the Kanpur IndoAmerican Program (KIAP).  KIAP was a consortium of nine major US Universities which assisted establishment of the IIT at Kanpur by sending visiting faculty members and by assisting in the purchase of equipment.One of the major decisions taken by KIAP was to install a computer at IITK.  In 1963, the .IBM 1620 was a popular computer used by a number of universities in the USA.It was a small digit oriented computer with a 60K digit main memory, three tape drives and a punched card reader/writer. The punched outputs as well as  programs punched on cards were printed with an IBM 407 accounting machine. Besides this there were 20 key punch machines.

The IBM 1620 was installed and maintained by IBM engineers.KIAP sent Harry D.Huskey of the University of California, Berkeley, and Forman S.Acton and Irving Rabinowitz from the Princeton University to educate the faculty and students of IITK on using the computer. As soon as the IBM 1620 started working a ten day intensive course on programming for the faculty of IITK was designed by this group. Huskey took a proactive step and instead of 18 restricting the course to IITK faculty, he invited scientists, engineers,andthefaculty members of other institutions in India to attend the course.  Each course had around 60 participants who were given hands on experience in FORTRAN programming and numerical methods.These courses which started in 1963 were conducted thrice a year.  The course was so popular that it was continued till 1975 by the IITK faculty after the American Professors left in 1965.  Over 1500 scientists working in a number of Universities and research laboratories were trained.  IITK  also  pioneered  by  introducing  in  1964  a  compulsory  course  in in programming and numerical methods to all engineering students.

The course was so popular that it was continued till 1975 by the IITK faculty after the American Professors left in 1965.  Over 1500 scientists working in a number of Universities and research laboratories were trained.  IITK also pioneered by introducing in 1964 a compulsory course in programming and numerical methods to all engineering students. This is the history of how computer science became a discipline in IIT Kanpur. It was a beginning of a new discipline which attracted so many students across India. After that so many universities started computer science as a department which includes  Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology and Delhi University.

Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology Allahabad (MNNIT or NIT Allahabad), formerly Motilal Nehru Regional Engineering College (MNREC), is a public higher education institute located in AllahabadUttar Pradesh, India. It is one of the National Institutes of Technology, and like the rest of them, classified as an Institute of National Importance. In the survey carried out by ET Now-Economic Times jointly, MNNIT Allahabad was declared as the best engineering institution of North India and ranked No.1 in overall ranking. The college has distinction of being first in the country to start an undergraduate programme in Computer Science & Engineering in 1976-77.

Department of Computer Science was established in University of Delhi, in the year 1981, with the objective of imparting quality education in the field of Computer Science. With rapidly evolving technology and the continuous need for innovation the department has always produced quality professionals, holding important positions in Information Technology industry in India and abroad. The Department started the three year Master of Computer Applications (MCA) programme in the year 1982, which was among the first such program in India.

It is concluded that the initiatives taken by the government in the late 70s to promote  education  in  IT, setting  up  of  R  and D  centers  and funding  a  large number  of  research  projects with  the  assistance  of  the  United  Nations. Development Programme (UNDP) provided the human resources which enabled the IT industry to grow .Now so many colleges have computer science as department like other natural sciences. Most of the universities are working on major research projects on computer sciences as well.

7.       Ross Bassett, "Aligning India in the Cold war Era: Indian Technical Elites, the Indian 
Institute of Technology at Kanpur and Computing in India and the United States", 
Technology and Culture, Vol.50, Oct. 2009, pp.783‐810 .
8.       E.C.Subba Rao, "An Eye for Excellence: Fifty Innovative years of IIT, Kanpur", Harper‐
Collins, India, New Delhi, 2008 


GC Marak said...

Comments based on the criteria:

a)Coverage of the history was in chronological order, but cannot comment on its comprehensiveness.
b)Conclusion was based on some of the history collected.
c)Not sure of the referencing style.

Joshy.K.J said...

There is so much of information regarding the growth of computer science in India. But one problem is the logical flow. Then I felt that things are cluttered. If you start with global aspects and then come to India it will be more interesting. Again no connection comes between certain paragraphs. If rewritten once it will be much better.

sreeja said...

thank you for the comments.I will look into it and work on it to make it better.