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Sunday, April 13, 2014

How and when Computer Science Emerged as a Discipline in Higher Education

How and when Computer Science Emerged as a Discipline in Higher Education

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  the same year the name "computer science" started to gain currency in the USA although not all academics agreed with the name [1].In fact, the term was coined by George Forsythe, a numerical analyst. The first computer science depart- ment 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 [2] [3].

Computer Science Education In India

In India the initial period 1955 to 1970 was a period of exploration with no specific government policies guiding to technology.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 andfive Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) were planned. Later

the government also set up Regional Engineering Colleges(REC) one in each state of India to provide good quality technical  education. (RECs have now been renamed National Institutes

of Technology (NITs) [4].

Introducing computer in IITK


One of the computer installed early in India was an IBM1620 n August 1963 at the Indian Institute of Technoloy,Kanpur (IITK).It was the first computer with a FORTRAN compiler

to be installed in an educational institution in India.It 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. 

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 restrictingthe course to IITK faculty, he invited scientists, engineers, and the faculty 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 programming and numerical methods to all engineering students [5][6] [7].


Evolution of Computer science as a discipline in IITK

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[8][9].

 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 etc.


Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology

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. The college has distinction of being first in the country to start an undergraduate programme in Computer Science & Engineering in 1976-77.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[10].


Delhi University

 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 [11][12].

 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 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.



1 G.K. Gupta "Computer Science Curriculum Developments in the 1960s".



4. V.Rajaraman ,"History Of Computing In India" (1955-2010).



8. E.C.Subba Rao, "An Eye for Excellence: Fifty Innovative years of IIT, Kanpur", Harper‐

     Collins, India, New Delhi, 2008.

9.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.

10  bad




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