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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Natural and Applied Sciences Archives: Computer Science & Computing

These topic guides provide a starting point for finding source materials related to the history of science and technology at the University of Illinois. Please note that these guides are not definitive or comprehensive and are periodically updated.
Black-and-white photo of ILLIAC I with three scientists, circa 1950s

ILLIAC I, ca. 1950s

About Computer Science & Computing

In 1948, the Board of Trustees purchased an EDVAC electronic digital computer for research program use. The project was originally situated in the Digital Computer Laboratory, where instruction in computer hardware took place. In 1964, the name was changed from the Digital Computer Laboratory to the Department of Computer Science. In addition to the Computer Science Department, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), created in February 1985, provides integrated cyberinfrastructure services to the university community while also serving as a transdisciplinary center for research and scholarship.

The University Archives houses records that chronicle the history of computing in teaching and research both at the University of Illinois and within its interdisciplinary reach. While the records of the Department of Computer Science provide a starting point for resources on this topic, information on computing is found throughout many different record groups.

Computer Science & Computing Archival Holdings

A complete list of Department of Computer Science record series is available in the Archives database.

College and Departmental Archives

Faculty and Staff Papers 

  • James E. Robertson Papers (Record Series 11/15/20): Includes materials relating to computer publicity; visits to Russian computer centers; Fulbright research on computers at the University of Sydney; ILLIAC I, II, III, & IV; Digital Computer Laboratory and departmental plans; Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers meetings and publications; Brookhaven National Laboratory; computer history and design; and drum data. 
  • Wolfgang J. Poppelbaum Papers (Record Series 11/15/21): Includes materials concerning ILLIAC (I-III, V) computers, circuits, transistors, monitors, graphics, and other computer hardware.
  • Michael Faiman Papers (Record Series 11/15/22): Contains items related to the Computer Science Accreditation Board (CSAB), the Illinois Junior Technical Society, the Ofek invention about encoder/decoder system, and computer science and professional society conferences; a manuscript of "EXCEL: Experiments in Computer Electronics and Logic" (1974); an ILLIAC II report; and circuit diagrams.
  • H. George Friedman Papers (Record Series 11/15/23): Contains items regarding the Department of Computer Science; computer manuals regarding programs for Multimax operating systems, PostScript, text processing, tool command language, and typesetting and font generation; and transportation research.
  • Geneva G. Belford Papers (Record Series 11/15/24): Contains items related to research on data management, performance analysis of computer systems, distributed databases, and sedimentation.
  • Ramona P. Borders Papers (Record Series 26/20/213): B.S. Marketing and Management '48, ILLIAC I operator and Computing Services Office manager (1952-1984). Includes newspaper clippings, photographs, publications from the Department of Computer Science, and a poem given to Borders at her retirement in 1984. For related materials, see the Ramona P. Borders Oral History Interview.

Publications and Reference Files

  • ILLIAC Bulletins, Guides, and Manuals (Record Series 11/15/804): Includes the Generalized Algebraic Translator-Compiler Manual; Preliminary Guide to the Use of ATHOS; Users' Manual for ALCOR-ILLINOIS-7090 ALGOL-60 Translator; 1401 HAVOC System Manual; and index to PORTHOS Manual. ILLIAC publications include ILLIAC Programming Guides; Elementary Description of ILLIAC; Ibal ILLIAC III Basic Assembler Language; ILLIAC III Programming Manual; S-M-V Programming Manual; and ILLIAC IV, Documents 193-198 and Final Technical Reports. The series includes ILLIAC Program Library Index Codes 18-331 - with lacunae, ILLIAC Active Program Library, Auxiliary Program Library, and Statistical Library and papers on ILLIAC II equipment and problems, IBM 650 Program library, and Statistical Analysis Library Tape (SALT) user manual.
  • Illinet Output (Record Series 11/15/810): Contains copies of the monthly Illinet Output, containing departmental news of courses, equipment and data processing systems; reports of usage and users' complaints, suggestions, and inquiries.
  • CSO Updates (Record Series 7/6/810): Monthly newsletter issued to provide a means of communication between the staff and users of the Computing Services Office and containing articles on facilities, services, telephone numbers, location listings, questions and answers, and suggestions and replies. 1973-90 issues were titled Off-Line.
  • Fourum (Record Series 11/15/815): Monthly newsletter for the ILLIAC IV users group, issued to disseminate and exchange ILLIAC IV computer programs and program documentation.
  • Educom (Record Series 11/15/815): Monthly bulletin of the Interuniversity Communications Council; contains articles on information-processing activities, computerized programmed instruction, library automation, educational television and radio, the use of computers in university administration and conferences, and symposia and meetings.
  • University Archives Reference File (Record Series 35/3/65): Contains files on Computers; the Digital Computer Laboratory; Stanley O. Ikenberry; Illiac; and PLATO.

College and Departmental Archives

  • NCSA Subject File, 1978-2000 (Record Series 7/5/1): Includes budgets; memos; organizational and space plans; committee minutes; student and staff personnel files; correspondence and purchasing agreements with technology companies including Cray Computing, IBM, Apple Computers, AT&T, and Apollo Computer, Inc.; and correspondence with other national supercomputing centers.
  • NSF Administrative Subject File, 1981-1999 (Record Series 7/5/2): Concerns programs and supercomputing centers funded by the NSF including the Biological Centers Program, the Division of Advanced Scientific Computing, the High-Performance Computing and Communications Program, the Industrial Supercomputing Program, the Cornel Theory Center, the John von Neumann Center for High-Performance Computing, the MetaCenter, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, the San Diego Supercomputing Center, Partnership Illinois, and the Undergraduate Research Program and Computer Science Initiative.
  • NCSA Clippings File (Record Series 7/5/10): Concerns supercomputers; supercomputer centers; grants; budgets; the National Science Foundation; the "Star Wars" boycott; the Strategic Defense Initiative; the Beckman Institute; the Soviet Union; access to technology; the Challenger explosion; Cray Research, Inc.; and partnerships with technology companies including IBM, Apple Computers, AT&T, Kodak, Dow, and Apollo Computer, Inc.
  • NCSA Photographs and Negatives (Record Series 7/5/11): Includes photographic prints created by NCSA Media Services documenting the weekly progress of the installation of the Cray YMP computer at NCSA from September through November 1990.
  • Supercomputing Applications Publications (Record Series 7/5/801): Includes materials on access, annual reports, Data Link, issuances, news, profiles, user documentation, and User's Guides.
  • NCSA Video Tapes (Record Series 7/5/802): Contains 1/2-inch VHS videotapes produced by the NCSA and promoting NCSA projects. Titles include "Televisualization: Science by Satellite" (1989); "Study of a Numerically-Modeled Severe Storm" (1989); "NCSA Realtime" Series, numbers 3 (Nov. 1991), 4 (April 1992), 5 (October 1992), 6 (July 1993); and "Innovation #709: In the Image of Nature."
  • Supercomputing Research & Development Publications (Record Series 7/5/811): Includes an affiliates program announcement, abstracts, bulletins, notes, research reviews, and notices of meetings and summer institutes.
  • Research Reports, 1986- (Record Series 7/5/815): Contains Center for Supercomputing Research and Development Research Reports showing data, title, authors, report number, and reports of research findings.

Faculty and Staff Papers

  • Larry Smarr Papers (Record Series 15/3/24): Includes materials relating to conferences and associations like the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF); directorship of the NCSA; research on black holes, astronomical topics, and supercomputing; the book Supercomputing and the Transformation of Science (1992), written with William J. Kaufmann III; and other publications and correspondences.

The following records from the Computer-based Education Research Laboratory document the development and use of the PLATO system at the University. CERL was established in 1966 within the Graduate College in order to facilitate the development and research of computer-based education.

Administrative Records

College and Departmental Archives

Illinois Distributed Museum

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