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Institutional Change and Regeneration: A Biography of the Computer Science Department at the University of Manchester

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129784D
Original Publication Date: 1993-Sep-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 8 page(s) / 96K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

RICHARD GIORDANO: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

This article outlines some of the major changes in the Computer Science Department since Tom Kilburn's retirement in 1981, focusing on changed patterns of research output, recruitment of academic staff, and sources of research funding. It argues that the department became what can be considered to be a modem research-oriented enterprise, widening the scope of its research, its connections with industry and other academic departments, and its interdisciplinary research. This change was the outcome of internal policies as well as external influences, such as government policy.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1993 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Institutional Change and Regeneration: A Biography of the Computer Science Department at the University of Manchester

RICHARD GIORDANO

This article outlines some of the major changes in the Computer Science Department since Tom Kilburn's retirement in 1981, focusing on changed patterns of research output, recruitment of academic staff, and sources of research funding. It argues that the department became what can be considered to be a modem research-oriented enterprise, widening the scope of its research, its connections with industry and other academic departments, and its interdisciplinary research. This change was the outcome of internal policies as well as external influences, such as government policy.

This article will outline some developments in the Computer Science Department at the University of Manchester that influenced its growth from essentially a premodern engineering- oriented department to a large, complex department with a range of interdisciplinary research activities that span most aspects of computer science. Rather than focus on the growth of the department (it started with 11 students in 1965 and enrolls over three hundred computer science majors today), I shall look at three substantial changes: the composition of its teaching and research staff, particularly recruitment patterns of its teaching staff; the composition of its research output; and changes in the models of research funding.

The history of the department is entangled in changes in the discipline, reorientations in the computer science industry in general, government policy, and the effects of individual effort to change the trajectory of the department. Rather than try to unravel this intricate web in this article, I shall only describe some of the major changes to the department and offer only a few explanations.

We only have to reflect on Tom Kilburn's interview and Simon Lavington's article in this issue to witness, among other things, how the Computer Science Department at the University of Manchester grew out of an electrical engineering tradition, and maintained that tradition for almost 20 years. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, much of the work of the department was devoted to building large machines, such as the Atlas and the MU5. More than just building large machines, the logic of the department, its disciplinary strategy, primarily involved department-wide hardware research, as well as directed software research, organized around specific well-defined projects. For instance, the annual reports of research output of the department from 1964 through 1980 are dominated by research in computer circuitry and storage, operating systems, and systems evaluation.

Kilburn's interview also demonstrates a "premodern" research funding model. Rather than rely on...