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UTSA Technology Timewarp

March 4, 2013

The images and publications in this post open a portal to UTSA’s past as the university struck out on the path of harnessing computing technology. In 1974, UTSA secured a PDP-11/45 microcomputer that had the “capability to communicate with larger computer systems, such as the UT Austin academic computer via telephone wire carriers.”  To have a piece of technology that “could receive information without ever leaving the University” signaled a pivotal moment in utilizing computers in an academic setting.[1]

The PDP-11 microcomputer [2]

The PDP-11 microcomputer [2]

However, the PDP-11 hardly fit comfortably on the top of a desk; it was the size of a large refrigerator.

By the 1980s, computing came in smaller packages with advanced software making technology accessible to students, faculty, and staff in disciplines such as engineering and architecture.

Computer lab at UTSA , Roadrunner, July 4, 1988, UTSA University Publications Collection, UA 1.02

Computer lab in Engineering, Roadrunner, July 4, 1988, UTSA University Publications Collection, UA 1.02

In 1988, UTSA parking police embraced the power of technology. Using portable computers, they were able to print tickets, track down stolen parking permits, and catch individuals who repeatedly parked on campus without a permit.[3]

UTSA parking police with portable computers, Roadrunner, September 19, 1988, UTSA University Publications Collection, UA 1.02

UTSA parking police with portable computers, Roadrunner, September 19, 1988, UTSA University Publications Collection, UA 1.02

While computing technology was available to some at UTSA during the 1980s, widespread accessibility to computers did not arrive until September 1990 when the university opened a 7400 square foot computer lab. The lab housed “108 IBM compatible personal computers, 10 Apple MacIntosh units networked with music analysis keyboards, 80 asynchronous terminals for mainframe access, and approximately 10 dot matrix printers.” The lab was open 107 hours a week and plans were in the works to keep the facility open 24 hours a day.[4]

Initial cost of the lab stood at $650,000. Ongoing funding came from a $2.00 per semester credit hour automated and computer access fee. Students had first priority in the facility and faculty could only use the lab if space was available.[5]

UTSA computer lab 1990, University Communications Photographs, UA 16.01.01

UTSA computer lab 1990, University Communications Photographs, UA 16.01.01

In 1992, UTSA’s Office of Information Technology offered assistance to newcomers to the Internet. In an article entitled, “Introduction to the Internet,” they attempted to assuage the fears of those facing the onslaught of technology:  “Many newcomers to the world of global computing are understandably confused.

Eureka, Sombrilla, Summer 1986, UTSA University Publications Collection, UA 1.02

“Eureka”, Sombrilla, Summer 1986, UTSA University Publications Collection, UA 1.02

You’ve been told for months that the new campus fiber-optic network will do all sorts of wonderful things for you, but you still don’t have the foggiest notion of what you are going to use it for.” OIT laid out in the most basic terms the possibilities of using the Internet, email, and accessing the library’s new database.[6]

By 1996, computer technology was well-integrated into UTSA’s campus culture. There was even discussion of training professors to use Powerpoint presentations in the classroom. UTSA had certainly come a long way since the days of the PDP-11/45 microcomputer. Today, computers are a ubiquitous and essential component at UTSA. There are over 200 computers available for students in the John Peace Library alone.

"Digitize your life," Roadrunner, January 16, 1996, UTSA University Publications, UA 1.02

“Digitize your life,” Roadrunner, January 16, 1996, UTSA University Publications Collection, UA 1.02

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[1] “New Notes,” the Roadrunner, July 12, 1974 [http://digital.utsa.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15125coll7/id/74/rec/18], accessed March 1, 2013.

[2] PDP11/40 as exhibited in Vienna Technical Museum, December 18, 2005, Stefan Kögl, Wikimedia Commons [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pdp-11-40.jpg], accessed March 1, 2013.

[3] “Parking police enter computer age,” the Roadrunner, September 19, 1988 [http://digital.utsa.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15125coll7/id/873/rec/23], accessed March 1, 2013.

[4] “UTSA Opens Student Computing Lab,” the Paisano, September 4, 1990 [http://cdm15125.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/pTSANP01/id/100/rec/1], accessed March 1, 2013.

[5] “UTSA Opens Student Computing Lab,” the Paisano, September 4, 1990 [http://cdm15125.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/pTSANP01/id/100/rec/1], accessed March 1, 2013.

[6] “Introduction to the Internet,” Online, July 1993, UTSA Office of Information Technology records, UA 21 [http://digital.utsa.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15125coll5/id/548/rec/1], accessed March 1, 2013.

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