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University of Waterloo -- Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
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Tuesday, May 13, 1997

Silver threads among the 40th

Staff and faculty members who came to UW in 1972, and so are marking their silver anniversary in 1997, will be honoured tonight as UW's 25-Year Club holds its annual reception in Federation Hall. There are 28 new quarter-century veterans, who will mingle tonight with previous years' inductees into the Club.

Canadian history lists 1972 as the year of the first Canada-Russia hockey series (and some of us remember the screams echoing through the Humanities building when Paul Henderson scored that final goal). For people who arrived at UW that year, though, there are other memories.

"I worked in the cataloguing department of the library," Marina Wan remembers, "and I thought the quality of the UW catalogue was much better than many. Many decisions and practices impressed me, one of them being the decision to convert catalogue records to machine-readable format, when we did not even have a system yet. When the time came, the data was there, and we were ready for the online catalogue."

She can hardly have guessed, though, that 25 years later she'd still be in the UW library -- and heading the Internet Resources Committee that manages the Electronic Library.

Remembering life in 1972

Other reminiscences come from Jay Thomson of the kinesiology department, who notes that in 1972 "I was returning to a campus and people I knew well, having obtained my PhD here in chemistry. The difference was being hired in kinesiology -- a program with a name and identity problem ('what is it?') but huge potential and excitement."

The kin department (and the faculty of "human kinetics and leisure studies", now applied health sciences) was scattered over half the campus then, and Thomson's first office was in the basement of Chemistry II. "I wasn't sure what I could contribute,"he says, " but was certain that I would continue learning. What was a five year trail in my mind, has stretched a bit longer."

Also among the 25-year veterans is Vic Neglia of the arts computing office, who came to UW as a student and stuck around to take a job:

The Faculty of Math was not in existence when I started so I enrolled in Science. I became fascinated by the computer and started spending every spare minute in the computer room, which was housed in the Physics building. A 1620 computer was available for anyone to use back then. You could actually get into the room and push its buttons unlike the IBM 740 which could only be accessed via placing your job in trays in the hallway.

I was hired as summer student by Wes Graham for three summers. As a result, I got to know and work closely with staff from DCS. Upon graduation, Arts was looking for a couple of programmers to work on a Victorian Periodical Database. Through my contacts in DCS, I was matched up with the job. As the story goes, I was only going to do this for a few years because I really wanted to go to teachers college. As you have noticed, 25, actually 26, years later I am still here. (I was on contract for my first year.)

ACO started as the HCARG (Humanities Computer Assisted Research Group), then became WATCHUM (WATerloo Computing in the HUManities), then under Jay Minas as Dean became the Arts Computing Office. We started out with offices in the MC building supplied by DCS. Shortly after we got offices (closets) in the HH building with a 2741 terminal -- probably the Faculty of Arts' major computer expense to date. ASCII terminals were becoming popular; we were probably one of the first groups to have an ASCII terminal outside the Math building. However, I didn't feel like I accomplished anything unless I had a punch card version of my program.

Progress in computing? For sure: he remembers a plan to buy one megabyte of memory for the central IBM 360 computer, at a cost of $1 a byte: a million dollars. That much memory would cost about $10 nowadays.

You needn't dial 1

There has been a small change to the way that disembodied, 24-hour-a-day voice answers UW's phone calls at 888-4567. You can still connect to extension numbers through the switchboard, but you need no longer dial (press?) "1" before the four-digit extension number.

"We abandoned the dial-1 requirement to make it less complicated to connect with incoming faxes to an extension," says Bruce Uttley of information systems and technology. Might make it just a little less complicated for human beings, too. If you do dial 1 before the extension number, it'll still work, for the time being, Uttley notes. "Perhaps some day we'll reuse dial-1 to enter an automated directory lookup package."

The voice that answers 888-4567 isn't "Ivy" of voicemail fame, by the way; it's the real Ginny Polai, the switchboard supervisor.

Today and tomorrow at Waterloo

Two different talks about computer science are being given today: Tomorrow noon brings the big annual event sponsored by the Friends of the Library, in the form of a lecture in the Theatre of the Arts. This year's speaker is Illona Haus of the English department, talking about her romance fiction under the title "This Writer's Life: Disembodied Processes". Everybody is welcome.

Finally, a reminder to co-op students: with exceptions in a few programs, work reports from the winter term are due at 4:30 today. ("Check with your faculty's undergraduate office for the correct deadline.")


May 13, 1987: The "Fourth Decade" planning report for UW is published.

Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@watserv1.uwaterloo.ca -- (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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