The University of Rochester Computer Interest Floor was originally proposed by Matt Curtis and Peter Thompson during the fall term of 1982. Their goal was to create an organization which would provide assistance for students interested in learning to use computers and specific software packages. This group of students would also serve as the student voice on the availability and the quality of the computing resources at the University. They predicted that living in such an environment would improve the academic performance and computer literacy of these students. This would benefit not only the students but also the University, by providing a knowledgeable pool of computer literate students which the University could employ in the many computer related jobs on campus.
In the course of that year, a location for the floor was selected, the housing proposal was submitted, and a charter was drafted, signed, and accepted. The Computer Interest Floor began on the eleventh floor of the deKiewiet tower during the fall term of 1983.
During the fall of 1983 and spring of 1984 a strong emphasis was placed on acquiring equipment for the floor. The original proposal for equipment, which had been submitted in the summer of 1983, suggested that an Apple II with a printer and a modem be purchased for each apartment. Unfortunately, this proposal was scaled down. Through Bill Arcuri and Dave Amering at the Computing Center, the floor acquired two Apple II+ computers, two Epson printers, and two Hayes 300 baud auto-dial modems.
Residential Life, after much persuasion, gave the floor the use of the one room in which the CIF Lab began. The opening of the public lab on the floor began with this equipment. The Lab was for student and faculty use, designed to be a place where people could come to work on a program, learn a word processor, or ask a computer related question. David Stonehill, the Vice Provost of Computing, helped the floor acquire a DEC Rainbow, a DEC Pro 350, and an IBM PC. He listened to the members’ suggestions about computing resources on campus and helped further our cause. One such suggestion was that students should have free computer access to University mainframes. Today, students here can get free accounts on Unix, CMS and VMS machines.
In the fall of 1984, the Computer Interest Floor requested on-campus housing. Arguing that the Lab would prove more useful on campus and citing the general lack of computing facilities in the dorms, David Stonehill was convinced to help. Although his request was denied, the Computer Interest Floor was successful at voicing its opinion. Today nearly half of the on-campus dorms have computer facilities.
Tutoring also began in the CIF Lab in 1984. To those who participated, it proved to be a valuable resource for academic help. A CIF member wrote a database manager for the Film Studies department, which is still in use, which resulted in a weekly film series of popular 16MM films in the Lab.
In 1985 the Lab expanded, first to two rooms, then finally occupying an entire three-room apartment of the floor. Two Macintosh 128K computers, two more printers and six 9600 baud modems with data lines were installed in the Lab. The six data lines were part of the University’s Rolm system. These data lines, obtained through a special agreement with University Telecommunications, replaced an outdated multiplexor which had connected our Lab to the University Computing Center.
During the fall term of 1986 CIF began to acquire old computer equipment from many departments of the University. Craig McGowan, an employee of Taylor Hall, donated an Apple Lisa computer. Soon after, we acquired a Corvus hard disk, which we modified so that it could be attached to either the Apple Macintoshes or the IBM PC. In addition to this somewhat useful equipment, we also obtained a number of relics which, although not serviceable, provided us with hardware upon which we could experiment. These machines included a Data General Nova, on indefinite loan from the Optics Department, and a 68000 based computer running UNIX.
Access to the CIF Lab was originally controlled through an automated door lock system, designed and built by an electrical engineering student on the floor. The system consisted of an Apple II+ computer and customized hardware and software. The system evolved over the years; at one point, plans included the addition of a speech synthesizer and an external monitor. Floor members issued Lab access codes to any members of the University community who requested it. The Lab was publicized campus-wide at the beginning of each school year.
Since the spring of 1986, CIF has been attempting to update our Lab facility to keep pace with the rapid changes in the computing community. Due to space and compatibility considerations, CIF relinquished some of the less useful equipment. The Lisa was returned due to its lack of compatibility with personal computers in use by the University. The 512K Macintoshes were upgraded to Mac Pluses, and four working terminals were created from existing parts.
CIF members have been employed by various departments around the University. In the 1984-85 academic year, the entire floor was hired by the Humanities writing center to help teach the use of various word processing software. In addition, departments have come to CIF to find individuals to work on short-term consulting projects, such as customized software.
CIF has had many members work in the University Computing Center, including technical services, consultants, operators, and administrative help, including work in Publications, the Microcomputer Information Center, Computing And Reserve Library, and part-time membership in the UNIX Aministration Group. CIF members have also worked in the Medical Center, the Electrical Engineering department, the Lab for Laser Energetics, the Computer Science Department, and Computer Equipment Services. In addition, many CIF members have been teaching assistants for computer science and other courses, as well as teaching various non-credit courses in various topics from the the use of microcomputer software to the C programming language.
During the summer, CIF members have held jobs at Sun Microsystems, MIT Project Athena, the DEC AI Group, Symbolics, Kodak, and the University of Rochester Computing Center UNIX Group. CIF members have had software published nationwide. CIF graduates have gone on to work full time at Sun Microsystems, IBM, Amazon, and the University of Rochester Computing Center. One CIF member started a computer sales organization out of his room, which has since grown into a full-blown successful business.
Originally, CIF members were given special accounts on the University’s public-access UNIX system. Two CIF members were members of the UCC UNIX Administration Group, and were able to set up these accounts in such a way to allow CIF members to try their hands at certain aspects of system administration on their own. The CIF setup provided a publicly-accessible directory for programs written locally or taken off the net, and CIF was the only area where games can be found on the system. This configuration not only provided high visibility for CIF, but proved to be an excellent learning area and training ground for future UNIX hackers. CIF members who, two months prior, had only barely used UNIX were suddenly writing their own C programs and became intimately familiar with the workings of UNIX. After this point, discussions began for the connection of CIF Lab UNIX machines to the campus backbone by UUCP or ethernet.
Since its inception in 1983, CIF has been quite successful. In addition to supplying a computer Lab to the University community, CIF has sponsored various events, some University-wide, both computer-oriented and otherwise. In the past, CIF sponsored a Sun Microsystems product demonstration, as well as a conference with the UCC Unix Administration Group.
To date, our three major functions have been (1) supplying the Lab to the University community, (2) helping departments and students with computer related problems, including consulting, tutoring, and teaching, and (3) voicing opinions about computer resources on campus. CIF is happy to participate as the University gets more in stride with computer trends and provides better availability of computers to the University community.