UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY COMPUTING CENTER
COMPUTING SINCE 1958

HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY, UKCC! [1988]

The UKCC celebrates its thirtieth birthday this month. In September 1958, the UKCC began with three full-time staff members, a part-time student programmer, and an IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Digital Computer with alphabetic device. Today the UKCC boasts 73 full-time staff members, a class VI supercomputer (IBM 3090-300E/3VF), an IBM 3084-Q96, and the Prime systems. Additionally, through a sophisticated data communications network, these facilities are accessible from throughout the University. Originally providing limited research and instructional applications, the UKCC has undergone several transformations to its present status as a centralized facility which provides computing support to all areas of the University, administrative as well as academic.

Over the years there have been various organization changes within the UKCC as it attempted to respond to and anticipate various user needs. The UKCC was originally organized under UK President Frank Dickey. When the University was reorganized in 1982 the UKCC was placed in the Lexington Campus sector, under Academic Affairs. In July 1987, as part of a complete reorganization of computing and services, the UKCC was placed under a new University VP of Information Systems, Eugene R. Williams. Today the UKCC is organized into seven major groups: Academic Consulting Services, Management Information Services, Business Management, Information Center, Technical Services, Facilities Operations, and Information Resources.

There have been five UKCC directors in the past thirty years: Dr. John Hamblen, Dr. Silvio O. Navarro, Dr. Martin B. Solomon, Dr. J. Robert Heath, and currently, Dr. Douglas E. Hurley. Dr. Navarro also created UK's Computer Science Department and served as its first chairman.

The most obvious changes have been in the computing systems. Here's a look at the major computing systems throughout the years:

System InstalledRemoved
IBM 650 September 1958 September 1962
IBM 1620 March 1961 August 1967
IBM 1401 July 1962 October 1962
IBM 1410 October 1962 November 1968
IBM 7040 July 1964 July 1967
IBM 1401 July 1964 August 1967
IBM 360/50 February 1967 October 1969
IBM 360/65 October 1969 March 1975
IBM 370/165 March 1975 June 1983
Prime 850 January 1982 present
Prime 9950 June 1984 December 1984
Prime 9955 December 1984 present
IBM 3083-E16 June 1983 December 1984
IBM 3081-K32 December 1984 May 1988
IBM 3090-300E/3VF December 1987 present
IBM 3084-Q96 May 1988 present

Of course, this list doesn't include the rapidly growing use of personal computers throughout the UKCC and the University. A Micro Lab was added to the UKCC in December 1982, to provide all UK students, faculty, and staff a chance to learn about and use a variety of personal computers.

A vital part of computing today is communications, and the UKCC has always taken advantage of current technology to serve the University's electronic communications needs. Today the UKCC is one of the several campus computing resources accessible through UKnet, operated by the Division of Communications and Distributed Systems. UKnet consists of an Ungermann-Bass Broadband Cable Plant, installed in May 1986, and has four channels: a general channel, an administrative channel, and ethernet-on-broadband channel, and most recently, a Chipcom ethernet-on- broadband channel.

The physical facilities are another obvious sign of UKCC's growth. In 1958 the UKCC occupied a small part of the basement of McVey Hall. Today the Machine Rooms alone fill most of the basement, with labs, classrooms, and offices on the first and second floors. Part of the third floor is occupied by the Center for Computational Science, with which the UKCC works closely. The Machine Room areas were expanded in December 1987 to accommodate the supercomputer, and the remainder of McVey Hall is currently undergoing badly needed renovation.

The first UKCC user was Dr. Richard S. Mateer of Mining Engineering, and he still maintains a UKCC account today. In 1958 users like Dr. Mateer had to come to McVey Hall and operate the computer themselves, doing everything from punching their own cards to running their own programs. In the early 1960s computers became smaller and more powerful, allowing multiple users to access the same computing system at the same time. UKCC computing systems can now be accessed from nearly any type of terminal or personal computer, from terminal cluster sites around campus, from the Users Rooms in McVey Hall, and from remote sites outside Fayette County.

The past thirty years have not been entirely free of tragedy. Dr. Silvio Navarro, the second UKCC director, was killed in a plane crash on April 3, 1967. Eight other members of the University community were also killed when the plane failed during take-off from Blue Grass Field. Dr. Navarro was on his way to Texas to deliver a speech at a professional meeting.

On June 4, 1986, a small fire in the Machine Room broke out shortly after midnight, and was extinguished by the Lexington Fire Department within fifteen minutes of its discovery. The fire destroyed a single electronic rack housing seven 24-port multiplexers and the related modems serving instructional clusters. Communications were disrupted for several hours, but staff members throughout all the UKCC groups responded quickly to restore services. No one was injured in the fire, but some employees were sent home because of toxic vapor. Today a sophisticated Halon 1301 Extinguishing System is in operation throughout the areas housing the IBM and Prime systems.

"The Kentucky Register" itself began publication in July 1964 on a quarterly basis. Monthly printed publication began in October 1972, and except for the period of April through July 1988, it has continued to serve users monthly.

Despite the many changes the UKCC has undergone, some things remain constant: the loyalty, knowledge, friendliness, and perseverance of its staff members. They've always shown extraordinary dedication to giving users the very best service and up-to-date technical help within their power. They're the real reason the UKCC keeps improving throughout the years - and that isn't going to change.

By Marguerite Floyd in the September 1988 Kentucky Register.