Friday, October 14, 2011

The Sprowls Website on Computing

What you see above is a screenshot of a website designed by Professor Emeritus R. Clay Sprowls, a professor of statistics at what is now the Anderson School from 1951 until 1990 when he retired. The dean of the Anderson School last night circulated an email obituary of Prof. Sprowls. Mentioned in the obit was the above-website which provides a history of computing at the School from the 1950s through the 1970s. Although it is largely specific to the School, I suspect there were similar events going on around the campus as computing was introduced to the university and then spread. For those interested in a piece of that history, the Sprowls website is at

As an additional recollection, yours truly can remember arriving at UCLA in 1968 from MIT (where - not surprisingly - computing was more advanced). MBA students - as part of their curriculum - were writing little programs that did arithmetic problems, punching them on cards, and feeding them into a machine - some kind of IBM computer - roughly the size of a dishwasher. The machine churned out the results on separate cards which then had to be printed on paper at another machine.

The cards were free and left in a bin for student use. Eventually, it turned out that folks were coming in, helping themselves to large quantities of the cards, printing ads on the back, and distributing the ads in neighborhood mailboxes. The system was changed to a vending machine that charged for cards. The vending machine was nicknamed HAL in honor of the evil computer in the movie "2001."

Note: An obituary for Prof. Sprowls is at

No comments: