Air Force signs ILLIAC-IV contract with University of Illinois. The
project is led by Daniel Slotnick; primary subcontractors are
Burroughs and Texas Instruments. (MW: ILLIAC-IV)
ILLIAC-IV becomes operational at NASA Ames after concerted check out
effort. (MW: ILLIAC-IV)
ILLIAC-IV decommissioned. (GVW: ILLIAC-IV)
Mahur said that right around this time, there was a problem with a
computer called Illiac IV. According to the Jan. 6, 1970 edition of The
Daily Illini, the Department of Defense had been planning to put in a $24
million supercomputer on campus. In return for the computer, government
agents would be able to use it for military research.
Illiac IV was to be the most powerful computer on the face of the earth at
The project, however, was met with hostility by protesters that were
suspicious of the University’s tie with the Department of Defense and felt
that the University had sold out to a conspiracy. The protests reached a
boiling point on May 9, 1970, in a day of "Illiaction." Eventually, the
University backed out and Illiac IV was moved to another location.
There is a Smash ILLIAC poster at
the University of Illinois.
1946 UI faculty attempt to build a computer that can play checkers.
ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Calculator) is built at the
University of Pennsylvania by J. P. Eckert and John Mauchly. A year
later, the President's Science Advisory Committee Panel on Computers in
Higher Education states: "After growing wildly for years, the field of
computing now appears to be approaching its infancy."
1948 John von Neumann, a pioneer in computer design at the Institute
for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, suggests that the Illinois
research group build a computer. J. Robert Oppenheimer gives Illinois
permission to build a copy of von Neumann's proposed machine.
John Bardeen co-invents the transistor at Bell Telephone Laboratories,
for which he wins the Nobel Prize in 1956. (He wins another in 1972 for
co-developing the theory of superconductivity.) He would become
professor of physics and electrical engineering at the University in 1951
1949 The U.S. Army and the University of Illinois jointly fund the
construction of two computers, ORDVAC and ILLIAC.
The Digital Computer Lab is organized. Ralph Meagher, a physicist and
chief engineer for ORDVAC, is head.
1951 ORDVAC (Ordnance Variable Automated Computer), one of the
fastest in existence, is completed. It was ten feet long, two feet wide, eight
and one-half feet high, contained 2,800 vacuum tubes, and weighed five
1952 ORDVAC moves to the Army Ballistic Research Laboratory in
Aberdeen, Maryland. It is used remotely from Illinois via a teletype
circuit up to eight hours each night until the ILLIAC computer is
ILLIAC, the first computer built and owned entirely by an educational
institution, becomes operational. It was used by Lajaren Hiller, director
of the Experimental Music Studio, to compose and play the Illiac Suite,
the first computer-composed composition.
UI faculty publish what is believed to be the first journal article in
behavioral and social sciences involving a computer.
1955 A four-bit prototype transistorized computer is constructed at UI's
Digital Computer Laboratory.
1957 UI faculty demonstrate a flip-flop 10 times faster than any other
design in use.
The Digital Computer Laboratory becomes a department in the Graduate
College. Studies are underway of advances such as transistors, parallel
operation, high-speed circuitry, and improved logic to better the
usefulness, speed, and reliability of computers.
1958 UI establishes an experimental music studio where digital
computers are used to generate music for the first time. Professor James
E. Robertson, an electrical engineer who was an expert in error-checking
systems, pioneers basic techniques of efficient binary division. The SRT
division algorithm, now found both in hardware and software
implementations of the divide instruction and widely used in the most
powerful microprocessors, is named after D. Sweeney, Robertson, and
T.D., who independently invented the method at about the same time.
The campus got an IBM 650, which was used in the design of research
instruments like high-energy particle accelerators and radio telescopes.
1961 UI faculty demonstrate advanced "virtual load" circuits with one
nanosecond rise and fall times.
Using the ILLIAC as a computational engine, UI faculty introduce
1962 ILLIAC II, a transistorized computer 100 times faster than the
original ILLIAC, becomes operational. ACM Computing Reviews says of
the machine, "...ILLIAC II, at its conception in the mid-1950s,
represents, together with some other independent design projects of the
same period, the spearhead and breakthrough into a new generation of
Researchers from the ALCOR group in Europe join UI faculty in the
design of an ALGOL compiler.
ILLIAC I was retired.
1963 A pattern recognition computer, being designed at Illinois since
1960, becomes the ILLIAC III project. The machine was to analyze
bubble chamber photographs of high energy particle events. (Due to a
building fire, it was never finished.)
Professor Donald B. Gillies discovered three Mersenne prime numbers in
the course of checking out ILLIAC II, including the largest then known
prime number, 211213-1, which is over 3,000 digits, putting him in the
Guiness Book of Records for a time.
1965 The University of Illinois and Burroughs collaborate on the
development of the ILLIAC IV, the largest and fastest computer in the
world. The ILLIAC IV project, headed by Professor Daniel Slotnick,
pioneers the new concept of parallel computation. Slotnick had worked
under John von Neumann at Princeton. ILLIAC IV was a SIMD
computer (single instruction, multiple data) and it marked the first use of
circuit card design automation outside IBM. It was also the first to
employ ECL (Emitter-Coupled Logic) integrated circuits and multilayer
(up to twelve layers) circuit boards on a large scale. Most notable was its
use of semiconductor memory.
Undergraduate degree program in math/computer science is established
in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
1967 ILLIAC II is retired, the second addition to DCL was completed,
and the department installed its first IBM 360, which was incorporated
into the ILLINET, one of the earliest computer networks..
1972 UI Professor John Bardeen shares the Nobel Prize in physics for
developing the theory of superconductivity. It is Bardeen's second; the
first was for inventing the transistor.
Undergraduate degree program in computer science is established in the
College of Engineering.
1974 ILLIAC IV becomes operational at the Institute for Advanced
Computation, Moffett Field, California.
The Office of Telecommunications and Computer Services Office merged
to form CCSO, the Computing and Communications Services Office.
1975 Illinois is awarded UNIX license number one by Bell Laboratories.
Graduate student Greg Chesson becomes the third person to contribute to
the Bell Labs UNIX kernel.
1976 Illinois researchers use computers to prove the four-color theorem,
a long standing conjecture in graph theory.
1978 University of Illinois Library, the largest public university library in
the country, is among the first to provide public on-line access to a major
collection. Today, the catalog accesses more than four million records in