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From Ferranti to Faculty: Information Technology at Monash University, 1960 to 1990

Chapter two

From visions to realities

Sarah Rood

In this chapter, the development of the Department of Electronic Data Processing at Chisholm Institute of Technology and the Department of Information Science at Monash University are explored thematically. The first section – Setting up Shop – looks at how the Departments of Electronic Data Processing and Information Science became functioning entities. The second – Studying Information Science and Data Processing – investigates the development of the early subjects and courses offered by each department. The third – From the Outside Looking In – examines how the new departments were perceived by the faculties and schools that surrounded them. The final section – Culture and Identity – traces the emergence of distinct and unique cultures within the respective departments.

Setting up Shop

Computer science and data processing had emerged in the university and technical college environment by the early 1960s. Both Monash University and Caulfield Technical College embraced the new area of study. The courses that had been planned at Caulfield and the Chair of Information Science at Monash slowly transformed from vision into reality as Jack White and Chris Wallace entered the scene. These men began the onerous task of building their respective departments and securing a place in the tertiary sector for computing and computer science.

Built on Industry Foundations – The Emergence of the Department of Electronic Data Processing

In 1959, Austin Lambert first expressed his vision that Caulfield Technical College would become a recognised centre of education in data processing and machine computation. At the time few saw the future of computers that Lambert prophesied. By the mid 1960s full and part time courses were offered by the College. Less than a decade later, an entire page in the institution’s course guide was dedicated to the various institutions and professional organisations that recognised the qualifications that resulted from the data processing courses.1 As the courses strengthened in reputation and renown the Department of Electronic Data Processing emerged and Lambert’s vision was steadily transformed into reality.

Two arrivals in the early 1960s were pivotal to the development of the Department of Electronic Data Processing: the College’s first computer and Jack White. The computer, a Ferranti Sirius, was an overt statement of commitment to computing education. It was a statement that resonated with the broader technical college community, with government groups, and with the private sector. The computing courses that pre-dated the arrival of the Sirius were directed at introducing students to the emerging area of electronic computation and later, data processing. But the depth of these classes had been capped by what students could be taught without direct access to computers. External companies and institutions had to be relied upon to donate computer time for the running of student programs. With the aid of the Sirius, the Diploma of Information Processing, scheduled for introduction in 1964, would specifically train students for professional careers in computing and data processing, giving them an edge in a changing commercial world.

When the Education Department approved the introduction of the Diploma of Information Processing, they also approved the advertisement of a new Senior Technical Instructor position specifically for the emerging area of information processing.2 The advertisement of this new position eventually led Austin Lambert and the Education Department to Jack White, who had first stumbled across Caulfield Technical College in 1963. At the time the Education Department’s advertisement came to his attention, White’s Melbourne based unit of the Commonwealth Public Service Board was gradually being relocated to Canberra. Wanting to remain both in Melbourne and in the area of data processing, White applied for the position, and began his employment at Caulfield Technical College in May 1964.

The arrival of the new instructor was highly anticipated. The Diploma of Information Processing, with its class of six full time students, had been running since the first term of 1964. Prior to White’s arrival, the structure of the course was haphazard. Students were enrolled in a combination of subjects loosely associated with computing – accounting, physics, typing, English and maths.3 Under White’s influence the emphasis of the course rapidly shifted to a more structured combination of programming and systems analysis. The staff teaching the new course had also been poorly organised. White joined a group of permanent and sessional lecturers who had been teaching various aspects of computing since 1960, but there was no organised department or unifying administrative structure.4 It is difficult to isolate the start date of this department as it emerged gradually as an organisational unit. It was not until 1965 that Gryphon, the College yearbook, listed John McClelland, Jack White and Pearl Levin as belonging to the Department of Electronic Data Processing. But none of these teachers were distinguished by title or role, and there was no designated head of department. Rather, it seems that slowly, White began to take on the responsibility of leadership of the new department.

The absence of a clear hierarchy in the department was in keeping with the relatively simple structure of the College. Unlike the university model in which several departments were drawn together to form a faculty which had its own decision making body, there were no such wider discipline or administrative structures at Caulfield. Each department was directly responsible to the principal. The principal was in turn responsible to the Victorian Education Department, reporting to the Caulfield Technical College Council along the way. While Caulfield, like other technical colleges, was confined by the course framework set by the Education Department, the line of authority for each department was direct and straightforward. Each department was relatively independent and self contained.

The structure of the College protected the Department of Electronic Data Processing in its crucial period of establishment, growth and consolidation. During this time tensions emerged between the department and other areas of the Technical College that were largely based on perceptions of the new discipline. As the department liaised directly with Lambert on issues of finance, resources, and staffing, and did not have to negotiate through an overarching faculty structure, the impact of this tension was prevented from interfering with its development.

The introduction of diploma courses in electronic computation and data processing in technical colleges raised the profile of computing and its commercial applications. But technical colleges, including Caulfield, still had not become the centre of vocational computer training. This role still fell to large computer manufacturers like ICL, IBM and Honeywell, Ferranti, and English Electric, as well as areas of the Public Service which had, out of necessity, been forced to take on a training role.5 Before high level universal programming languages, like FORTRAN for example, were introduced, each machine had its own distinct language and software. It followed that each computer manufacturer trained its own staff. After their in-house training, the sales representatives were then able to introduce clients, mostly from commercial enterprises, to their machines and the associated software. Clients would liaise directly with the computer company regarding their programming, software and training needs.

Areas of the public service were quick to see the benefits of computing applications to their operations. After finding no suitable courses within the technical college system, the public service had begun to run its own graduate and employee training programs so that computing applications could be used within various departments. With machine houses providing basic training and areas of the public service running extended courses, private industry and the government sector became the coal face of commercial data processing. So, when Austin Lambert first looked to industry to provide the College with computing and data processing teachers in 1960, he did so with a combination of street savvy and sheer necessity. These computing experts would be able to prepare students for a career in industry. Employing them at Caulfield signalled the beginning of the shift of vocational computer training from commercial industry to technical colleges.

When Jack White was faced with the need for additional lecturers in the mid 1960s, he upheld Lambert’s tradition. If the department was going to meet its aim to ‘educate students for a career in data processing’,6 the involvement of data processing professionals was essential. So White continued the process of enticing various industry professionals and commercial data processing experts to join the department. He drew upon the contacts he had made throughout his working career and sought out talented and experienced professionals. Experience and skill in data processing, systems design and analysis, and programming were once again prioritised over formal teacher training. Unequivocally supported by Lambert in the staff that he put forward for employment, White slowly built his legacy at the College – a highly skilled, experienced and well connected Department of Electronic Data Processing.7

None of the employees who joined Caulfield Technical College in the 1960s were trained teachers. Bob Grant came to Caulfield in 1965 from ICL. John Stuart White, not to be confused with Jack White, came to the College in 1966 from Nylex. Peter Juliff, a Public Service Inspector in Electronic Data Processing, joined the department in 1967. This tradition continued well after 1968 when the Technical College separated from the Education Department and was renamed Caulfield Institute of Technology (CIT). In 1970 Gerry Maynard came to the department after extensive experience in the Commonwealth Public Service and Jack Greig came from IBM. In 1971, Maurie Fabrikant, formerly employed by Honeywell, joined the department alongside three Public Service Board employees, David Stickels, Helen Michell and Anne Brookes.8

Jack White’s recruitment technique shaped the Department of Electronic Data Processing. Students were learning from tutors and lecturers who had experienced what they were teaching in an industry environment and could identify and prioritise the fundamental skills that employers looked for in their graduates. Equally significant for the quality and content of the education was the network that grew as a result of the staff members that were employed. With each new lecturer came important industry connections, contacts and practical knowledge. The relationships formed as a result of these networks and contacts were particularly influential in the development of the department and the direction of EDP at Caulfield.

A Stand Alone Discipline – The Department of Information Science

From its beginnings Monash University had a strong computer presence. Within a year of the arrival of the first students, the Computer Centre had been established to coordinate the University’s computing needs and services. Even the University’s central administration was aware of the potential applications of computers and had hired a machine for accounts and student administration. It is not surprising, therefore, that the emergence of computer science as a discipline in its own right was flagged within a few years of Monash University’s existence. Both the Computer Centre and the Faculty of Science were integral to the development of this new discipline.

The Faculty of Science was one of the first faculties to be established at Monash University. Attempting to realise some of the expectations of the new institution, the Faculty of Science took on an obligation to provide a dynamic style of education. In 1963 Kevin Westfold, Dean of Science, brazenly stated that the Faculty of Science had designed its course with the needs of the science graduate in mind, unbound by ‘the inertia associated with long established, but otherwise outmoded topics’.9 This statement was a thinly veiled assertion that Monash’s Faculty of Science offered a superior alternative to the subjects and courses at the older, more traditional University of Melbourne. In an attempt to push the boundaries of the conventional science degree, the Faculty of Science required its undergraduates to complete a specialist course in humanities or social science. One of the seven subjects required for the completion of a pass degree had to be from outside the discipline of science.

The reality of providing a modern educational alternative proved harder for Monash to bring about. Although younger and born of a different era, the new institution still had to operate within the traditional university framework. Monash was constantly compared with the University of Melbourne, which had the benefit of age and patronage. The new university was judged, perhaps unfairly, against the older university. The tension between old and new became increasingly difficult to negotiate – if Monash wanted to be seen as an equal competitor to the University of Melbourne, it had to play along the same lines. Out of perceived necessity, a gradual conservatism crept in.

The tension between old traditions and new ideas was also played out in the Faculty of Science. By 1965, the compulsory humanities unit had become optional. It seemed that contrary to Westfold’s brash claim, the Faculty of Science was indeed bound by a degree of inertia. By the end of the 1970s the emphasis of the Faculty of Science had returned to the ‘basic methodologies of science’, humanities subjects were not permitted until second year and two out of four first year subjects were to be selected from laboratory-based disciplines with the remaining subjects chosen from a rearranged ‘system of limited availability that reinforce[d] this emphasis on the basic sciences’.10

The tension between new ideas and an older, more traditional framework was in many ways exemplified by the way that information and computer science surfaced at Monash University. In 1963 Cliff Bellamy flagged the emergence and future significance of information science. Monash could, he suggested, assert its authority in science and technology by leading the university community in the consolidation of this new discipline and establishing a Chair and a Department of Information Science. But the reality proved more difficult. Issues relating to the role of the professor and the definition of the discipline waylaid the new appointment.

Unlike his counterpart at Caulfield Technical College, the new Professor of Information Science, Chris Wallace, inherited nothing in the way of teaching and staff. Prior to his arrival there were no true information science subjects taught and it was nearly a decade before students could enrol in computer science subjects in each of the years of their science degrees. Before 1969, the only teaching related to computing was through the Computer Centre and certain departments within the Faculties of Science and Engineering. Wallace had to establish the Department of Information Science, its staff and its courses. By the end of 1968 he had appointed a lecturer in information science, advertised a teaching fellowship and scheduled the department’s first subject for introduction, the third year level Information Science 303.

In making his early staff appointments Wallace leaned heavily on his University of Sydney network. He and his first appointee, Anthony Yalden Montgomery, had worked together at the University of Sydney. A University of Melbourne graduate in Electronic Engineering, Montgomery spent the majority of the 1960s as an electronic computer design and maintenance engineer for various computing companies in Australia and the United Kingdom. After a three year stint in the United Kingdom, Montgomery returned to Australia where at the University of Sydney, he installed an English Electric KDF 9, the very machine that Wallace had been sent to investigate in the United Kingdom. In November 1965, he moved to Melbourne where he worked in computer sales and data processing. After completing an MBA at the University of Melbourne’s School of Business Administration, he entered academia as a part time lecturer in data processing at RMIT. In 1968, upon his arrival in Melbourne, Wallace contacted Montgomery. Keenly aware that the Department of Information Science needed a lecturer with experience in the commercial applications of data processing and systems, he invited Montgomery to apply for a lectureship. Montgomery joined the department in 1969. His experience of computing in both commercial and academic frameworks and the industry contacts he had made along the way made him an asset to the new department.

By the end of 1969, the Department of Information Science had expanded further. Forty students had enrolled in the first information science subject and Peter Herman had been appointed as a Senior Teaching Fellow. Herman had also come to Monash from the University of Sydney. The department of three worked towards expanding teaching activities and facilities as they proposed new subjects and applied for funding to support a departmental computer. Honours level courses became available from 1970 and paved the way for higher degrees in information science. David Boulton, Wallace’s PhD student from the University of Sydney, had followed his supervisor to Monash in 1968 and was one of the University’s first PhD students in computer science. In 1971 Boulton joined the lecturing staff of the young department. The beginning of 1972 saw Gopal Gupta join as a Senior Teaching Fellow. Gupta was a Masters graduate from the University of Waterloo and came to Australia from Canada to take up the position – the first academic to join the department from overseas. Soon after, Ken McDonnell joined the department as a Teaching Fellow. Throughout the remainder of the 1970s, the department slowly and steadily built up its staff, teaching and research activity.

Although the Department of Information Science only came into existence when he joined the University, Wallace inherited a complex network of relationships that had been shaped by internal politics and perceptions of information science that predated the formal establishment of the department. Unlike at Caulfield Technical College, there was no protection for the Department of Information Science. It was a small department that represented an entirely new area of teaching and research in a large, well established faculty that was becoming increasingly conservative. In an often antagonistic environment the department struggled for recognition and resources against a backdrop of negative perceptions and hostility.

The Departments of Electronic Data Processing and Information Science were shaped by their leaders and the environment that surrounded them. Initially, the Caulfield department was sheltered by Austin Lambert and a simple institutional structure. Although the department at Monash was highly anticipated, it was immediately affected by internal politics which were exacerbated by a more complex structure. The way the courses and the departments developed reflected the environments in which they were located.

Studying Information Science and Data Processing

New courses and subjects in electronic computation, data processing and information science were slotted into the existing teaching infrastructures of the two institutions. At Caulfield Technical College, Jack White inherited a comprehensive teaching framework. But he and his department had to mould the curriculum to reflect an emphasis on commercial data processing and introduce this area of study to the Caulfield Technical College community. Chris Wallace faced different issues at Monash. Information science subjects had to be introduced in the context of the Bachelor of Science. The department was forced to build its teaching activities within the constraints of this existing undergraduate degree.

A New Discipline Meets a Pre-Existing Degree

Introducing a new discipline into a pre-existing degree was the first challenge faced by Professor Wallace. Despite the breadth of knowledge, experience and research interests in the new department, teaching in computer science was initially quite limited. Computer science was introduced to students via the Bachelor of Science and had to conform to the degree structure and regulations. Although the University had embraced the emerging discipline by setting up the Department of Information Science, existing degree regulations, recommended major sequences and course progression left little room for subjects in the area. The department had no choice but to move slowly within the existing framework, in order to introduce subjects to all year levels of the Bachelor of Science program.11

The inaugural subject, Information Science 303, aimed to provide some ‘familiarity and competence across the whole field of automatic information processing and computing’.12 But the department faced some basic and fundamental challenges in introducing even this first subject. IS303 could only be taken by students at third year level and above. However, there were no information science subjects in first or second year that could be specified as prerequisites. Instead, second year mathematics subjects had to suffice. Students were also required to have completed an introductory course in FORTRAN programming. However, in 1969 students had little or no opportunity to complete such a course. Out of necessity, the introductory FORTRAN course had to be scheduled into the syllabus and timetable of the actual subject, even though it was a prerequisite.

Despite the issues that the department faced in introducing Information Science 303, the subject was immediately popular among students. Divided into four units – advanced programming, numerical methods, data processing, and digital logic – the subject ran the length of the academic year. In its first and second years it attracted approximately 40 students. In 1971, numbers rose to 58 – a reputation was slowly building. At the end of 1971 it was decided that enrolments in IS303 would be limited by a quota. Monash University, the institution that was created partially as a result of the quotas imposed by the University of Melbourne, now needed enrolment-limiting quotas of its own. Only 75 students would be permitted to enrol in third year information science until the department had more academic and teaching staff.

With enrolments growing steadily, Wallace and his small department worked hard within the faculty framework to develop and propose new courses in information science. The first of these was the honours course, Information Science 400. A fourth year component in information science seemed a logical and important progression following the success and interest generated by IS303. Approved by the Faculty Board in 1970, seven students enrolled in IS400 that same year.13 The honours course was particularly significant for the department. IS400 was the first subject that could specify another information science subject, IS303, as a prerequisite. The honours course was a pathway to the Master of Science research program and helped steady the foundations of the new department – both honours and postgraduate research students contributed to its research output and provided much needed teaching assistance in undergraduate subjects.

Enrolments in the honours course continued to increase. The department proposed the introduction of a small second year information science subject, Information Science 205, which commenced in 1971. Bachelor of Science students could now undertake information science subjects at second, third and fourth year level. From 1972, Information Science 205 was a prerequisite for Information Science 303 and the course content of IS303 was ‘restructured to presume a background provided by Information Science 205’.14 Second year students clamoured to enrol in the new subject. One hundred and fifty students signed up the first year it was offered. The teaching profile of the department was building steadily.

Students of these early information science subjects recall captivating lectures and a notoriously demanding workload that had a large practical component. Information Science 303 students were required to undertake three units throughout the year. Each unit involved two hours of lectures per week in addition to practical work and a one hour tutorial. Advanced Programming was a compulsory unit that required an additional six hours of practical work each week. Information Science 205, designed to provide a general introduction to computing and certain programming languages, had similarly high expectations of its students. Two lectures and one tutorial were matched with at least three hours of practical computer work per week.15 Assignments and examinations were completed in addition to these lectures, tutorials and practical classes. It was not uncommon for work in other subjects to suffer as a result of the demands of IS205 and IS303.16 Students in these first three years were lectured to by Wallace – who was well known for lecturing without any notes – Montgomery, Herman, Boulton and later Gupta and McDonnell. Cliff Bellamy, Len Whitehouse and other staff members from the Computer Centre also taught some components of the information science courses.

Despite the demanding workload, students were attracted to Information Science by the interest generated by the new discipline, and by the alternative it offered to the traditional repertoire of undergraduate science subjects. In lectures and practical classes students were exploring technologies that had only recently been invented. Lecturers found that many students whose academic record had been mediocre, excelled in information science and often went on to complete further study and to have successful careers in the area.17 But students were not yet aware of the professional opportunities that would come from computer science. Rather, many students initially enrolled in information science because of a side interest in computing or because the subjects were a convenient minor sequence. The vocational potential of training in computer science did not begin to be realised by students on a large scale until later in the 1970s.18

Many early students of information science were highly motivated and academically able.19 Early honours students in particular were well known for their commitment to the new discipline. Honours students in the Department of Information Science were required to complete a course involving six lectures per week in specified topics of advanced computing. In the early years, visiting lecturers from interstate and overseas supplemented the department’s academic staff by lecturing about their own research interests. The honours classes were small, highly interactive and provided a productive and supportive working environment for students.

The first group of fourth year students was particularly successful and a high number of first class honours grades were awarded. Many of the students in this year, including Les Goldschlager, Bill Appelbee, Chris Coles, Bruce Croft, and Peter Cheeseman went on to become leading information technology professors and professionals. The department benefited greatly from its honours students. The academic achievements of this first honours group assisted the department in establishing its credibility in the highly competitive university environment. In addition, many of these students stayed on to complete higher research degrees in the department, tutoring younger students and inspiring them to undertake honours and postgraduate studies. Some of the early honours graduates would return to Monash University to take on senior roles in the department and in the Faculty of Information Technology.20

The Caulfield Technical College Suite of Computing Courses

When Jack White arrived to take up his position as Senior Instructor in Information Processing at Caulfield Technical College he was greeted by an array of short courses in computing and electronic data processing that had been running since 1961. In addition, there were sixteen students enrolled in the newly introduced certificate and diplomas courses – ten in the Certificate in Electronic Data Processing (Operating and Coding) and six in the Diploma of Information Processing.21 By the time White left in 1972, there were over 400 students enrolled in the department’s degree, diploma, and post diploma certificate courses.22 With the basic infrastructure established before he arrived, White’s focus was on finding lecturers to share the mammoth teaching load and to coordinate the extensive teaching activities of this young department and area of study.

The year 1964 had seen the introduction of five new courses to Caulfield Technical College. As had been the case for the earlier evening short courses, students could choose either a technical or a commercial emphasis. Two post diploma courses were offered for those who had already received a technical college qualification: the Diploma of Electronic Computation, which was ‘designed to supplement the training of applied science and engineering diplomates’, and the Diploma of Electronic Data Processing which was targeted at commerce graduates.23 Both were year long, full time courses run only at Caulfield. The course for engineers and applied scientists offered subjects in mathematics, numerical methods, digital and analogue computer equipment, techniques, and programming, as well as project work in electronic computation. For the commerce graduates there were subjects in electronic report writing and mathematics, business administration, systems analysis, data processing equipment and digital computer programming. Projects in information processing also comprised a significant component.

A two year, part time, post certificate course in Electronic Data Processing (Commerce) was designed to entice qualified accountants. It was available at both Caulfield and RMIT and offered accountants highly practical training in electronic data processing, mathematics, systems analysis and programming. For Caulfield Technical College, these post diploma and post certificate courses carried on the tradition established by Lambert’s evening courses and reaffirmed its commitment to providing the commercial sector with an avenue for further professional development. But the College also provided options for the school leaver. These were the year long Certificate in Electronic Data Processing (Operating and Coding), or the course that Lambert had been engineering since 1960, the four year full time Diploma of Information Processing.

The Certificate in EDP (Operating and Coding) was a highly practical, year long course in computer operation. The course, which became known as ‘Ops and Coders’, was only offered by Caulfield Technical College. Students received training in English, EDP, mathematics and systems appreciation as well as hands-on instruction in data processing equipment and digital computing programming. John McClelland, who taught some of the technical computing courses prior to 1964, was initially responsible for teaching these students. In 1965, Pearl Levin joined the College to study computer programming. Within six months, she was employed by the new Department of Electronic Data Processing as a computer operator. Over the following two years Levin gradually took over responsibility for the College’s computer and the ‘Ops and Coders’ course – the success of the course and the high demand for its graduates were largely attributed to her.24 Graduates were highly sought after by industry as they were well trained and immediately ready to become machine operators. The introduction of the Certificate in EDP was also an extremely important step towards shifting the focal point of computer training from industry and machine houses to Caulfield Technical College and the tertiary sector.

The Diploma of Information Processing was open to school leavers who had satisfactorily completed four leaving certificate subjects including English and mathematics. Students could undertake this Diploma at Caulfield or RMIT and it was designed ‘to train specialists in the field of applied commercial electronic data processing’.25 The diploma spanned four years of full time study, at the end of which students would be trained in a combination of commerce – including accounting, mathematics, economics and business administration, and data processing – together with systems analysis, design and programming. Initially, the curriculum and structure of the diploma at Caulfield reflected Lambert’s highly technical background. But White immediately steered the diploma in a more commercial direction. Once again, the result was the production of highly employable, well trained graduates ready to work as practitioners in this new profession. The diploma was immediately popular among school leavers, who were intrigued by the opportunity to study something new and vocationally focussed. Students who had completed the ‘Ops and Coders’ certificate, which had more flexible entry requirements, could and often did enter the Diploma of Information Processing.

The computing courses at Caulfield were highly practical in content. Even in the more technical ‘Ops and Coders’ and electronic computation courses the emphasis was on the commercial applications of computing. While the Department of Information Science at Monash concentrated on computer science education and research in the university framework, the Department of Electronic Data Processing aimed to ‘educate students for a career in data processing’.26 But the demands made of Technical College students were similar to those of the Monash information science students. Courses involved a combination of lectures, tutorials and practical activities. Students were expected to complete practical exercises on the computers, running programs on the Ferranti Sirius, CDC 160A and later ICL machines. The programs that the students were asked to run and the systems they were instructed to design were focussed on applying electronic computation and data processing to realistic commercial scenarios. The Computer Centre at Caulfield grew out of the data processing courses and was initially located in the department. The high contact with machines and the practical focus of the teaching ensured that the Caulfield graduates were highly sought after by employers.

The style of instruction and the varied background of Caulfield Technical College students placed high demands on the teaching staff of the emerging Department of Electronic Data Processing. School leavers, mature age students and industry professionals seeking further training or a shift in career were all attracted by the comprehensive suite of electronic computation and data processing courses. The teaching demands had to be shared amongst the small body of teachers, who often had to learn an area of data processing in order to teach it. The day after John White joined the department in 1966 he was informed by Jack White that he was required to teach a subject in systems appreciation. John White, who had three years of experience as a programmer for Nylex, promptly asked his senior exactly what ‘systems appreciation’ was.27 Gerry Maynard fell into teaching business data processing in a similar way. He was approached by John McClelland, who asked him what he knew about the area. When Maynard replied that he knew nothing, he was told to learn quickly as he was about to start teaching the topic.28 John White and Maynard had little choice but to become experts in these areas, just as Jack White and John McClelland had little choice other than to ask them to do so.

By 1965, a small and focussed department had been established along with a nucleus of industry professionals cum full time teachers. As White did not have to set up a new teaching framework he could focus on finding appropriate teaching staff and on determining the direction of the department. But he faced other challenges that resulted from the way computing had been introduced at the College. Lambert’s fleet of industry professionals, who taught short computing courses at night, rarely came into contact with other teachers. When the diploma courses were introduced in 1964 this divide was perpetuated. At Monash University, different areas of the University were involved in the establishment of the Department of Information Science. But as the development of electronic data processing and electronic computation at Caulfield was driven solely by Lambert, few others in the College had any contact with the department or with computing. While White’s major task was to introduce the new area of study to students he also had to introduce it to staff and facilitate the integration of the department and discipline into the Caulfield community.

As the Department of Electronic Data Processing slowly grew into the subjects and courses that it taught and the teaching of the Department of Information Science began to infiltrate the Bachelor of Science degree, the place of computing and computer science in the two institutions began to consolidate. Increased choices were becoming available to students as they progressed to careers in industry or to further study. With subjects set up and teaching underway, both departments were becoming increasingly aware of how they fitted into the communities that surrounded them.

From the Outside Looking In

Perceptions of the Departments of Electronic Data Processing and Information Science were becoming increasingly important. How the departments and their teaching activities were perceived influenced how the discipline was integrated into the University and Technical College environments. While the external surrounds of the two departments were different, both were affected by poor understandings of the nature of computing and computer science.

The Department across the Road

Jack White was proactive in his efforts to popularise Caulfield Technical College’s electronic data processing courses. Marketing visits to schools and companies introduced the wider community to the courses and were hugely successful in increasing the profile of the department. Enrolments increased steadily throughout the mid-to late 1960s as the community became more familiar with this new area of study. But the integration of data processing and electronic computation into the Caulfield Technical College community was not quite as smooth. Although the department was sheltered by Lambert and protected by the straightforward administrative structure of the College, perceptions of the new department influenced its place within the College. A change in both leadership and structure towards the end of the 1960s further exposed the department to the reality that it was not understood by those around it.

When diploma and certificate courses in computing and electronic data processing were introduced, Caulfield Technical College was under the governance of the Education Department. At that time, the College comprised a senior diploma school and a junior technical high school. The two schools were physically divided by what is now Sir John Monash Drive – the junior school was on one side and the senior school was on the other. The senior school was expanding so rapidly that when the new computer arrived it had to be installed across the road at the junior school. Even though Lambert had been orchestrating the introduction of the Diploma in Information Processing since 1960, when it finally commenced in 1964 there was nowhere in the senior school to locate the staff or students. Classes were run from the nearby bowling club and took place in the dining room of the club or, weather permitting, on the green itself.29 The sick bay of the junior school doubled as the offices of the early department and became an overcrowded open plan office. The physical separation of the Department of Electronic Data Processing from the majority of the senior school thwarted the integration of the teaching staff into the Caulfield Technical College community.

When the new data processing courses began in 1964, computers were unfamiliar to most staff of the College. The majority of teachers had not come into contact with computing machines and their applications were largely unknown. The mystique was heightened by the fact that the Department of Electronic Data Processing was physically remote. What were they doing over there at the junior school? What was it that the machine actually did? Despite the attempts of Lambert to assimilate the department into the College, it took several years for the answers to these questions to filter down to the non-computing departments. In the meantime, there was considerable friction as judgements were made of this new, enigmatic department that continued to grow and attract students.

The tension between the new department and other areas of the College was further compounded by the fact that the lecturers and sessional tutors who joined it in the mid to late 1960s were industry professionals with little or no formal teacher training. White’s insistence on employing industry professionals was motivated by his desire to provide students with the best possible instruction and training. It was also an unavoidable necessity. Even the Education Department acknowledged the lack of trained teachers and recognised the need to employ industry trained practitioners to teach the data processing courses.30 But many of the Caulfield lecturers who had been trained at the Education Department Technical Teachers’ College did not see it the same way. To them, this caused great resentment. The Teachers’ College environment and associated culture was alien to the data processing teachers and the significance of practices like joining the Teachers’ Union was unknown and consequently often ignored. Department of Electronic Data Processing staff were perceived to be irreverent and dismissive of the conventions that underpinned the technical college teaching environment.

The nature of teaching in the department was different from that in other areas of the College. Contact hours included lectures and tutorials as well as writing computer programs and operating machines. When programs did not work, which was often, students needed the assistance of their lecturers to help them ascertain why. The interaction between staff and students was high and students were encouraged to approach lecturers for assistance outside class time. In addition, staff worked frantically in their own time to keep abreast of the latest developments in computing technologies – lectures had to be updated frequently.31 Between lectures, tutorials, reading up on developments in computing, and helping students with their practical work, there was little time to mix with staff from other areas of the College. The staff of the department were seen to be inward looking, self focussed and uninterested in other disciplines. The physical location, the newness of the discipline, the non-traditional background of the teachers, and their high workloads, combined to ensure that the Department of Electronic Data Processing was resented and treated with suspicion by many of those external to it.

In the late 1960s, the Education Department framework of Caulfield Technical College which had insulated the Department of Electronic Data Processing changed drastically. These changes commenced in June 1965, when the Victoria Institute of Colleges (VIC) was established by an Act of the Victorian Parliament. The VIC was to take over responsibility for the tertiary colleges that were Education Department controlled. Initially, the VIC was purely an advisory body and the Education Department retained authority over the technical colleges. However, in 1967 amendments to the VIC Act were passed. These amendments transferred authority for tertiary courses in Education Department colleges from the Education Department to the VIC. Affiliated colleges would now defer to the VIC rather than to the Teachers’ Tribunal on issues relating to salaries, conditions for employees, staff numbers and the development of new courses.

The amendments to the VIC Act brought significant changes to Caulfield Technical College. The senior and junior schools of the College were officially separated. The junior school remained under the governance of the Education Department and retained the name Caulfield Technical College. The senior school became a VIC affiliated college and was renamed Caulfield Institute of Technology. This new name distanced the senior school from its Education Department history and the small technical school from which it grew. It was clearly the end of an era. Initially, Lambert stayed on as principal, overseeing the transition from Education Department institution to VIC affiliated College of Advanced Education. But, at the end of 1969 Austin Lambert, the man who saw a future in computing well before many, stepped aside to make room for someone who would facilitate the final separations from the Education Department and take Caulfield Institute of Technology into a new phase of expansion and development.

Hartley Halstead took up the position of principal of Caulfield Institute of Technology in 1970. Originally a secondary technical school teacher, Halstead came to Caulfield from RMIT where he had been head of the Mathematics Department. Halstead was well suited to helping Caulfield complete the transition from technical college to institute of technology. Although new to the Institute, he was familiar with the Education Department environment and the technical college system. Halstead was known as an assertive and proactive leader.32 When he took over from Lambert, pre-existing head of department positions had already been readvertised and reclassified according to VIC pay scales and policy. All teachers had also been given the option of joining the VIC or leaving the Institute and staying with the Education Department. However the structure of Caulfield Institute remained unchanged from its technical college days. Heads of departments still reported directly to the principal. If it was to break completely from the Education Department this simplistic structure would have to change. With a restructuring of the institution imminent, Halstead was poised to draw departments together under several unifying schools. With its protector Lambert gone, the Department of Electronic Data Processing was highly exposed and vulnerable. Perceptions of the discipline and the activities of the department would determine where in the new superstructure the department was placed.

In the Shadow of the Faculty of Science

In the early 1970s, the Monash University Department of Information Science was moving from strength to strength. New subjects were being approved and introduced. Enrolments were increasing to the point that quotas had become a necessity. Academic staff, honours and higher degree students were building the research profile of the department. However, some fundamental issues were impinging on the development of information science. Although the University had supported the development of a Department of Information Science it was clear that the discipline was not clearly understood by those external to the department – particularly those within its own faculty, the Faculty of Science.

The Computer Centre at Monash was renowned in the general university community for the equipment it had and the service it provided.33 Located on the ground floor of the newly built Mathematics Building, by the early 1970s the Computer Centre operated several machines – a Ferranti Sirius, a CDC 3200 and a Burroughs B5500. Nevertheless it was noted in the Department of Computer Science’s annual report for 1969 that the practical tasks of the new information science subject were unachievable due to the inadequacy of the current computers.34 But it was not the inadequacy of the actual machines that was causing the problem. Rather, it was the lack of access to the machines for staff and students of the Department of Information Science. The number of departments within the University introducing elements of computing into their courses was steadily increasing. The Computer Centre serviced all of these departments as well as the central administration and the Department of Information Science. But as the core business of the department was computers alone, it had more specialised computing needs than other areas of the University.

All of the department’s subjects had large practical components requiring students to write and execute their own programs. Most academic staff of the department were also engaged in research. Access to computers was crucial for staff and students alike, but the Computer Centre did not have the resources to accommodate their needs. As the computers serviced the entire University the Computer Centre machines had to be operational at all times. Information science students could not be given the hands on access they needed to learn about the design of digital machinery or to write low level programs that directly affected the machines in case these activities compromised their running.35 But these types of exercises were essential if the department was to train high quality students. Staff research also had the potential to interfere with the operation of the computers. Again, the Computer Centre simply could not accommodate this type of disruption.

The length of time taken to process a program at the Computer Centre was also highly problematic for information science staff and students. In what was a time consuming process that often took several days: students would first go to the Computer Centre and write their program out on paper. Then, they would go into a separate room where they would use punch card machines to punch their programs out onto a series of cards. These cards would then be fed into the computer – but not by the student. Rather, the student would take their collection of punched cards, secured with an elastic band, to the submission counter where the program was submitted for processing. Programs were run on one of the machines and the student would wait up to 24 hours for the program to be returned. The deck of punched cards with a printout of the program attached to it would be placed in a pigeon hole behind the submission counter for the student to retrieve. If the printout revealed an error in syntax, the error would have to be identified, the program altered, re-punched and submitted to the counter to be processed once again. Staff members of the Department of Information Science were in the same position. For any research or teaching preparation that required computer access they, like their students, had to punch out their programs, hand them in to the submission counter and wait a number of hours for them to be returned.

At a time when the department was working hard to establish a teaching presence and research reputation, the arrangement with the Computer Centre and the lack of direct access to the computers was highly problematic. The reality was that few staff or students from the Department of Information Science came into direct contact with the Computer Centre’s machines despite their centrality to the discipline. They were given neither increased nor preferential access to the computers, but the same access as those from chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering and other disciplines. The shortcomings of the arrangement with the Computer Centre became even more apparent as staff and research students joined the Monash department from overseas institutions. Computer access and facilities at Monash paled in comparison – it was clear that there was a problem. Staff members of information science felt that they should be distinguished from other users of the facility and given access privileges to the Centre.36 To them, the fact that they were not, signified that the nature of their discipline was not understood.

Aware of the negative impact the situation was having on both undergraduate courses and research, the Department of Information Science requested a small experimental computer in 1970.37 After acknowledging the efforts of the Computer Centre to accommodate their needs, it was argued that there simply was not enough hardware to service the department’s requirements. Initially, there was no resolution. Repeated requests were made to the Faculty of Science and the University throughout 1970 and 1971. Finally, at the end of 1971, the department was given permission to order a machine. Several machines were suggested, including a Digital Equipment Corporation Programmed Data Processor (PDP). But, Senior Lecturer Tony Montgomery, who was involved with the selection of the departmental machine, had some doubts about the PDP software.38 It was crucial that the machine be able to run students’ programs efficiently and with ease. Montgomery insisted that the machines they were considering demonstrate their software by running programs that had been written by the department’s students. In a trial, the PDP immediately crashed. However another machine, a Hewlett Packard 2100A, ran the programs effortlessly. By 1972, an HP2100A mini-computer had been ordered and installed – the department finally had its own computer.

As the arrival of the Ferranti Sirius at Caulfield Technical School had done a decade earlier, the arrival of the HP2100A at the Department of Information Science made an important statement to the Faculty of Science and to the wider University community. It was a statement of independence and identity. With its own machine, the department was no longer completely reliant on the Computer Centre. It could offer its students direct access to a machine and staff could now carry out their own research. The presence of the computer in the Department of Information Science signalled the centrality of computers to its teaching and research to those who were not familiar with the discipline.

Perceptions of the new department were particularly important in determining the place of the Department of Information Science in the Monash community. Many staff, both inside and outside the Science faculty, had little understanding of information science or what the department did. Much of the suspicion that the department attracted boiled down to the fact that many did not see the difference between it and the Computer Centre. The arrival of the HP2100A enabled the department to begin to address these problems of perception. However, it still fell largely to the staff and students of the department to champion the cause of information science and to assert its validity as an academic discipline in the university environment. The computer helped to identify the essence of the department, but its name and that of its subjects were still working against it. To those unfamiliar with the discipline, the name ‘Information Science’ was mysterious and vague. What was information science? What did the students study? How did it relate to computers? If it dealt with computers, how was it different from the Computer Centre? None of the answers to these questions could be found in the name of the department. If it was to strengthen its presence and reinforce its academic validity, the Department of Information Science needed a stronger, more defining title.

In what was, in a sense, an exercise in public relations, Chris Wallace set about changing the name of the Department of Information Science. In November 1973, he put forward a proposal to the Board of the Faculty of Science. He argued eloquently for a change in name to the ‘Department of Computer Science’. He pointed out the name ‘Information Science’ was chosen for the department prior to its establishment with the intention of ensuring that the discipline had a broad appeal.39 Wallace argued that the activities of his department had since demonstrated that the computer oriented field was large enough to demand the entire attention and focus of the department. Alluding to the ambiguity and confusion caused by the existing title, Wallace stated that the department had suffered ‘some embarrassment, particularly when advertising for academic staff, when its nature has been misunderstood’.40 In addition, in the time since the department was established, information science had come to refer to studies associated with libraries and problems associated with information retrieval, document dissemination and indexing. Wallace pointed out that the potential introduction of library studies within the University was a further reason to change the existing name of his department. A name change to the Department of Computer Science would more accurately reflect its activities to local and international computing communities.

The Faculty of Science Board approved Wallace’s recommendation. By the end of the year the change had made its way through the University’s channels of approval. The new name was scheduled for introduction in 1975. Like the arrival of the HP2100A, the name change was an important victory for the young department. By agitating for this change and for a computer of its own, the department asserted its authority and clarified its focus in a generally sceptical and highly critical University community.

Until 1970, the Department of Electronic Data Processing at Caulfield existed in a sheltered environment. After Lambert was replaced by Halstead, the department was pushed out from its cover and forced into the Caulfield Institute of Technology community. At Monash, there was no period of shelter. From the day Wallace arrived at Monash, internal politics impacted on teaching and research activities. As information science consolidated, it became apparent that at the root of these tensions were external misconceptions about computer science and the nature of the discipline. Neither of the departments could ignore these perceptions.

Culture and Identity

The Departments of Electronic Data Processing and Computer Science stood out from the schools and faculties they were each a part of. Their differences rendered them highly conspicuous. In response, staff and students of each department looked inward for support and a sense of community. Elements of the surrounding environment combined with the internal characteristics to form each department’s unique culture and identity.

Constructing Identities

During the 1970s a distinctive culture emerged within the Department of Computer Science at Monash University. With some important battles fought and won, a shared identity and work ethic developed, defining the department, its staff and its students. The interplay between the Monash University environment and that of the Department of Computer Science moulded the young department as it consolidated and expanded.

Monash University rapidly developed a unique culture that was greatly influenced by the fact that it was a new, young institution. Initially, the student body at Monash was small, which worked in the new University’s favour. It was an environment that fostered a high level of interaction between students and staff and it was conceivable to at least become familiar with many of the faces around the campus. There was a genial feel about the University, and some described a sense of family.41 The physical environment of the campus also reflected its youth. The new University was in a constant state of flux with ongoing construction and grounds development well into the 1970s. The few completed buildings were contemporary – worlds away from the older style built environment of the traditional university. The building activity and the physical state of the campus were a daily reminder to staff and students that their University was new and young. Many of the formalities of academia felt out of place in these surrounds. Les Keedy, who came to the Department of Computer Science in 1974, and had completed his studies at Oxford, was initially shocked by the lack of convention and casual air of Monash – his students called him by his first name. The culture that emerged at Monash reflected the familial, easygoing atmosphere and chased away some of the more formal elements and conventions of academia.

Monash saw itself as an alternative to the University of Melbourne and the conservatism that the place across the river was perceived to embody. The culture at Monash was greatly influenced by the struggle against conservatism. A sense of resistance also permeated the student culture. In general, students spent the majority of their day physically at Monash, staying on campus during breaks and between classes, leaving only at the completion of the day’s lectures. The strong student presence provided an ideal environment for a high level involvement of the student body in University matters and broader political issues. In a time of unprecedented student activism, the University became renowned for its anti Vietnam War protests, large campus meetings, sit ins and demonstrations.

Many of the issues faced by the Department of Computer Science mirrored elements of the Monash University environment. The department was small, with a core group of staff, undergraduate and research students. The entire department, research and honours students included, was located on the second floor of the mathematics building – the same building as the Computer Centre. The close physical proximity and the size of the department facilitated a high level of interaction between students and staff. Similar to the University in general, the environment was friendly and familial and the atmosphere was casual.42 Students could, and often did, walk in and out of their lecturers’ offices seeking assistance and instruction.43 Academics and students alike were carried along by an underlying excitement as they cut a path for computer science in the university environment. The new discipline was dynamic. From one year to the next lectures had to be rewritten to reflect changes in computer science.44 Further adding to the dynamism, academics and research students from overseas institutions began to arrive. With them they brought aspects of their previous university’s culture, an awareness of the international development of computer science, and of a world wide network of computer science academics. The department was a melting pot of staff and students from various backgrounds who had entered this new academic discipline.

Like their fellow Monash students, computer science students were highly involved and had a strong physical presence. Honours and postgraduate students, in particular, were often present both day and night. They ran their programs on the HP2100A into the small hours of the morning and made alterations to the hardware and software as required. A designated room for honours students further facilitated unity among senior students. The peer support and access to lecturers and supervisors greatly influenced the quality of their projects.45 Aware of the rare opportunity to experience a new and evolving discipline, many students chose to be actively involved in the department, acting as a lobby group for computer science. At one particularly difficult stage in the department’s history, when the department’s computing facilities were once again severely lacking, a group of disgruntled computer science students petitioned the Vice-Chancellor directly, bypassing the head of department and the dean of the Faculty of Science, demanding increased access to the Computer Centre’s machines.46

Students and staff of information science were keenly aware that the nature of computer science was not understood by many of the departments within the Faculty of Science. In the same way that Monash struggled against a conservative notion of the university, the department struggled against the University’s perception of computer science. This problem of perception had a huge impact on its culture. The staff and student body was drawn together by numerous attempts to address poorly informed ideas about the nature and focus of the discipline. Constantly feeling the need to prove its right to exist within the Faculty of Science, the sense of struggle became all encompassing for members of the department – the issues they faced began to define them.

The demand for the departmental computer continued to increase. The department desperately needed a second machine, but additional resources were not assigned to the department and repeated requests for extra funding were denied. Although frustrated by the limitations of chronic under funding, the high demand for the HP2100A did not make research or teaching stagnate. Instead it had the opposite effect. Staff and students staggered their time on the machine to accommodate teaching and research. The department became a vibrant hub of activity and was occupied days, nights, weekdays and weekends. What had been an arrangement of necessity, sparked by a lack of resources, had developed into a strong work ethic that became the norm. Staff and students were resourceful and creative, building hardware from scratch to complement and expand the HP2100A. Although the funding it wanted was not being received, the resourcefulness that permeated the department inspired vitality.

The HP2100A became an important part of the Department of Computer Science’s identity. The computer was programmed to carry out real and tangible tasks. Chris Wallace constructed a mechanical balancing arm and Tony Montgomery constructed a computer controlled train set comprising a series of carriages. Computer science students were required to write programs for the Hewlett Packard machine that controlled and manipulated these objects. As an honours student, David Abramson built a computer from scratch and then used it to interface with the mechanical arm, balancing and controlling it.47 As a PhD student, John Rosenberg along with his supervisor Les Keedy, wrote a program for the HP2100A that allowed it to multitask, running the mechanical arm, the train set and various other activities all at the same time.48 To increase its capabilities, hardware was added to the machine by senior students and staff. The side of the computer, bearing the additional hand made and tacked on hardware, was testimony to how the machine evolved with the department and provided a focus for teaching and research.

The computer was also an important practical representation of what computer science could do. As such it was an important public relations tool. The balancing arm and train set were practical representations, easily digestible to non computer scientists, of the capabilities of computers. If there was little understanding of computer science within the Faculty of Science and the University, there was even less among the general public. The media often misrepresented computers and their capabilities. Armed with the HP2100A, the Department of Computer Science artfully used the machine, and the various practical activities it could demonstrate, to introduce the wider community to their discipline.

Open days at Monash University in the 1970s provided an ideal forum for the Department of Information and later Computer Science to demonstrate its wares. For the science based departments, the emphasis of this yearly event was not course advice, but demonstrating techniques and technologies to the non University community. It was not just prospective students who came to the open days, but families and young children who came to see science. The opportunity was invaluable for the Department of Computer Science. Open days became an important driver for the highly practical programs written by members of the department as they demonstrated the potential for human-computer interaction and showed in a very real sense what computers could actually do.

Applications like the speak-your-weight machine, the mechanical arm, the shunting train carriages and the printer that churned out cartoons and pictures of barely clothed women, drew large crowds of interested onlookers. The open day demonstrations were specifically designed to capture the imagination. A visit to the Department of Computer Science not only provided them with an opportunity to see a computer, but also the chance to interact with one. A music program that could be used to play four part harmonies was particularly popular. Using a reference system for note type and length, members of the public could enter their own composition on punch cards which would then be run on the computer. Each voice was written on a separate card and the key and pitch could be set. Although the results were not necessarily acoustically appealing, it was a dynamic way of demonstrating applications of computer science. These demonstrations were accessible and they purposefully played on the ‘wow factor’ of computer science. The display was so popular that it was often difficult to get into the room. At a time of increasing tension with the Faculty of Science, open days were a light hearted way of raising the profile of the new discipline and demonstrating the capabilities of computer science.

Throughout the 1970s, the department grew. A shared culture developed with which staff and students could identify. The confidence and boldness of the young department strengthened as the culture emerged. Through its teaching and research activities and the HP2100A, the Department of Computer Science found its voice and began to engage with the wider community. It was only a matter of time before it would begin to stand up to the misconceptions that still undermined the department.

Battling the Bureaucracy

The Department of Electronic Data Processing at Caulfield was characterised by a strong commitment to teaching and vocational training, a close relationship with industry and a vibrant social presence. These traits are elements of a shared culture that is immediately recalled by those who were a part of the department during the 1960s and early 1970s. This culture gradually emerged in response to the surrounding environment and to the changes in technical school governance in the 1960s. The interplay between these factors and the department stamped the small unit with a distinctive culture and way of life.

One of the most formative influences on the department was the technical college environment. Technical colleges were specifically geared towards providing students with high level, vocationally focussed, career training. In the same way that technical high schools were an alternative to traditional high schools, technical colleges were intended to offer an alternative to university education. While the two universities in Melbourne subscribed to the principles of scholarly research and academic excellence, technical colleges strove to provide their students with a solid career basis. The ideals of the technical college shaped the Department of Electronic Data Processing. It aimed to train students for a career in computers and data processing and to provide industry with highly trained computing professionals.49 In turn computing and data processing practitioners were employed as teachers by Lambert, and later by White, to ensure that the department could adequately interpret industry needs and address them in their course syllabus and content. But White and his department were not content to lean solely on their own professional experience. They further committed themselves to the aims of technical education by actively seeking and maintaining links with the commercial sector.

Early staff members and sessional tutors – such as Jack White, John White, Peter Juliff, Bill Fiddian, Gerry Maynard, Jack Greig and Ray Newland – brought an array of industry networks and contacts with them to Caulfield Technical College. They relied upon these connections to further align the department and its teaching activities with industry. The support from industry that Lambert had foreshadowed in the early 1960s became a way of life as companies were called upon to participate in various aspects of the data processing courses. Staff members’ connections brought about the involvement of companies such as National Mutual, Shell and Nylex, who gave computer demonstrations to the department’s students. Not only were they exposed to different machines, for example, an IBM 1410 at National Mutual, a LEO at Shell and an ICL at Nylex, but the students were shown real examples of how computers were being used in a commercial context. National Mutual and Shell also took Caulfield students for vacation work, giving them further practical experience. By actively seeking and prioritising links with the commercial sector, the department laid the foundations of a mutually beneficial relationship with industry, which was central to the culture and identity of the department.

When the diploma and certificate courses in electronic data processing were introduced at Caulfield Technical College in 1964 it was still under the control of the Education Department and deeply entrenched in the associated culture and way of life. The colleges that were teaching computing and data processing enjoyed a slightly higher level of independence as the Education Department could provide little in the way of trained teachers, course content or structure. However, they were still subject to periodic inspections and Caulfield was no different. For the Department of Electronic Data Processing teachers, who had no formal teacher training, the presence of an inspector was often a harrowing and unsettling experience.50 Lambert also had to report to inspectors. While he was content to leave the department to develop and teach its courses, he could not afford to give the department a completely free reign. As a result, the Education Department model of governance, which gave over a degree of autonomy but then limited it with the presence of inspectors, was replicated within Caulfield Technical College.

The department’s autonomy was held in check by Lambert and his vice principal Alf Rebecchi. One of Rebecchi’s roles was to keep close tabs on the attendance of the teaching staff. One staff member in particular had attracted the vice principal’s attention. The lecturer in question progressively spent less time on campus teaching and more time off campus, apparently building a boat. Rebecchi had noticed this increasing absence and had taken to quietly looking in on the classes in an attempt to catch the errant lecturer.51 The staff of the department responded with a quiet, but firm resistance. The missing lecturer’s pay was collected, excuses were made for his absence and colleagues warned him that his truancy had been noted. Although the image of the vice principal stalking the corridors and hallways is quite comical, it is also indicative of the culture promulgated by the Education Department and by the colleges and institutions under its control.

Elements of the Education Department bureaucracy trickled down to Caulfield Technical College and caused frustration among Electronic Data Processing staff. The stationery exchange system that was in operation is a perfect example. A small stationery supply office was located between buildings E and F on the Caulfield campus. If a staff member needed a new item, they had to physically present the item they wanted replaced – the old pen with no ink or the cardboard backing of the notepad with no paper. The system was frustrating and typified the Education Department’s excessive system of checks, balances and monitoring. During the period of changeover between Caulfield Technical College and Caulfield Institute of Technology a quiet rebellion was staged by two Electronic Data Processing staff members. One created a diversion while the other darted inside and relieved the office of some of its supplies. The incident was hardly grand larceny. But it reveals the environment that surrounded the department. Staff keenly felt the watchful eye of the Education Department and were frustrated by the bureaucratic elements of the College administration. Responses to this environment, like concealing the whereabouts of the truant staff member and creatively bypassing the rigid stationery exchange, gave rise to a spirit of challenge, resistance and advocacy that became characteristic of the department.

The Department of Electronic Data Processing and its computers were physically removed from the majority of the College. Many areas of the senior school simply did not come into contact with the department or its teachers. The space that it was allocated in the junior school was tight – three desks and three chairs were shared by department staff. The close physical proximity and the separation from other areas of the College collapsed many of the boundaries within the new department that might otherwise have taken years to dismantle. As in the Department of Computer Science at Clayton, there was a familial feel. Social interaction amongst staff and between staff and students was encouraged. The surrounding public bars provided the ideal location for this type of interchange. They were so frequently patronised that various code names, similar to the College’s room numbering system, were assigned to them. One lecturer would leave simple but meaningful notes in his office for fellow staff members ‘Gone to E42’.52

As the department grew and computers and data processing were slowly integrated into the rest of the Caulfield Institute of Technology community, the close atmosphere became more difficult to maintain.53 However, the strong bonds that were initially formed had laid important foundations. Informal gatherings at the local pubs were supplemented by yearly staff Christmas parties at Gerry Maynard’s house, an Electronic Data Processing Student Society was formed for the growing student population, and Sunday afternoon gatherings for staff and students at the house of staff member Maurie Fabrikant became a regular feature. Socially, academically, and physically segregated, a strong work ethic and an equally strong social network had emerged within the department. The responses to the environment that surrounded the department had become an essential element of its culture.

Initially, the transition to becoming a Victoria Institute of Colleges (VIC) affiliated institution had little effect on Caulfield. Estrangement from the Education Department and the associated culture was difficult while Lambert remained principal. Content to maintain the status quo, he made few changes post VIC, structural or otherwise. Although grateful for the support and protection they received from their principal, the department was acutely aware that the Education Department framework and way of life did not suit them well. They looked to separation from the Education Department to bring them increased independence and further opportunities for development. But it was not until Lambert retired and Hartley Halstead replaced him, that life for the department began to change.

With Halstead came a period of accelerated change. The new principal inherited a college that was struggling to establish itself as a serious, professional institution.54 To Halstead the introduction of degree courses was the key. The Victorian College of Pharmacy had started offering degree courses in 1968 and Halstead wanted Caulfield to do the same.55 Halstead approached Jack White to discuss applying for VIC approval to introduce a degree course in electronic data processing. For VIC endorsement, Halstead, White and the department had to prove that the proposed degree course was of a higher standard than the diploma courses they already offered. After some persuasion from within, and much external pressure, White put together a team of staff including himself, Gerry Maynard, Peter Juliff and Jack Greig, to work on a proposal for the Bachelor of Applied Science (Electronic Data Processing). It was more than a proposal for a new course. It was a statement directed at those who had been dismissive of data processing as a discipline. The department’s characteristic defiance and carefully measured advocacy came to the surface as it argued the validity of data processing as a well founded area of instruction in the college environment.56

When the VIC approved the Bachelor of Applied Science (EDP) for introduction in 1972, it was an unquestionable triumph for the department and one of the most significant turning points in its history. The approval of the degree course gave the department confidence that the discipline was indeed valued, at least by the VIC. It was around this time that the nature of computing was beginning to change. Computing technologies were developing rapidly. It was no longer possible to be proficient in all programming languages or to be familiar with all aspects of systems analysis and design. Gone were the days where lecturers could read up on a topic to teach it the next day, week, or semester. Lecturers were forced to specialise. A loose internal divide was forming with programming on one side and systems analysis and design on the other. The introduction of the degree course was a catalyst for these changes as the culture and identity of the department shifted subtly. Lecturers began to see themselves as specialised experts instead of computing professionals who had learned to teach.

While the proposal for the degree course was being penned, negotiations regarding the Commonwealth Public Service Board’s Programmer in Training (PIT) course were also underway. The PIT course was introduced in 1965 by the Commonwealth Public Service Board, which was frustrated by the lack of commercial data processing professionals and the inadequacy of training provided by the universities and technical colleges. They established a year long course to train students in data processing and then employed the graduates in areas of the public service. Various departments ran the PIT course and some private businesses, like Nylex, paid to have students participate.57 The PIT courses were introduced by the Board out of necessity and were only intended as a short term solution. But the popularity of the PIT course was increasing. Aware of the developments in the data processing teaching at technical colleges during the late 1960s, the Public Service Board looked, as it had done earlier that decade, to the technical colleges in the hope that they would now be in a position to take over.

Caulfield Institute of Technology had enjoyed a close relationship with various areas of the Commonwealth Public Service Board since short courses were introduced at the College in the early 1960s. Jack White, Gerry Maynard and Peter Juliff were the custodians of this connection after the full time courses were introduced. Maynard, who tutored part time for the department throughout the 1960s while working for various departments within the Board, had also been an instructor for the PIT course. In 1971, Maynard joined Caulfield as a full time staff member and became a Senior Lecturer with the Department of Electronic Data Processing. With Maynard and White at Caulfield and Maynard having taught the course already, the transfer of the course to Caulfield Institute of Technology seemed logical. So, in 1971, the PIT course was trialled by three VIC colleges: Bendigo, RMIT and Caulfield. But, by the following year, Caulfield Institute of Technology had stamped its authority on the PIT course and was the only institution to offer it permanently.

The transfer of the PIT course to Caulfield was another major turning point for the department. It was the final step in the shift of computing and data processing training from computer manufacturers to tertiary institutions. It was also a vote of confidence for the way Caulfield Institute of Technology was training its data processing graduates. The connections with both the private and government sectors, which had been so conscientiously constructed and nurtured, were reaffirmed. Industry and vocational training became an even more significant part of the department’s identity and its profile was raised. It was unfortunate, that within the institution, the department was not seen in the same way.

The structural changes that Halstead introduced in 1970 severed the remaining ties with the Education Department and impacted on the entire institution. For the Department of Electronic Data Processing the new structure was highly problematic. A heightened sense of struggle began to be felt in the department. But this tension also helped the department to define itself in a changing period. The foundations of a close and tightly knit unit that had been built over in the junior school were strengthened by the common struggle for understanding from a group of departments that seemed equally determined not to comprehend the true nature of the discipline.

Responses to change shaped the culture of the Department of Electronic Data Processing. These changes forced the department to develop a unique culture and sense of identity. When the structure of the Institute changed the department became highly vulnerable; it fell back on this culture to find its own voice. Staff and students of the Monash Department of Computer Science were also drawn together by a shared culture that reflected a long struggle for recognition in the Monash community. A few small victories – the arrival of the HP2100A and the name change to the Department of Computer Science; the transfer of the PIT course and the introduction of the degree course for the Department of Electronic Data Processing – symbolised a new era. Both departments began to feel a heightened sense of independence and a growing need to stand up against the restrictions that they perceived to be holding them back.

Figures

Figure 2.1. D and E blocks, Caulfield Technical College, 1950.

Monash University Archives IN 101.

Figure 2.2. Caulfield Technical College building construction, 1968.

Monash University Archives IN 6934, Lindsay Crawford.

Figure 2.3. Caulfield Technical College’s Computer Centre, 1969.

Monash University Archives IN 6186.

Figure 2.4. Professor Chris Wallace, Chair of Information Science, 1968.

Monash University Archives IN 48.

Figure 2.5. Dr Cliff Bellamy, Department of Mathematics, 1962.

Monash University Archives IN 3922, Howard Harris.

Figure 2.6. Professor Chris Wallace adjusting computerised mechanical arm, 1977.

Monash University Archives IN 631.

Endnotes

1    Caulfield Institute of Technology Handbook, 1976.

2    PROV, VPRS 9494, Central Correspondence Files – Technical Schools Syllabuses 1914–1967, Technical Schools Syllabus, Unit 32.

3    Interview with Jan Miller, 10 October 2002.

4    Interviews with Jack White, 25 and 28 July 2003.

5    Interview with Jack Greig, 13 January 2003.

6    Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (84/961), Folio 2.

7    Interviews with Jack White, 25 and 28 July 2003.

8    There were also other industry professionals not mentioned here who joined the department as sessional tutors or who were not made permanent staff members until later.

9    Monash University Faculty of Science Handbook, 1963.

10  Ibid., 1977.

11  Interview with Tony Montgomery, 13 February 2003.

12  Monash University Faculty of Science Handbook, 1969, p. 49.

13  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/0), Document Number 14.

14  Monash University Faculty of Science Handbook, 1971, p. 59.

15  Ibid., p. 58.

16  Interview with Judy Sheard, 7 October 2002.

17  Interview with Tony Montgomery, 13 February 2003.

18  Interview with David Boulton, 17 February 2003.

19  Interviews with Gopal Gupta, 12 December 2002 and 3 January 2003.

20  Some of these early honours graduates include John Rosenberg, Les Goldschlager and David Abramson.

21  Interviews with Jack White, 25 and 28 July 2003. At this stage Caulfield Technical College was under the auspices of the Education Department. As a result of privacy legislation it is not possible to confirm exact enrolments in these courses as this information is contained in closed access files.

22  These figures are taken from the 1972 Caulfield Institute of Technology Annual Report. However, they do not include students who were being taught by EDP lecturers in courses offered by other CIT schools and departments.

23  PROV VPRS 9494, Central Correspondence Files – Technical Schools Syllabuses 1914–1967, Unit 32, Circular for Principals and Headmasters – New courses – Electronic Data Processing and Electronic Computation.

24  Monash University Archives, MON 8 Staff files, Pearl Levin.

25  PROV VPRS 9494, Central Correspondence Files – Technical Schools Syllabuses 1914–1967, Unit 32, Circular for Principals and Headmasters – New courses – Electronic Data Processing and Electronic Computation.

26  Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (84/961), Document Number 2.

27  Interviews with John White, 11, 18 and 20 December 2002.

28  Interview with Gerry Maynard, 25 November 2002.

29  Interviews with Jack White 25 and 28 July 2003.

30  Annual Reports of Minister for Education. Victorian Government Publications.

31  Interviews with John White, 11, 18 and 20 December 2002.

32  Monash University Archives, MON 313 Draft history of Caulfield Institute of Technology (94/01/303), Document Number 7.

33  Interview with John Rosenberg, 22 October 2002.

34  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/0), Document Number 11.

35  Interviews with Chris Wallace, 8 and 15 April 2003.

36  Interview with David Boulton, 17 February 2002.

37  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/0), Science Faculty Board meeting 1/70.

38  Interview with Tony Montgomery, 13 February 2003.

39  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/0), Document Number 24.

40  Ibid.

41  Interview with David Boulton, 17 February 2003.

42  Interviews with Les Keedy, 27 February and 5 March 2003.

43  Interview with David Boulton, 17 February 2003.

44  Ibid.

45  Interview with David Abramson, 11 October 2002.

46  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/0), Document Numbers 31–34.

47  Interview with David Abramson, 11 October 2002.

48  Ibid.

49  Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (84/961), Folio 2.

50  Interviews with John White, 11, 18 and 20 December 2002.

51  Ibid., Interview with Jack White, 25 and 28 July 2003.

52  Interview with Rod McMillan, 14 February 2003.

53  Interviews with Maurie Fabrikant, 13 and 20 December 2002.

54  Interview with Hartley Halstead, 28 January 2003.

55  Victoria Institute of Colleges Annual Report, 1970, p. 11.

56  Interviews with John White, 11, 18 and 20 December 2002.

57  Interview with Gerry Maynard, 25 November 2002.

 

Cite this chapter as: Rood, Sarah. 2008. ‘From visions to realities’. In From Ferranti to Faculty: Information Technology at Monash University, 1960 to 1990. Melbourne: Monash University Custom Publishing Services, on behalf of the Monash University Information Technology faculty. pp. ix–xi.

© Copyright 2008 Sarah Rood

All rights reserved. Apart from any uses permitted by Australia's Copyright Act 1968, no part of this book may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission of the copyright owners. The fact that this book is published online does not mean that any part of it can be reproduced without first obtaining written permission: copyright laws do still apply. Inquiries should be directed to the publisher, Monash University Custom Publishing Services: http://www.epress.monash.edu/mucps.html.

From Ferranti to Faculty: Information Technology at Monash University, 1960 to 1990

   by Sarah Rood