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The 1960s

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Computation Center, Time-Sharing System Proposed

Thomas E. Kurtz, students

Dartmouth mathematicians John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz proposed building a College computation center, saying that "whether a student will ever use a computing machine or not, his life is likely to be affected by such machines, and hence, he should know something about their capabilities and limitations. In this sense, contact with electronic brains is as essential as learning to use the library." Kemeny and Kurtz chose to implement a "time-sharing" system based upon a concept first realized on a small Digital Computer Corporation PDP-1 computer by a team of scientists from MIT and Bolt, Baranek, and Newman, Inc. A proposal was submitted to the National Science Foundation to fund the development project.

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GE-225 System Selected

Thomas E. Kurtz, John G. Kemeny

In the spring, Kemeny and Kurtz selected the General Electric 225 computer and the DATANET 30 as the hardware for the development of the time-sharing system. Kemeny used a GE-225 in the Boston area to develop the prototype BASIC compiler. In the fall, Kurtz and Mike Busch '66 went to Phoenix, Arizona, to learn how to program the equipment.

Library Committee

Students in College Hall

A committee on the "Implications of Modern Electronic Data Processing Equipment for the Dartmouth College Libraries" was formed.

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Funding of DTSS and BASIC

General Electric 225

The National Science Foundation granted $500,000 to Dartmouth for the development of a time-sharing system and the computer language BASIC. The General Electric 225 computer, plus software, carried a price tag of $800,000. It became operational in February.

Thayer and the Library

Thomas E. Kurtz, students

Thayer School and the Library proposed a research program in Library Engineering.

Birth of DTSS


On May 1 at 4:00 a.m., the Dartmouth College Time-Sharing System (DTSS) was born as it successfully executed two identical programs from two teletypes simultaneously, giving the correct answer to each. The program was:

  • 10 Print 2+2
  • 20 End

Mean time between failures of DTSS averaged five minutes.

First DTSS Upgrade

General Electric 235 (GE-235): George Stibitz, Thomas E. Kurtz

In June 1964, the number of teletypes accessing DTSS was increased from three to eleven. The GE-235 replaced the GE-225 and increased speed three-fold.

Secondary School Network

Thomas E. Kurtz at a teletype

Seven secondary schools in New England installed teletypewriters as part of an informal experimental project to determine how a large-scale computer facility could best be used as a "broad aid to secondary school education generally." They included Philips Exeter Academy, St. Paul's School, Mount Hermon, Vermont Academy, Philips Andover Academy, Hanover High School, and Mascoma Valley Regional High School. This experiment was a precursor to the Dartmouth Educational Network, that, at its peak, served thirty colleges and twenty secondary schools in New England, twelve colleges in Canada over dedicated teletype terminals, and scores of educational and research organizations from coast-to-coast over national commercial networks.

Trustees Recommend Library Automation

Mike Busch, Thomas E. Kurtz

The Subcommittee on Library Resources from the Trustees' Planning Committee issued an interim report recommending the "Library should move into automation" and "a competent expert in computer information storage and retrieval" be hired.

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DTSS Upgraded

Kiewit Machine Room GE-635

General Electric (GE) renamed DTSS as the Mark-I and used it to build the largest commercial time-sharing system. Based on the success of this work, GE and Dartmouth College embarked on a project to put DTSS on the newer and larger GE-635 computer capable of handling 200 simultaneous users. Kemeny and Kurtz and a half-dozen student programmers did some of the early programming for the $2.5 million GE-635 at the Griffis Air Force Base in Rome, New York, in the summer of 1966.

Cancer Registry Digitized

New Honeywell arriving; Thomas E. Kurtz and others

In the Radiotherapy Department of Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, Dr. Edward S. Sternick and Dr. Frank Lane worked with undergraduates to computerize the volumes of "static repositories of unused data" within the cancer registry. The new computerized format allowed physicians to use DTSS to quickly search through thousands of different treatment plans before making a final selection of an acceptable treatment program.

Library Automation Job Created

Kiewit Machine Room

The Systems Development Corporation (SDC) was called in to consult on the proposed automation of the Thayer School libraries. After reading a report on "Mechanized Records Systems at Dartmouth College Library" by Ralph Parker, University of Missouri, the Dartmouth Trustees recommended the creation of a director of library automation in the libraries.

Nature Article

John G. Kemeny

Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire, September 29, 1966 - Under this dateline, a Special Correspondent of Nature, London, England, reported the following:

  • "The newest status symbol in this isolated university town, best known for the success or at least the roughness of its football team, is the possession of a personal computer console – something on which to work in the evenings and something on which the children can do their homework." (Nature, London, 10/8/66)

Kiewit Center Dedicated

Peter E. Kiewit, Evelyn Kiewit at Kiewit Computation Center dedication ceremony

December 2: The Kiewit Computation Center was dedicated as part of a conference on the subject of The Future Impact of Computers. The building was constructed by Trumbull-Nelson Company at a cost of $650,000, using funds donated by Peter Kiewit '22 and his wife Evelyn.  "The building included six administrative offices, six graduate student offices, a seminar room, conference room, reference library, student assistants work room, public teletype area, a lounge, and a card equipment room. The basement housed the communications equipment, air conditioning equipment, and provided 5,700 square feet of area for future expansion."

GE-635 Facts


The "high-powered, solid-state GE-635 system had thirty pieces of equipment including the central processor and peripheral devices, comprising 1.5 million parts. It had a memory capacity of more than 180 million characters - ten times the capacity of the GE-265 medium-range computer. The entire unit contained more than 65 miles of wire, and the memory section alone had seven miles of wire finer than a human hair." The new system had the following configuration:

  • Central processing speed of 300,000 additions per second.
  • Core memory of 65,538 36-bit words, each capable of being accessed 500,000 times a second.
  • Six magnetic tape drives.
  • High-speed printer (1,200 lpm).
  • Thirty-two million characters of online disk storage.
  • Magnetic drum (for swapping) with 3,000,000 characters, with an access time of .05 seconds.
  • Card Reader (1,000 cpm).
  • Card Punch (1,000 cpm).
  • Mass Storage Unit with 340 million characters, with access time of 0.5 seconds.

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Development of ISODOS

Machine Room


Kiewit Machine Room: Henry Schramm, Albert Norwalk

Using funding from the Air Force Project Themis, Dr. Frank Lane, George Stibitz, and Dartmouth Medical student Richard Shaw developed ISODOS, a program that enabled radiologists to calculate precise radiation dosages for patients. Using the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System from their offices in the Medical School, physicians made calculations on the computer that would have taken a skilled radiographer several weeks. Project Themis and other DTSS computer applications in cancer research thus played an important role in the development of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

DTSS Usage Patterns

Kiewit Computation Center from Bradley Court

An August 1967 survey by A. D. Little found that 50% of the use of DTSS on campus was by six departments: Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, Economics, Psychology, and Business. The largest single group of users was the freshmen and sophomore classes, using the computer for course work two-thirds of the time, and for "recreation" one-third of the time. Graduate students used computers for course work 42% of the time, and for "research" 58% of the time, while faculty members spent 80% of their DTSS time on research.

Article in Le Figaro

Kiewit Computation Center

"L'etonnante aventure de 3.700 étudiants et d'un gros cerveau electronique," reported Paris newspaper Figaro. (9/3/67)

DTSS for GE-635 Operational

Kiewit Computation Center

The first version (Phase I) of DTSS for the GE-635 was made functional, allowing the campus computing load to be transferred from the old GE-235 to the new GE-635. Phase I was primarily a GE-developed system that became the cornerstone of their Mark II service. Meanwhile, Dartmouth continued its development of so-called Phase-II that was later renamed DTSS.

Library Circulation System

Kiewit Public Terminal Room

Thomas F. Piatkowski, hired jointly by the Library and Thayer School, worked with Thayer students to design an automated circulation system that converted Dana Library serial numbers into machine-readable form.

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Computing and Classics

Hanover High School using the Dartmouth College Time-Sharing System

Hanover High School using the Dartmouth College Time-Sharing System

A. O. Morton, from the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland, delivered a lecture on "The Computer in Literary Studies: The New Stylometry." His visit was co-sponsored by the Kiewit Computation Center and the Classics Department.

Swim Meet Scored on DTSS

Hanover High School using the Dartmouth College Time-Sharing System

Hanover High School using the Dartmouth College Time-Sharing System

The scores for all diving events held during the NCAA swim meet (in Hanover on March 28-30) were tabulated on the DTSS computer. Freshmen Andrew Behrens and Anthony Dwyer wrote the computer program, and Thomas Morton sat at poolside entering the judge's scores into a teletype terminal. "It is conceivable that swim meets will soon be able to eliminate the eight or nine men needed to do the mathematical calculations and work with two men and a computer teletype," commented Ronald L. Keenhold, assistant swimming coach.

Project IMPRESS Launched

Project IMPRESS staff: David Luchini, Bruce Backa, Donna Nadeau, and an unknown, in Silsby Hall

Project IMPRESS staff: David Luchini, Bruce Backa, Donna Nadeau, and an unknown, in Silsby Hall

Project IMPRESS (Interdisciplinary Machine Processing for Research and Education in the Social Sciences) began with a conference for "eminent social scientists and Dartmouth faculty members." IMPRESS, sponsored under a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, created "laboratory conditions in which the social scientist (could) build endless hypotheses, and compare them as do his colleagues in the physical sciences," according to Edmund D. Meyers, assistant director of the project.

Science Article

Kiewit Machine Room

Kiewit Machine Room

A feature article by Kemeny and Kurtz in the Science magazine described the development of the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System. (Science, 10/11/68)

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Computer Art Contest

John G. Kemeny Prize Winners: Bob Blackman (middle foreground), Bill Koenig '69 (second from left). Also John G. Kemeny, Thomas E. Kurtz, and unknowns

The Pillsbury-Occidental Company and Kiewit sponsored the First Annual Computer Art Contest in the spring of 1969. Judge John Scotford of the Hopkins Center Design Studio found the computer to be "as promising for the future as the chisel and the paint brush." Winners were physics graduate student Albert Meador and Dartmouth freshman James Cruce.

Japanese Educators Visited

Kiewit Public Terminal Room

Twelve Japanese educators and lawmakers visited Dartmouth to study the computer industry in the United States. Toshihiro Kennoki, former Minister of Education and a member of the Japanese Parliament, stated that the group "found important guidance on computing education at Dartmouth College, as well as a blueprint for Japan's model university."

GE Donated System

Kiewit Computation Center Public Terminal Room: John G. Kemeny, Thomas E. Kurtz, students

The General Electric Company gave Dartmouth title to the $25 million GE-635 computer that had been jointly operated for three years. The College and General Electric also announced a new three-year partnership in "cooperative work in computer technology."

Jersey City Project

Kiewit Computation Center, systems programmers

As part of Dartmouth's Jersey City Project, two engineering students began "programming five areas of the city for a computer system that would operate at City Hall, the Jersey City Medical Center, the Ferris and Lincoln high schools, and the Dartmouth student residence at 310 Whiton Street." Spokesman Anthony Ferrara remarked that "the talent of these students is free to the city. They, in turn, gain from exposure to inner-city problems."

Automation Director Hired

Kiewit Computation Center, IBM 26 printing card Punch

Donald Saporito was hired by the College to direct Library Automation.

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