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UMass Amherst IT Timeline

Learn about the history of UMass Amherst IT! Here's an abridged timeline of where we've been.


Research Computer Center

The Research Computer Center (RCC) was founded in response to the computing needs of the Chemistry Department.

Robert Rowell was the first RCC Director.

The first computer used by the RCC was an IBM 1620, named "CADET" (Can't Add, Doesn't Even Try) by Professor Conrad "Connie" Wogrin.


University Computing Center

The RCC split from the Computer Science program, becoming a distinct entity called the University Computing Center (UCC).

A CDC 3600, "one of the fastest [computers] on the market" was purchased in response to the need for a better computer.


Sharing Computing

The University participated in the founding of the New England Regional Computing Program (NERComp) for the regional sharing of computing facilities.

Under UCC Director C.C. Foster's guidance, the "UMASS" timesharing system was developed (Unlimited Machine Access from Scattered Sites). "The students who use timesharing were around the Center 24 hours a day." -Connie Wogrin


[scanned newspaper clipping, image of a person typing into a terminal, described below]
Dr. Conrad Wogrin, UMass computer center director, feeds information from a remote access teletype terminal onto the CDC 3600 computer


Increased Power

The addition of a second computer, a CD 3800, made UMass one of the largest computer installations in New England, with 24 teletype access points on campus.

Dr. Conrad Wogrin was appointed Acting Director of UCC.


The UCC issued over 10,000 computer accounts in 1972, showing the continued growth of university computing.


Moving Out!

The UCC moved from the Engineering building to the facilities designed for it in the new Graduate Research Center.

black and white photo scan, a person using a table-sized computer terminal with big switches
A person using UCC's CDC 3600 computer in the 1970s

With the increasing demand for memory, the UCC developed a way to share memory between the batch machine and the timesharing machine. During high-activity time, more memory was allocated to the timesharing machine, while the batch machine used the majority of the memory overnight.


Instructional Computing Growth

Use of VCR video in the classroom increased, and new computer labs are built across campus.

black and white scanned image, students use blocky computer terminals in a lab
'Computer labs' contain terminals that connect to the mainframe, and all computing and communications are mainframe-based.


The UCC added a second main computer, a CYBER 720 with 131K of memory.
In 1983 a new mini-computer, the GENERAL MV8000 was installed to take some student load off of the main computers.


Learning Management Precursors

PLATO was introduced at UMass Amherst. Developed at U of Illinios, and running on CDC mainframes, PLATO provided computer assisted instruction and was an early forerunner of Learning Management Systems like Moodle.

You've Got Mail!

In 1983, an underground project by a group of graduate students lead to the development of an easy to use electronic mail system called MAILER.
In 1984, UCC took over the development and support of MAILER and it became the mail system on the UCC's computers. MAILER joined Eagle mail on the Data General System and RCF mail on the Computer Science System.


UMass joined the BITNET network, allowing users to communicate with users at other universities around the United States and Europe. The network at UMass was called "UMNet."
UCC began support of network mail services.

A person looks through a drawer of punch cards, used to save and load data on computers.

As of 1984, the punch card reader was no longer available.

UCC worked with the University AV Department to install projectors connected to microcomputers in classrooms. The 4 original locations were Herter, Morrill, Mahar and Thompson halls.


Conrad Wogrin returned to the faculty after 16 years at the helm. Douglas Abbott came on board as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Information Systems.

About 1,000 email messages were being processed by UCC daily.


25 Years!

The University Computing Center celebrated its 25th Anniversary.

The Microcomputer Resource Laboratory (MRL) was opened to allow faculty and staff to experiment in the exciting new world of microcomputers and software.


In 1987, it was estimated that at least 50% of the students on the Amherst campus have some computer experience when they graduate. During the semester it was not unusual for over 300 timesharing users to be logged on at once.

The UCC opened its first public microcomputer classroom in Goodell, consisting of 24 Zenith 158s, a Kodak Datashow projector, and two printers. The microcomputers were also connected to the CYBER mainframes and could be used in terminal emulation mode to access mainframe software, mail, available course assignemnts, quality printers, and off-campus networks.

Increased Support Needs

In an effort to provide repair and maintenance services for the growing number of microcomputers being purchased by UCC and other departments on campus, PC Maintenance was opened in the basement of Goodell.

23 computer terminals and some User Services support staff were now located on the 7th floor of the library.

Due to the growing use of computers as a means of communication, UCC recognized the need for a UCC supported and administered electronic mail system. MAILER was chosen as the official mail system for the UCC computer system.


University Computing Services

The UCC became University Computing Services (UCS) as a reflection of the reevaluation of the center's mission and services.

Hello Internet

The commercialization of networks such as NSFNET, which form the internet backbone, lead to what we now call the internet. These networks were originally designed for academic and research purposes, and therefore largely had .edu addresses, but when they were opened to commercial users as well, use of .com addresses exceeded .edu within 6 months.

PLATO reached it's maximum enrollment, with 4,029 course seats and approximately 30 courses and other applications.

Personal Computing Support Services

The need for hardware and software support on campus outgrew the abilities of the Microcompute Resource Lab. In 1990, UCC opened Personal Computing Support Services in Goodell. PCSS's services included consulting on hardware purchases, sales and support of software and workshop offerings.


The UMass campus network began switching from copper to fiber optics. The campus first linked to the internet via NEARnet and started using PMDF to manage email messages. This replaced BITNET email.

The World Wide Web was launched to the public on August 6, 1991.


Office of Information Technologies

University Computing Services became the Office of Information Technologies (OIT).

In fall 1994, OIT opened a new centralized Help Desk in LGRC. The Help Desk was designed to provide members of the University community with a single point of initial contact for assistance with computing, networking and telecommunications support.

PLATO was decomissioned.

Tobin Hall served as a test prototype for the new Campus Network Wiring project.


The university funded an expansion of the campus network, with 5 node sites. In the next few years, administrative and residential buildings on campus got wired internet.

The Center for Computer-Based Instructional Technology (CCBIT) was created to work with UMass faculty to bring high-quality instructional technology into their classes.

OIT began to migrate Personal Computing Support Services to LGRC. Software Support and LAN Support were the first to move.


The HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), the foundation of data communication for the world wide web, was adopted by major browser developers, replacing the Gopher protocol.

The OWL web-based homework system was created by CCBIT and the UMass Chemistry Department as a replacement for PLATO. OWL was one of the first systems in the country to harness the web for graded homework.

PC Maintenance moved from Goodell to the basement of LGRC. Client support services were then centralized in LGRC.

Photo from 1996 issue of the Campus Chronicle. Sharon Monast explains how she manages students at the OIT Help Desk in LGRC.
People visit the OIT Help Desk at LGRC A109

UMAcess was introduced for students to connect to campus computers via dial-up modems from off-campus locations. 1,500 students were added in the first week.

Douglas Abbott retired, John Dubach was appointed Associate Vice Chancelor for Information Technologies


Learning Management Arrives

The first courses using a Learning Management System (LMS), were offered on campus. WebCT (Web Course Tools) started with a pre-beta version, 5 courses, about 100 students on a single unix server. WebCT, developed at University of British Columbia provided a rich array of tools for discussions, quizzing, email, and content management.

PeopleSoft was chosen as the Student Information System vendor. It employed the then-new client/server technology, provided extensive self-service functions for students and faculty, and integrated data and processes across student service offices. In the legacy system, students submitted pre-registration course requests via a touch-tone phone system.


The University of Massachusetts became one of more than 140 colleges and universities around the country to participate in an advanced networking project called Internet2.

UMass was selected as one of the 98 Charter Universities to begin work on Internet2. The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded UMass $350,000 to help offset the cost of connecting the Amherst campus to this new technology. UMass Amherst's internet service was upgraded to 45Mb/s on DS-3 circuits.


Admissions was the first module of the Student Information system to go live. Graduate students were the first to apply using the new SIS software. The system was given the name "SPIRE".

About 110,000 email messages were being processed by OIT daily.



The UMail system with IMAP was introduced, allowing clients to use a wide range of modern desktop-based email clients.


OWL was licensed for sale as an online homework companion. In the first year, OWL had 5,000 users at a handful of schools.

The university's first web-based interface for email, UMail on the Web was introduced, providing clients with an interface for mobile access to their email from anywhere in the world.


a person gives a presentation next to two televisions displaying her and a remote classroom
2001: Patricia Kochin, Senior Software and Network Consultant at OIT, demonstrates the new Interactive Networked Classroom, by connecting with a similar Amherst College clasroom. (Stan Sherer photo)

The Campus Network Wiring Project to install wired internet connections in all major campus buildings was completed.


The first wide-area gigabit network was lit between UMass Amherst and Boston, MA. This was the first time that the campus had a direct ethernet connection from campus to a remote location.

A grant from the Davis Educational Foundation sponsored the redesign of 10 large-enrollment lecture classes to be hybrid courses using OWL and the Personal Response System, an in-class polling tool using "clickers."

About 200,000 email messages were being processed by OIT daily.

SPIRE for Students

SPIRE Student Records and Financials modules went live. Students could register, view bills, print degree audits and transcripts online! Enrollment into classes is real-time.


The Financial Aid module went live in SPIRE.


The construction contract for the Five Colleges Network fiber backbone was released.

CCBIT became the Center for Educational Software (CESD), part of OIT. OWL was enhanced to be used for standard-based testing in adult basic education centers across the state of Massachusetts. The mathematics and language arts tests were given to over 8,000 students anually.

Help Services

Help Services was formed, combining Help Desk, Software Support, Hardware Support and LAN Support.

SIS staff wrote and implemented a module for SPIRE for the Housing Office to assign and track student housing.

John Dubach was appointed Chief Information Officer.


Learning Commons

UMass opened the Learning Commons in the W.E.B. Du Bois Library, to bring together library, technology, and other campus services in an envorinment that fosters informal, collaborative, and creative work, and social interaction.



UDrive was introduced, an online file storage and sharing system on UMass servers.

OWL was adapted for UMassOnline for confidential course evaluations. CESD created onine chemistry exams with the American Chemical Society's Examinations Institute. In collaboration with Computer Science instructors, CESD also created an interactive textbook called iJava OWLbook with OWL assignments embedded in the text

About 750,000 email messages were being processed by OIT daily.


Five Colleges, Inc. completed a broadband network stretching from Springfield up and around the five campuses. The 53-mile-long network furnished very high bandwidth for educational and research purposes to the member institutions of Five Colleges.


OIT upgraded WebCT to Vista, calling the new LMS "SPARK". OWL and SPARK are linked so that instructors who use both could manage them as one combined tool. Nearly the entire student population took at least one course using SPARK, and it was used by 62 departments and 182 faculty teaching 229 courses.

Academic Instructional Media (including Campus Video Services and Classroom A/V Support) became part of OIT.

OIT implemented a shared document imaging system from Perceptive Software for departments across campus to use for document storage, archive, retrival, and routing. The first department to use this system was Graduate Admissions.


The first dorms got wireless internet access in the new North Residential Area. Over the next few years, other residential and administrative buildings were set up with wireless internet access.

OIT took over adminstration of the Admissions and Financial Aid imaging servers. Both offices eliminated paper, thereby streamlining their operations and dramatically improving customer service and eliminating lost paperwork.

The SIS Housing SPIRE module was expanded to include self-service. Students could choose their room assigments online.


The data warehouse, called UMetrx, went live with class rosters for academic departments. Data from student records and admissions were loaded and verified.

OIT LAN Support began to support Exchange email for a limited number of administrative offices on campus.

OIT partnered with Google to launch Google Apps at UMass Amherst, a customized version of Google's productivity and collaboration tools including Gmail, Google Drive and Docs. Beginning summer 2009, undergrad students could choose to sign up for a UMass Amherst Google Apps account, and choose to use Gmail for their official UMass Amherst email. This option included significantly increased email storage.

an old Apps at UMass Amherst login page with shiny 2010's style icons and blue OIT branding
The Apps at UMass Amherst login screen in 2009


The campus chose Drupal as the standard Content Management System (CMS). Drupal can be used as a website backend, as a collaboration tool, and for knowledge management.


50 Years!

OIT celebrated its 50th Anniversary.

sample of a poster, graphic of a laptop with '50 years of computing' on the screen in retrofuturistic font. 'Join OIT to celebrate 50 years of computing at UMass Amherst'
Excerpt from OIT 50th anniversary celebration poster

IT upgraded each of the campus' wide-area network connections to 10 gigabit/second circuits, connecting to Boston and Springfield with top commercial ISPs as well as Internet2. This provided network service for UMass Amherst and the other 4 campuses in the Five Colleges Network.

SPARK LMS had more users than ever at 95 departments, 1,472 courses, 1,014 faculty and 24,217 students.
OWL had over 200,000 users annually, combining all userbases.

Moodle LMS pilot was introduced. Moodle is a free, open source web application for producing modular internet courses using a social constructionist pedagogy.

The shared document imaging service was used for over 298,00 pages between 6 departments and was used for undergraduate advising across all academic departments. The Graduate Admissions server had over 592,000 documents, Financial Aid had over 285,000.

Housing Auto-Assignments went live. OIT implemented a batch assignment process for new students, elminating weeks of manual work for the Housing Assignment Office.

About 1.8 million email messages were being processed by OIT daily. 5 terabytes of mail was stored on UMail servers.


The entire campus has wireless internet capabilities.


Moodle replaced SPARK as the university's LMS in spring 2013.

Gmail through Apps at UMass was now the default email system for undergraduate students.



In August 2014, UMass replaced the old UMASS-SECURE1x campus wireless network with eduroam (education roaming), a worldwide roaming service. eduroam enables students, faculty, and staff to connect seamlessly at thousands of participating institutions in the US and abroad.


UMass Amherst IT

In 2015, OIT was officially renamed to "IT," or UMass Amherst Information Technology for long. Dropping the "O" for "Office of" made it easier for users to find IT services.


Secure Online Storage

In early 2016, UMass Amherst IT introduced a new file storage and collaboration service called Secure Online Storage at UMass Amherst, powered by Box. This service differed from other online file storage options in that it has a much larger storage quota, and the university contract with Box included a Business Associates Agreement that covers many types of sensitive data.


New Data Center

August 2017 marked the end of construction and the official launch of IT's new data center. The new data center is more energy efficient, has virtual servers that are five times faster with five times the memory, has six times the storage capabilities, and has network connectivity 100 times faster than the previous data center.

soft focus, looking down through a row of data center equipment. plexiglass doors with green handles, flashing lights on equipment.
A peek inside the new data center.


Devices Network

In early 2018, UMass Amherst IT officially launched the UMASS-DEVICES network. This new network allows students to connect select streaming devices and gaming consoles to the internet on campus. This network was introduced in response to user feedback and in collaboration with students and graduates.

UDrive is officially retired as the product had reached its end-of-life and no longer met campus technology standards. Users were encouraged to move files to Secure Online Storage powered by Box or to Apps at UMass Amherst powered by Google.


IT's New Home

In May 2019, UMass Amherst IT began the move to a new space at 400 Venture Way in Hadley. The move would bring the majority of IT back together in a large, modular space with room for growth while also enabling strategic academic expansion on campus.
Some parts of IT, such as the Help Center, would remain on campus for strategic purposes.

sign outside 400 venture way parking area
400 Venture Way
Largely based on historical timeline data assembled for the OIT 50th anniversary.
Is there something we should add? Let us know. Thanks for reading!