CS50: Fifty Years of Computer Science
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SCS Timeline

50 Years of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon:
A Brief Look Back in Time


Herbert A. Simon, associate dean of Carnegie  Institute of Technology’s business school, and several of his faculty associates help establish the Computation Center. Alan Perlis (S’42), a Pittsburgh native and MCS graduate, is brought from Purdue University to be director of the Computation Center.

August 28, 1956: The university’s first computer, an IBM 650, is delivered to basement of the GSIA building.


Herbert Simon, his student and associate Allen Newell (IA’57), along with their colleague J.C. Shaw of the RAND Corporation, establish the study of artificial intelligence. Working together, they demonstrate that symbols can be substituted for numbers in computerized computation, devise a computer program that could discover proofs for theorems in logic, and invent list-processing programming languages.


Newell and Shaw present their new linked list structure at Western Joint Computer Conference.

Simon, Newell and Shaw present their findings on the Logic Theorist at the same conference.


Carnegie Tech students take the first freshman-level computer programming course in the nation. It is taught by Alan Perlis.


The Systems and Communication Sciences program is established: an interdisciplinary program combining computer science, mathematics, psychology, business and electrical engineering, and providing the exams for Carnegie Mellon’s first computer science-related Ph.D.s.

The Computation Center is moved from GSIA to Scaife Hall and has a new machine: the very first Bendix G-20 ever delivered arrived on campus in a specially outfitted truck also bearing a sign that it was bound for Carnegie Institute of Technology.


CIT receives $600,000 contract to research theory of computer programming, AI, interpretation of natural languages, man-computer interactions and design of computing machinery from the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Defense Department.


Carnegie Mellon establishes a Computer Science Department with the support of a $5 million grant from the Richard K. Mellon Foundation. Alan Perlis is its first head.

First students enroll in the computer science Ph.D. program.


CIT merges with Mellon Institute and is renamed Carnegie Mellon University.

First computer science Ph.D. degrees are awarded.

A UNIVAC 1108 is installed in Scaife Hall, via a crane and a hole in the roof.


First Immigration Course organized for incoming Ph.D. students.


DEC/5 begins – the first gathering was held December 5, 1970


C.mmp, is the first shared memory multiprocessor constructed with commodity processors.

Joseph Traub takes over as head of the computer science department.

Wean Hall is completed.


C.m* implements the first Non-Univorm Memory Access (NUMA) system.

“Black Friday” evaluations initiated.


Herb Simon and Allen Newell win Turing Award.


Herb Simon wins Nobel Prize in Economics for decision-making theory.


The Robotics Institute is established with Raj Reddy as its first director.


The world’s first direct drive arm prototype built at Carnegie Mellon.

First “Pretty Good Race” is held during graduate student immigration course. 


Center for Machine Translation is founded and becomes the most prominent institution of its kind in the world. (In 1996, CMT would become part of the new Language Technology Institute.)

Rosie the Robot from Carnegie Mellon is used for underwater work at Alabama nuclear plant.

John Laird (CS’78, ’84), Paul Rosenbloom (CS’78,’83) and Allen Newell (IA’57) develop the SOAR system, a computer program for simulating human thought and learning that unifies cognitive simulation by its capacity to perform a wide range of tasks.


The Electrical Engineering Department becomes the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

“The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction" is published. This book by Stuart K. Card (IA’70, HS’78), Thomas P. Moran (CS’74) and Allen Newell (IA’57) codifies knowledge of human information processing.

The Andrew Project begins, making Carnegie Mellon the first wired campus.  One outcome was AFS, a widely used network file system.


Robots designed by SCS professor Red Whittaker (E’75, ’79) begin assisting with clean-up of the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident.


The Computer Science Department becomes a floating unit at Carnegie Mellon.   

Carnegie Mellon develops and launches its groundbreaking “Andrew” campus-wide communications network, one of the first in the nation. Leadership in developing and implementing the network came from the Computer Science Department, most notably from a campus-wide committee chaired by Allen Newell.

Chess-playing computer created by Hans Berliner (CS’75) and Carl Ebeling (CS’86) wins a national machine chess tournament.


The Computer Science Department becomes the School of Computer Science. Nico Haberman is the first dean.

The Sphinx Speech Recognition System boasts a 1,000 word vocabulary without requiring speaker-specific training.


The School of Computer Science creates an undergraduate program.


The Robotics Institute creates one of the world’s first robotics doctoral programs.


Hitech, an artificially intelligent computer chess machine developed at Carnegie Mellon by Hans Berliner (CS’75), beats a grand master for the first time.


Andrew’s Leap summer program for high school students is established.

Hyperion completes the first sun-synchronous robotic navigation.      


Raj Reddy becomes dean of the School of Computer Science.

Dante, an eight-legged robot, explores the crater of the live volcano Mt. Erebus in Antarctica.


Takeo Kanade introduces concept of virtualized reality where as many as 50 cameras are pointed at an event from as many angles. The video stream is fed into computers and allows the viewer to virtually fly around and watch the event from myriad positions. The technology will be used at SuperBowl XXXV in 2001.

Center for Machine Translation conducts first-ever international videoconference using the Janus computer speech translation system between English, Japanese and German. Janus has a 500-word vocabulary, limited to conference registration in three languages.


Carnegie Mellon receives $2.5 million from NASA to establish the National Robotics Engineering Consortium (NREC) to commercialize robotic technologies that NASA has developed by working directly with American industry.

Dante II explores Mt. Spurr in Alaska, and sends back images over Mosaic, the predecessor of the Word Wide Web.

Michael Mauldin (CS’83, ’89) develops Lycos, the first web search engine that actually works. Lycos is the first large scale Internet search engine.

The Human-Computer Interaction Institute is created and brings together faculty from computer science, social sciences and design. James Morris (CS’63) is the first director.


Faculty members Dean Pomerleau (CS’92) and Todd Jochem (CS’93) accompany a car on a cross-country trip with the vehicle doing 98 percent of the driving.  The trip was called “No Hands Across America”.

First Mobot Races held on campus.


The Language Technologies Institute is created and encompasses the Center for Machine Translation.

HipNav medical robot surgical assistant is developed. HipNav combines real-time imaging and robotically controlled surgical tools to improve hip replacement surgery. It will be demonstrated at Shadyside Hospital in 1997.


The Center for Automated Learning and Discovery is created, bringing together faculty from the statistics and computer science departments, with Tom Mitchell as director.

SCS professor Manuela Veloso (CS’89,’92) and her students compete in the first RoboCup International competition in Nagoya, Japan. In an effort to foster growth in the field of artificial intelligence, the event centers around teams of autonomous robots playing for a soccer championship. A key goal of the RoboCup is to create a robotic team that can beat the human world-champion soccer team by 2050. CMUnited wins the Small Sized League.

Nomad completes an unprecedented 40-day, 131 mile trek through the Atacama Desert while being tele-operated from Pittsburgh and California.

Synthetic interview computer technology leads to talks with Albert Einstein and others.


Carnegie Mellon Institute for eCommerce formed by GSIA (now Tepper) and SCS to administer the Master of Science in Electronic Commerce program.

Masters of Entertainment Technology degree offered for the first time.

Bryant and Clarke earn the Kanellakis award for their work on model checking.


James Morris (CS’63) becomes dean of the School of Computer Science.

The Institute for Software Research International, is established, headed by Raj Reddy.

The Janus speech translation system now has 10,000 word travel planning vocabulary in 6 languages (compared to only 500 words in 3 languages in 1993).

CMU presents the robot “Pioneer” to Ukraine for evaluating sarcophagus around Chernobyl.


Nomad finds four meteorites in Antarctica and sets new standards for intelligent exploratory robots.

Carnegie Mellon establishes a West Coast campus at Moffett Field, near Mountain View, California. The branch campus offers the Master of Software Engineering degree and researchers collaborate with NASA on high-dependability computing projects.

Wireless Andrew installed in the fall (first in country).

Daniel Sleator receives Kanellakis award for developing splay tree data structure.

Allen Newell’s papers become available online through University Archives (100K+ images).

BusinessWeek and Yahoo! Internet Life magazines rate Carnegie Mellon as the Most Wired University.

US News ranked graduate CS program #3, tied with UC-Berkeley.


Takeo Kanade uses a subset of his virtualized-reality technology to create EyeVision in conjunction with CBS Sports. It’s an instant-replay technique used by CBS to broadcast Super Bowl XXXV. The technology used more than 30 pivoting robotic cameras, distributed 80 feet above Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL, to give viewers a 270-degree view of the action.

The first nationally televised Carnegie Mellon commercials air on CBS in February during NCAA men’s basketball championship – in exchange for use of EyeVision in Super Bowl XXXV.

The Medical Robotics and Information Technology Center (MERIT) is formed with Jim Osborne as its first director. It is an interdisciplinary center with ECE’s Ken Gabriel, SCS’s Takeo Kanade and Dr. Anthony DiGioia (E’79, ’82).

RoboCup 2001 held in Seattle with SCS professor Manuela Veloso (CS’89, ’92) as the chair. It is the first time the competition is held in the U.S.


GRACE, a socially skilled, talking robot from Carnegie Mellon, makes history as “she” successfully completes the annual robot challenge at the American Association for Artificial Intelligence yearly meeting.

Randal Bryant and David O’Hallaron publish a “definitive” textbook for computer programming based on the 15-213 course. It is used in 18 schools in first year.

Actor William Shatner visits Carnegie Mellon to research book his book “Science Fiction to Science Fact”.

SCS is ranked #1 by US News & World Report for its computer science Ph.D. program (tied with MIT, Stanford and UC-Berkeley).

Intel opens a research lab in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon and with SCS’s M. Satyanarayanan (CS’79, ’83) as director.


Carnegie Mellon announces the creation of the Robot Hall of Fame to honor noteworthy robots, both real and fictional, along with their creators. Four robots are inducted in November.

SCS Day, the first undergrraduate talent showcase, is held on campus.

PIE database breakthrough in face recognition.

TechBridgeWorld program pioneered by SCS professor Bernadine Dias (CS’00, ’04) to bring technology to developing communities around the world.


Carnegie Mellon’s Red Team competes in the first DARPA Grand Challenge, a $1 million desert race for robotic vehicles. Its autonomous robot vehicle, Sandstorm, sets a record for distance against a field of 14 other competitors. No one wins the prize.

Randal Bryant becomes dean of the School of Computer Science.

Carnegie Mellon opens a branch campus at Education City in Doha, Qatar offering undergraduate education in computer science and business. Former Robotics Institute Director Chuck Thorpe (CS’85) becomes the first dean.

James Morris (CS’63) becomes dean of the university’s West Coast Campus.

Carnegie Mellon receives a $20 million gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help fund construction of a new building dedicated to expanding the horizons of computer science.


Sandstorm and H1ghlander compete in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, finishing second and third, respectively. A former Carnegie Mellon professor and a Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. graduate head up the winning team from Stanford.

InterAct demonstrates an open domain speech-to-speech translation software at a live international press conference.

Google announces plans to open an engineering lab in Pittsburgh in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon and with SCS professor Andrew Moore as director.

25th Annual running of the “Pretty Good Race”.

Technology Leadership Track added to Tepper MBA program: joint program with SCS.

SCS professor Doug James recognized with Popular Science “Breakthrough Award”.


Demolition of buildings to make for the new Gates Center for Computer Science scheduled for the spring.

“CS50” celebrates 50 years of computer science at Carnegie Mellon in April.