The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.

DEPARTMENT OF COMPUTER AND COMMUNICATION SCIENCES

This department began as a graduate program, which in turn had its roots in two research groups: the Phonetics Laboratory in the Department of Speech, and the Logic of Computers Group in the Department of Philosophy. Gordon Peterson directed the former and Arthur Burks directed the latter.

Gordon Peterson was interested in acoustics and phonetics. He built electronic equipment for analyzing speech, made recordings in an echoless room, and studied the basic phonetic patterns of speech. Burks had worked on electronic computers during World War II; his group did research on the logical design of computers and programming language, and on the theory of automata.

Peterson and Burks found their research groups shared a common ground and had the same educational problem: graduate students who wanted to do doctoral dissertations on the subjects covered by their grants but lacked a suitable department. Both felt that Peterson's interest in communication and Burks' in computation constituted an appropriate basis for a new doctoral program. Accordingly, they petitioned the Graduate School.

A number of other University faculty had related interests: Gunnar Hok (Electrical Engineering — information theory), Anatol Rapaport (Mental Health Research Institute — mathematical psychology), Robert Thrall (Mathematics — operations research), Edward Walker (Psychology — cognition), and Herbert Paper (Linguistics). With Peterson and Burks, Page  140they were constituted a committee, which in 1957 was granted the power to award the Ph.D. and M.A. degrees. Gordon Peterson served as chairman of the program until it became a department in 1965.

The original program title, "Language Models and Logical Design," was soon changed to "Communication Sciences." This title carried over to the department, but was in turn changed to "Computer and Communication Sciences" (CCS). For simplicity, this last title is used in referring to both program and department.

The CCS program's objective was to understand information processing and communication in both natural and engineered systems. Some faculty brought knowledge of psychological, social, linguistic, and biological systems. Others worked on the theory and application of electronic computers and electronic communication systems. All were interested in studying the interrelations of natural and artificial languages as modes of communication, and in comparing computational processes in natural and artificial systems.

The initial plan was to rely mostly on courses already offered by related departments. Thus a student would learn about information theory from a course in electrical engineering, about the informational aspects of biology from courses in the biological sciences, and about man as an information-processing system from courses in psychology. While this plan worked well for areas taught by members of the CCS program, it failed in other areas, because a CCS student had to take several courses in order to cover the equivalent of one course of relevant material, and was, moreover, at a disadvantage in academic background.

The program therefore developed its own core curriculum, establishing courses in automata theory, information and probability theory, analog and digital computers; and in natural language, psychology, and biology treated from an information-processing point of view. Students were also required to take a course in modern algebra and, when it became available, an advanced course in programming. After completing the core, they were required to pass an integrative oral examination, with more specialized study and a preliminary examination to come later. Design of the core Page  141curriculum and participation in the qualifying examinations helped to acquaint a diverse faculty with the broad range of subject matter and, further, to define the focus and scope of the new discipline.

Staff were needed to teach these new courses and the more advanced courses they soon generated. Two sources were tapped. First were young scientists in the two original research groups, who were often employed on a temporary basis and were, at least initially, part-time. With few funds, CCS had to rely on this category to organize and teach the needed courses up until several years after it became a department.

The other source of new CCS faculty consisted of individuals already teaching in the University who joined the program to teach courses and work with CCS graduate students. Henry Swain of Pharmacology introduced a course in the informational aspects of biology; Julian Adams of Biology later replaced him. Harvey Garner and Eugene Lawler of Electrical Engineering brought computer courses to CCS. Bernard Galler (Mathematics and the Computing Center) and Bruce Arden and Larry Flanigan (also of the Computing Center), who had been teaching programming courses, added the programming dimension to CCS, which over the years has expanded to a very substantial fraction of the department. Paul Fitts, Arthur Melton, Richard Pew, Stephen Kaplan, and Walter Reitman have all joined at various times to teach the informational aspects of psychology.

By 1965 it was clear that the program needed to become a department in some college. Because most of its support had come from LS&A, and because of the interdisciplinary and theoretical nature of the CCS program, a request was made to LS&A. This request was granted, effective for the fall of 1965. Harvey Garner served as acting chairman till the end of 1966, after which Arthur Burks became chairman and continued until 1971. Bruce Arden was then chairman until 1973, when he left to become chairman of Electrical Engineering at Princeton University. Bernard Galler was the next chairman, until 1975, when he became Associate Dean for Long-Range Planning in LS&A. Larry Flanigan has been chairman since that time.

Page  142When the CCS Department was launched, it had a full-time equivalent faculty of only six. It remained this size until 1972, then in the next few years grew to ten and a half. This was still a very small faculty for a department with so many responsibilities. CCS has greatly expanded its program for undergraduate majors, so that it now has about one hundred and twenty-five at any given time. The department has also developed its programming curriculum, with a rich and varied sequence of programming courses for both graduates and undergraduates. Moreover, as a department it has continued to have from sixty to eighty CCS graduate students enrolled each year, most of whom aim for the doctorate.

Since CCS began as a doctoral program and has now operated for over two decades, it is appropriate to evaluate its accomplishments. It has graduated over ninety Ph.D.s. Two-thirds of these are in universities here and abroad. Other CCS Ph.D.s are at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Digital Equipment Corporation, International Business Machines (including one IBM Fellow), National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institutes of Health, National Security Agency, Texas Instruments, Weizmann Institute (Israel), Wycliff Bible Translators, and Xerox. Some graduates have formed their own corporations. Moreover, members of the department have had many research grants, and have published numerous professional articles, reports, and books.

It should also be noted that at the time the CCS program began (1957), the subject of computer science as such did not exist. A few people were being trained in established departments, mainly mathematics and electrical engineering, but the Michigan CCS program was the first independent program empowered to award the Ph.D. Its first Ph.D. (and the first anywhere) was awarded in 1959 to John Holland, whose thesis was in automata theory. Starting in the 1960s, educational activities related to computing developed rapidly, and there are now, in the United States alone, over sixty departments awarding the Ph.D. and many more giving bachelor's and master's degrees.

Because of the interdisciplinary way in which it originated, the Michigan CCS Department is unique in its breadth. This approach has been motivated, in part, by the desire to Page  143make the program and its graduates more adaptable, given the rapid rate of technological change in computing and communication. Many students have come to Michigan because of this breadth, and it helps account for the widespread distribution of the graduates.

The department is also unique in its strong emphasis on the relation of computers to natural systems. About 40 percent of the Ph.D.s have written their doctoral theses on natural systems or on formalisms closely related to natural systems, including those trained in the Phonetics Laboratory, while many others have studied the relationships between computers and natural systems beyond the core curriculum. In recent years, the theory of computer modeling of natural systems has been a major focus. Computers, with their tremendous power, are capable of simulating complex systems that are difficult to analyze with standard mathematics. Although specific applications have been and will continue to be made in other departments, a computer theory of modeling and simulation is an appropriate topic for a computer science department. Interest centers on the nature of models and their relation to the system modeled and to the computer that simulates the system, and on general principles for modeling natural systems or engineered systems. The subject also has a bearing on the simulation of programming systems on computers, so that it is relevant, as well, to the programming part of computer science.

Since the Logic of Computers Group was one of the founding components of CCS, it has been funded continuously by government research agencies since its beginning in 1956, and over the years it has provided more than half of the research support in CCS. For the past dozen years it has had its own computing system, although it continues to use the University's Computing Center. The group has produced about 40 percent of the Ph.D.s in the department. From its inception the Logic of Computers Group has done research in logical formalisms related to computers and to natural systems. The earlier research emphasized automata theory and decision problems, graph theory, probabilistic automata, cellular automata and parallel computing. More recently, research has been done in adaptive systems theory, function optimization, modeling and simulation theory, the modeling of natural systems (biology, psychology, anthropology), Page  144and also the history of computers. The group has produced many reports, more than 150 published articles, one patent, and five published books.