The university entered the computer age in 1959 when a nineteen-ton, $2.4 million UNIVAC 1105 arrived on campus. The newly established Computation Center, housed in Phillips Annex, drew national attention. The Census Bureau and the National Science Foundation were early partners, placing the university among national leaders in computer research. In 1962 Frederick R. Brooks Jr., then working at IBM, gave a presentation on campus titled "Ten Research Problems in Computer Science." The presentation was a factor in inspiring campus administrators to create a new academic department. The Department of Computer Science (originally called the Department of Information Science) was established in 1964, and Brooks was hired to lead it. At the time, only one other American university (Purdue) had a separate academic department dedicated to computer science. In 1968 presidential candidate Richard Nixon made a brief visit to campus to view the university's computer center. By the 1980s the increasing availability of personal computers began to transform teaching and learning across campus. Computers were used throughout the undergraduate curriculum, and the university responded to the growing need by building several computer labs in libraries and dorms. In the late 1990s the Carolina Computing Initiative was established as part of a program that required all incoming undergraduates to have laptop computers by the fall of 2000.

Date Established: 1959

Date Range: 1959 – Present

The UNIVAC computer in the UNC Computation Center, ca. 1959. UNC Photo Lab Collection, North Carolina Collection Photo Archives, Wilson Library.