Electr* Engineering

Paul Koning paulkoning at comcast.net
Tue Aug 13 08:21:17 CDT 2019

> On Aug 13, 2019, at 2:05 AM, Adam Thornton via cctalk <cctalk at classiccmp.org> wrote:
> At Rice in the early 90s the department was "Electrical and Computer Engineering" if my hazy memory serves.
> The genealogy of Computer Science departments (and their curricula) (at least in the US) is also weird and historically-contingent.  Basically it seems to have been a tossup at any given school whether it came out of the Electr[ical|onic] Engineering department, in which case it was memories and logic gates and a bottom-up, hardware-focused curriculum, or out of the Mathematics department, in which case it was algorithms and complexity analysis and a software-focused curriculum.

That was true in other countries as well.  Sometimes different terms were used to show differences in focus, like "Computing science" or "Informatics".

Early computer people, not surprisingly, had backgrounds from all over the science and engineering world.  Several of the early Dutch computer designers were physicists with very little EE knowledge (and it showed...).  For that matter, the famous Dutch computer scientist E.W. Dijkstra got his Ph.D. from the Department of Mathematics and Physics.

The curriculum differences came a bit later, I think.  At the very beginning you had to deal with the circuits and logic, no matter your background.  Again, looking at the Dutch case, the Amsterdam computers came out of the "Mathematical Center" (an applied math institution) -- but they still assembled relays and tubes into complete computer systems, while working on algorithms.


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