Computing History @ UCM

The Beginning: Mainframe Era

The University of Central Missouri – then called Central Missouri State College (CMSC) – received its first computer in 1963 – an IBM 1620. This computer was primarily used for administrative functions, as well as used in classes to teach about data processing and computer programming. According to an article in the January 11, 1963 issue of “The Student”, CMSC rented the computer from International Business Machines at a 40 percent discount and it could compute the GPA of every student on campus in two hours. 

Faculty working on a program on the IBM 1620 in 1964. (Source: The Student, Feb. 14, 1964)

The IBM 1620 was introduced in 1959 as one of IBM’s earliest transistorized computers. Like other computers of that era, input and programming was done on punched cards. Output was done either on a teletype typewriter or output punched cards. Popular programming languages of the era included COBOL and FORTRAN.

According to the August 7, 1964 issue of The Student, the 1620 was also used to create schedules for area high schools.

Students use the IBM 1620 for a class. The computer was installed on the ground floor of the Administration Building. (Photo: The Student, July 29, 1966)
A computer programming class featured in the 1965 Rhetor. Notice the IBM 1620 at top left, with card reader-punch to its right. (Photo: 1965 Rhetor, p. 54)

At some point, a second computer – an IBM 1440 was installed. The 1440 was replaced with an IBM 1401 in fall 1966. According to the “CMSC Data Processing Center Annual Report Supplement” booklet, the 1401 was used for mainly administrative functions while the 1620 continued to be used for use in classes by students.

Like the 1620, the 1401 was mainly programmed and accepted data input via punched cards or tape drives and output data using either an IBM 1403 printer, tape drives, or punched cards.

In the early days of computing, keypunches (bottom machine) and punched cards (being held) were used to load data and programs into the computer. (Photo: The Student, Dec. 4, 1964.)
The IBM 1403 printer (left, hood open) was used to print computed data and documents from the IBM 1401. A card punch station (middle right, with operator seated) and card reader/punch (upper right, above card punch station) is also visible. (Photo: The Student, Oct. 14, 1966.)

The IBM 1401 was a remarkable machine in its day. Introduced in 1959 as an early transistorized computer, it was fully-transistorized and was affordable enough that most medium-sized businesses could afford it. It has often been called the “Model T Ford of the mainframe computing world” as it grew in popularity – eventually outnumbering the number of installations of all other systems. Two IBM 1401s are still operational at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. In 1967, a proposal to create computer science degrees at CMSC was introduced. The first computer science program in the world was established at Purdue University in 1962.

In addition to administrative functions, the IBM 1401 (central processing unit visible in background) was used to compute the results of the 1967 SGA election. Students voted on punched cards. (Photo: The Student, Sept. 15, 1967)


The IBM 1620 and 1401 were both replaced with the IBM System/360 Model 30 in spring 1968. This machine was used for both administrative and student purposes and provided greater power than the previous machines.

An IBM technician installs the new System/360 Model 30 at CMSC. (Photo: The Student, Feb. 9, 1968.)

IBM’s System/360 line of computers was ground-breaking technology when it was released in 1964. System/360 was the first computer line to introduce a unified architecture and instruction set. Thus, code written for the entry-level Model 25 could run on the largest Model 195. Before, programs had to be completely re-written for different computers. Code written on the 1401 would not work on the 1620 and vice-versa. The System/360 Model 30 installed at CMSC supported 8-64 kb (kilobytes) of memory – a modern computer is typically 8-32 GB (gigabytes) of memory. (Roughly 8,000 bytes versus today’s 8,000,000,000 bytes.)

Students and a professor work with a business simulation on the IBM System/360 Model 30 at CMSC. (Photo: The Student, July 26, 1968.)

As with before, the IBM System/360 accepted punched cards for programming and data input – as well as tape drives and disk storage. Output was a printer, punched cards, tape drives and disk storage units. Teletype terminals could directly provide input/output to the computer.

System/370 and DEC PDP

The next step in UCM’s computer history journey came in the mid-1970s as IBM replaced the System/360 with the IBM System/370 Model 145 in August 1976. The Model 145 offered 256,000 bytes (256 kb) of storage, according to the “Fiscal Year 1977-78 Data Processing & Research Services Center Annual Report.” The same report mentioned that the Model 145 was quickly upgraded to the Model 148, upgrading the storage to 1,000,000 bytes (1 MB) in November 1977.

It was also at this time that the computer center was physically relocated from the ground floor of the Administration Building to the second floor of the Humphreys Building.

Physical plant employees moved computer equipment, such as this card reader-punch, from the Administration Building ground floor to the second floor of Humphrey’s. (Photo: The Muleskinner, Nov. 5, 1976)

Video terminals, such as the IBM 3270, were utilized around campus to communicate with the computer’s central processing unit and storage in Humphreys.

Students used IBM terminals, such as the IBM 3270 series, to interact with the mainframe located in Humphrey’s. (Photo: 1984 Rhetor, p. 11)

At the same time, it appears a Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) PDP was installed on campus. No information on this computer has been found outside of a picture on page 16 of the 1976 Rhetor.

PDP or no PDP? The machine to the left appears to be a PDP minicomputer. (Photo: 1976 Rhetor, p. 16)


In the 1980s, the university and students transistioned to using microcomputers, or personal computers, for their everyday use. The IBM PC (Personal Computer) line and its successors (the IBM PC-XT and PC-AT) were popular around campus. By the late 1980s, Apple’s Macintosh line of computers gained popularity.

A CMSU student works on an assignment using one of the Macintosh computers available to students on campus. (Photo: The Muleskinner, Nov. 8, 1990)