Wayne State C&IT supports 71 years of tech in the heart of Detroit


In 1947, Wayne State University received a mechanical differential analyzer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sparking excitment in the newly budding field of computer science and leading to 71 years and counting of making computing technology available to students, faculty, staff and the city of Detroit.
The following timeline highlights integral moments in the advancement of technology at Wayne State and the university's influence on tech in the surrounding community. To view the timeline with photos, check out our Sway presentation.


  • The first electronic computer at Wayne State is a joint effort with the Burroughs Research Laboratory. The Unitized Digital Electronic Computer (UDEC) is the first computer in Detroit and the second in Michigan. 


  • Wayne State updates the IBM 650 to process financial and student records.The computer is used by professors as well as external industrial clients.


  • A $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation is awarded to update computing at Wayne State. 


  • The mathematics department offers Mathematics 280, a course in a programming language called Fortran (FORmula TRANslator), which was a requirement for College of Engineering Students and is still used in scientific computing. 
  • The IBM 7070/1401 is installed in the Administrative Services Building, now the C&IT Computing Services Center on Woodward. 
  • The Wayne Automatic Student Preprocessor (WASP) program is created to track student records, registration, accounting, payroll, admissions and more. 


  • The Michigan Educational Research Information Triad (MERIT) Network is formed to connect computers at University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University.  It was the second packet switch network in the country after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and was instrumental in launching the internet. It is the oldest regional network in the country, covering the state of Michigan.
  • Wayne State orders a Model 50 IBM 360 but receives a Model 40 after it is decided that the U.S. Air Force has a greater need for the 50. 


  • Wayne State upgrades to the Model 50 IBM 360. As demand for computer access grows, Wayne State is one of the first universities in the United States to order an IBM 360/67, a computer designed with input from the academic and research community. This was the first computer model designed to allow more than one user at a time. 
  • The Michigan Terminal System (MTS) is developed at the University of Michigan and used by seven universities across the globe, including Wayne State University. MTS enabled use of the IBM 360/67 hardware’s capability to support multiple users at the same time.  It also used virtual memory, expanding the capability of limited and very expensive core memory.


  • Computing upgrades are delayed by the economic recession.


  • The WSU Board of Governors officially supports the launch of timesharing services to external nonprofit and commercial customers.  
  • The Computing and Data Processing Center is renamed the Computing Services Center. 
  • The university acquires a new Amdahl 470 V6.


  • WSU Timesharing services reach $2.5 million per year, with more than 500 external customers including hospitals, market research firms, all car companies in the world who sold to the U.S. market, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Army.   


  • The Computing Services Center purchases 31 new terminals for student use in the Science Library. 

“Prior to this purchase, students in introductory classes prepared their programs using punched cards and batch input... This equipment is to be removed, this bringing students from obsolete methods of computing to more ‘state-of-the-art' computing... Instead of viewing your output line by line, you see an entire page or screen at one time.”
— CSC Newsletter, Col. 6 #8, Nov. 1982


  • The Computing Services Center becomes the Division of Computing & Information Technology. 


  • The university upgrades phones to the Digital Centrex system, allowing users to access computer data and voice service from the same jack.


  • C&IT leads seminars across campus to train users on programs such as SPSS, Microsoft Word, and an Introduction to DOS the initial operating system for IBM personal computers. 
  • Wayne State is connected to BITNET via a the standard leased 56 kbps circuit.  BITNET was a precursor of the Internet and was used by universities through North America and Europe to send files and messages between computers. 


  • University Television brings back Studio 77, a 2,000-square-foot soundstage used by faculty to produce videos, host teleconferences and make multimedia presentations.


  • All state universities in Michigan become members of the MERIT Network.
  • The Y2K Implementation Committee is founded to prepare campus computers for the year 2000, when two digit fields used in most programs would not be able to store dates beyond 1999. 


  • After trial uses of several programs, Blackboard is chosen by faculty as the university’s first online learning management system. 


  • Pipeline is launched as the first student and employee online portal.


  • Nearly 500 classes are taught partially or completely online.


  • By now, the university has cancelled almost all leased circuits and replaced them with more than 26 miles of high-speed fiber-optic cable, connecting 80 buildings. 
  • C&IT deploys wireless networks in 24 university buildings.


  • Wayne State ends free dial-in services, as they’re too slow for most work and are surpassed by high-speed commercial services.


  • Secure (encrypted) Wi-Fi is available at Wayne State for the first time. 


  • DeskTech is created to provide employees and faculty with consistent desktop computer support across campus.


  • Academica is developed in-house and launched to replace Pipeline as a modern portal to WSU services. 
  • The C&IT Help Desk moves in to the newly renovated Student Center Building.
  • C&IT awards the first C&IT Endowed Scholarship, funded by C&IT employees throughout the year.


  • The C&IT upgrades campus phones to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), lowering telephone costs for departments and improving call quality.


  • The department implements a $4 million Wi-Fi upgrade and refresh project, which will be continued throughout the following year to expand coverage in most-used buildings and outdoor areas.
  • A new learning management system, Canvas, is introduced to campus.
  • C&IT ventures into the future with a virtual reality tour of campus.
  • C&IT staff outlined a three-year program and launched the internship program at the beginning of the fall semester. A diverse group of 10 Wayne State students are working with departments across C&IT to gain firsthand experience in IT and related fields.
  • C&IT prepares to move into their new data center, capable of supporting two times our current capacity.

    Data center side view



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