Timeline Archive

From Stanford CSD History

Some of the significant events in the history of Stanford’s Computer Science Department and Computer Systems Laboratory are listed here chronologically.



Mathematics Professor George Forsythe (deceased 1972), Provost Fred Terman, and Associate Provost Albert Bowker conceived of a scientific “escalation” of computing at Stanford from the Computer Center function to an academic teaching and research function. George, together with mathematics professor Jack Herriot (deceased 2003), founded the Division of Computer Science within the Mathematics Department in 1961. George also served as Director of the Computer Center. According to an article in CACM by Donald Knuth, “[by 1964, George’s] Division of Computer Science contained two faculty members besides himself (John Herriot and John McCarthy), plus two young ‘visiting assistant professors’ for whom regular appointments were being arranged (Gene Golub - deceased 2008 - and Niklaus Wirth), and an instructor (Harold Van Zoeren).” See knuth-on-Forsythe-1972-CACM.pdf.

(Louis Fein was one of the first people to suggest that what we now call “computer science” ought to be regarded as a discipline in its own right. In 1958, Lou wrote a report commissioned by Albert Bowker recommending that Stanford set up a school devoted to this discipline. In 1961, Lou published an article in the American Scientist, based on that report, entitled “The Computer-Related Sciences (Synnoetics) at a University in the Year 1975”.)

Prof. Bill Miller (now emeritus) joined Stanford as Professor of Computer Science in December of 1964. Bill also served as Professor and head of the Computation Group at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

Motivated by a comment by George Forsythe, in 1964 Gene Golub developed a stable and robust algorithm for computing the Singular Value Decomposition (SVD). The algorithm is used in a variety of applications, including search engines, signal processing and data analysis.

In 1962, John McCarthy started the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Project (SAIP).


The Department of Computer Science is created in January within the School of Humanities and Sciences with George Forsythe as chair. (All of the computer science people in Mathematics move to the new department.) Department offices and facilities are located in Polya and Pine Halls in the Jordan Quad. The department is authorized to grant PhD and MS degrees.

Edward Feigenbaum (now emeritus) joins the department in January and later that year takes over as Director of the Computer Center from Forsythe.

The DENDRAL project for computing molecular structure from mass-spectrogram data is begun by Ed Feigenbaum and Joshua Lederberg (Professor of Genetics). Bruce Buchanan (Research Associate) joins the project in 1966.

John McCarthy and colleagues (with funding from NSF and the Stanford Computer Center) create Thor, a PDP-1 based timesharing system. It included twelve Philco display terminals, which made it the first display-oriented timesharing system anywhere in the world. It was used for a number of years by Patrick Suppes' computer aided instruction projects.


John McCarthy and Les Earnest form the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) in a partially constructed, abandoned building (off Arastradero Road, near Felt Lake) obtained from G. T. E.

SAIL’s first computer, a DEC PDP-6, is installed in June. [For more about the history of SAIL, including the development of a pre-cursor to “windows” and the early installation of terminals in everyone’s offices, see the document “SAIL Away” by Les Earnest.

Les Earnest and John McCarthy initiate the development of a robot vehicle using the Stanford Cart, which PhD student Rodney Schmidt managed to make do simple visual navigation by 1971.

Raj Reddy receives the new department’s first PhD degree for his dissertation work on continuous speech recognition.

George Dantzig (deceased 2005), Jerome Feldman (1966-1974), David Gries (1966-1969), Bruce McKeeman (1966-1968), Raj Reddy (1966-1969), Arthur Samuel (1966-1990; deceased 1990), join the faculty.

John Chowning, a Stanford PhD in Music, forms a computer music group at SAIL. In 1979 it becomes the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) in the Music Department at Stanford.

Gio Wiederhold joins the department as Lecturer and developer of ACME, a real-time data-acquisition and processing system for the School of Medicine.


The Dendral Program is demonstrated. [See: http://smi-web.stanford.edu/projects/history.html, and http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/BB/A/L/Y/P/].

Forsythe proposes that the department hire Donald Knuth. Knuth suggests that it also hire Robert Floyd.

Edward McCluskey (EE/CSL, now emeritus), and Joyce Friedman (1967-1970) join the faculty.

Chowning develops his ideas on computer synthesis of music at SAIL, leading to a patented synthesizer that was licensed to Yamaha.

PhD student Bill Wichman (with the assistance of research programmers Karl Pingle and Jeff Singer at SAIL) succeeds in visually recognizing colored blocks on a table top and operating a mechanical arm to pick them up and stack them.


The Computer Systems Laboratory is established (then called the Digital Systems Laboratory).

The Computer Forum, an industrial affiliates group, is started by Professors Ed McCluskey, Arthur Samuel, and Bill Miller.

Bill Miller is appointed Associate Provost for Computing to facilitate the extension of computing across the campus.

Robert Floyd (1967-1995; deceased 2002) and Roger Schank (1968-1973) join the faculty.

(For a summary of the life of Bob Floyd, see Robert W. Floyd, In Memoriam Don Knuth.)


Donald Knuth (now emeritus) joins the faculty.

Ed McCluskey appointed director of the Computer Forum (1969-78).

Stanford Computer Engineering Program (now the Computer Science MS Degree Program) founded by Ed McCluskey.

CS106 is offered as an introductory programming course.

Victor Scheinman, a Mechanical Engineering student working at SAIL, develops the first high performance electric robot arm. [See: http://www-db.stanford.edu/pub/voy/museum/pictures/display/1-Robot.htm.]

The Stanford Instructional Television Network (SITN) begins broadcasting graduate engineering courses to Silicon Valley companies as part of the Honors Cooperative Program. Computer Science courses were later included. The program is subsumed in 1995 by the Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD).


Bruce Buchanan (1970-1988) and Ken Colby (1970-1974; deceased 2001) join the faculty. Colby was famous for his program “Parry” which simulated the conversation of a paranoid human patient.

Ed Feigenbaum initiates the Heuristic Programming Project (HPP)—home of many ensuing AI programs and projects including MYCIN by Ted Shortliffe and MOLGEN by Mark Stefik.

Bill Miller becomes Vice President for Research.


Forrest Baskett (EE/CSL, 1971-1982), Cordell Green (1971-1978), and Tom Binford (now emeritus) join the faculty.

Bill Miller becomes Vice President and Provost of Stanford.

Tom Rindfleisch is hired as a research associate in the Department of Genetics to work with Josh Lederberg and Ed Feigenbaum on a facility for AI in Medicine (SUMEX-AIM).

SAIL connects to the growing ARPAnet after getting over several hardware hurdles.


George Forsythe dies of cancer. [For an article remembering George, see: http://www.siam.org/siamnews/01-98/forsythe.htm.]

Jack Herriot becomes interim chair.

Vint Cerf (1972-1976) joins the faculty.

Bob Floyd becomes chair.

Gio Wiederhold develops TODS, a time-oriented database system.


Terry Winograd joins the faculty.

SAIL PhD students Richard Paul and Bob Bolles develop WAVE, a robot programming system, and demonstrate computer controlled assembly of an automobile water pump. (WAVE was the basis for the development of VAL, the Unimate robot programming system, and the AL system which had a large influence on the development of robot programming languages.)


Vint Cerf and students and Bob Kahn (DARPA) publish the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), a key component of the internet.

Stanford's NIH-sponsored SUMEX-AIM resource, headed by Ed Feigenbaum and Joshua Lederberg, demonstrates the power of the ARPAnet for scientific collaboration.

Robert Tarjan (1974-1980) and Joe Oliger (1974-2001; deceased 2005) join the faculty.


John McCarthy and Ralph Gorin initiate a “low-overhead time-sharing system (LOTSS)” for student computing at Stanford.

Zohar Manna (1968-1972; 1975-present), Frances Yao (1975-1979), and Michael Flynn (EE/CSL, 1975-1999) join the faculty.


Ed Feigenbaum becomes chair in September. Dennis Brown is hired by Feigenbaum as assistant chair to help with administrative and committee work. Feigenbaum and Brown organize structured process for teaching of introductory courses by lecturers and create mechanisms (including “Black Tuesdays”) for measuring progress of PhD students.

Gio Wiederhold (now emeritus), Andy Yao (1976-1986), Susan Owicki (EE/CSL, 1976-1983), and Jeffrey Barth (1976-1978) join the faculty.

Several Stanford faculty and especially their students participate in the Livermore S-1 supercomputer project (Jeff Barth, Forrest Baskett, Gio Wiederhold)


John Hennessy (EE/CSL), Doug Lenat (1977-1982), David Luckham (EE/CSL, now emeritus), Brian Reid (EE/CSL, 1977-1983), and Fouad Tobagi (EE/CSL) join the faculty.

Mike Flynn appointed director of Computer Systems Laboratory and director of Computer Forum.

Don Knuth begins working on TeX, a document-typesetting program (a prototype was started in 1978).

A project using AI to exploit databases was started by Gio Wiederhold with help from Daniel Sagalowicz, Earl Sacerdoti, and Gordon Novak of SRI (1977-85).


People begin using a prototype of MetaFont, a system developed by Donald Knuth for developing fonts for use with TeX.

PhD student Hans Moravec demonstrates robot navigation in-doors and out-of-doors by the “Stanford Cart” at SAIL.

The department moves from many scattered locations to Margaret Jacks Hall in the Quad. Included in the move is the Stanford AI Lab (SAIL).

Michael Genesereth, James Clark (EE/CSL, 1979-1983), and Jeff Ullman (now emeritus) join the faculty.

Bill Miller is appointed director of the Computer Forum and also becomes the Herbert Hoover Professor of Public and Private Management in the Graduate School of Business and President and CEO of SRI International.

SAIL PhD student, Rod Brooks, develops ACRONYM, a geometric modeling and reasoning system, for use in model-based vision and model-based manipulation simulation.


Intelligenetics (later re-named Intellicorp) founded by Ed Feigenbaum, Douglas Brutlag (Biochemistry), Peter Friedland (CS PhD '80), and Larry Kedes (Medicine) concentrating on object-oriented development environments.

Keith Lantz (1980-1987) joins the faculty.

Pursuant to a commitment made in 1978, Xerox Altos computers installed throughout Margaret Jacks, with a Dover graphics printer. They introduce CS students to WYSIWYG output. Unfortunately they were delivered without the Smalltalk object-oriented programming language.

John Hennessy starts the MIPS project, to create a simple high performance RISC processor.

Work at SAIL on an experimental laser printer system controlled by a microcomputer leads to the founding of Imagen Corporation by Luis Trabb-Pardo (CS PhD ’78) and Lester Earnest (associate director of SAIL).


Gene Golub becomes chair.

David Cheriton, Vaughan Pratt (now emeritus), and Ernst Mayr (1981-1989) join the faculty.

Ken Salisbury at SAIL builds the “Stanford/JPL hand,” one of the first dextrous robot hands.

The first expert systems company, Teknowledge, is founded by a consortium of Stanford AI faculty and research staff.

Bill Yeager, working at SUMEX-AIM, is a central person in the development of the first multiple-protocol router. A version is later licensed by a Stanford start-up, Cisco Systems, in 1986.

Oussama Khatib of SAIL implements the artificial potential field method for robot route planning.


Charles Bigelow joins the faculty.

TeX is introduced by Don Knuth.

SUN Microsystems founded by Andreas Bechtolsheim (EE PhD student), Scott McNealy, Vinod Khosla, and Bill Joy. (Vaughan Pratt played a key role in software development.)

James Clark and students found Silicon Graphics, a producer of high-performance computer graphics machines.

Knowledge Systems Lab (KSL) founded by Ed Feigenbaum and Bruce Buchanan.

Bill Miller is appointed to the National Science Board.


Rodney Brooks (1983-1984) and Christos Papadimitriou (1983-19 88) join the faculty.

KSL outgrows space in Margaret Jacks Hall; moves to Welch Rd. off campus.

John Hennessy appointed director of Computer Systems Laboratory.


MIPS Computer Systems, Inc., founded by John Hennessy and others.

Cisco Systems founded by Leonard Bosack (CS MS '81, CSD Computer Facilities Director) and Sandy Lerner (Economics MS '81). [For a history of the founding, see: http://smi-web.stanford.edu/people/tcr/tcr-cisco.html.]

Chair Gene Golub begins the Tuesday CS/CSL faculty lunches to encourage informal discussions.

The MetaFont system to define character shapes is introduced by Don Knuth.

Mark Horowitz (EE/CSL), Paul Rosenbloom (1984-1989), Leonidas Guibas, and Manolis Katevenis (1984-1985) join the faculty.

The Robotics Lab (once part of SAIL) outgrows space in Margaret Jacks Hall; moves to Cedar Hall.


Nils Nilsson (now emeritus) joins the department as chair.

The department moves into the School of Engineering from the School of Humanities and Sciences. An agreement between the CS and EE departments allows faculty to transfer from one department to the other as they wish.

Tom Binford and his group in the Robotics Lab builds an omni-directional mobile robot, MOBI, and demonstrates vision-based navigation among obstacles.


David Ungar (1986-1991) joins the faculty.

An undergraduate major in computer science begins in September and establishes offices and clusters in Tresidder.


Yoav Shoham, Jean-Claude Latombe, David Dill, Andrew Goldberg (1987-1995), and Anoop Gupta (1987-1999) join the faculty.

Jean-Claude Latombe appointed director of the Robotics Lab.

An interdisciplinary program in Scientific Computing and Computational Mathematics (SCCM) is established by Gene Golub, Joe Oliger, and Joe Keller (Mathematics).

John Hennessy, Anoop Gupta, Monica Lam, and Mark Horowitz start working on creating DASH, one of the first scalable shared-memory parallel computers.


John Mitchell, Monica Lam, Rajeev Motwani, Jeffrey Eppinger (1988-1989), and Giovanni DiMicheli (EE/CSL) join the faculty.

Carolyn Tajnai appointed director of Computer Forum.

Monica Lam begins the SUIF Compiler research project.

Nils Nilsson chairs a committee to consider needs and plans for a new computer science building.

Bill Gates spends December 1 at the department to hear about CS/CSL research. At the request of Dean James Gibbons, Gates agrees to contribute the “naming gift” for a new computer science building.


Serge Plotkin joins the faculty.

Loma Prieta earthquake shakes the campus. The following recollection is from Vaughan Pratt:

“The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake brought planning [for a new building] to an abrupt halt, quite literally. It occurred during a late Tuesday afternoon building planning session in Margaret Jacks, in the meeting room adjacent to room146. At around 4:55 pm I asked why the proposed building couldn't copy the pleasing fractal shapes of the main quad more closely. One of the planners said that those shapes were too susceptible to earthquake damage. At 5:04 pm the quake struck, illustrating his point by doing considerably more damage to the quad than to the other buildings around campus.”

(Actually, the meeting was just upstairs from 146. We saw the foyer chandelier swinging as we headed downstairs to leave the building.)


Jeff Ullman becomes chair.

Eric Roberts and Marc Levoy join the faculty.

Eric Roberts appointed Associate Chair and Director of Undergraduate Studies for Computer Science (1990-2002).

Terry Winograd begins the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) program.


Richard Fikes, Oussama Khatib, and Andrew Stuart (1991-1999) join the faculty. Richard becomes the director of the KSL.


Mendel Rosenblum, Hector Garcia-Molina, and Carlo Tomasi (1992-2001) join the faculty.

Marc Levoy begins project to build a 3D fax machine (1992-1996).


Jennifer Widom joins the faculty.

Vaughan Pratt takes over chairship of planning for the Gates Building.


Yahoo! Founded by David Filo and Jerry Yang (EE/CSL PhD candidates).

Patrick Hanrahan and Mary Baker (1994-2003) join the faculty.

John Hennessy becomes chair.

Hector Garcia-Molina appointed director of Computer Systems Laboratory.

Hector Garcia-Molina and Terry Winograd begin the Digital Library Project.

John Hennessy, Mendel Rosenblum, and Mark Horowitz start work on the FLASH (Flexible Architecture for Shared Memory) multiprocessor project—spawning advances in simulation (simOS, [See http://simos.stanford.edu]), virtual machine monitors, scalable cache coherence technology, and shared memory performance monitoring.


Nick McKeown (EE/CSL) and Daphne Koller join the faculty.

The MIDAS project initiated by Jeff Ullman and Rajeev Motwani (1995-2000). The data mining group at Stanford, called MIDAS, was an informal umbrella organization, for a variety of groups that share an interest in data mining. Even though the core of MIDAS came from the InfoLab at Stanford, there were participants from the AI and Graphics groups as well as the Statistics and Linguistics departments. See: http://db.stanford.edu/midas.html Broken link

Toy Story, the first fully computer-generated movie, uses the “Renderman” shading language, whose principal designer was Pat Hanrahan.

Department begins move into the new William Gates Computer Science Building in mid-December. It is officially dedicated on January 30, 1996. (Besides Bill Gates, other major donors were: the family of Erik Jonsson, the co-founder of Texas Instruments; William Hewlett; and the Engineering School Venture Fund. Additional funds and/or equipment were donated by: the AT&T Foundation, Cisco Systems, Digital Equipment Corp., Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lockheed-Martin, Microsoft, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Pacific Gas and Electric, Rockwell, Signal Companies, Silicon Graphics, Southern California Edison, 3M Corp., Toshiba Corp., and the TRW Foundation.)

Oussama Khatib's group in the Robotics Lab builds the Stanford holonomic mobile robots, Romeo and Juliet, which are able to execute coordinated and simultaneous hand/arm manipulation and vehicle movement actions during task execution. (These robots were one of the demonstrations shown to distinguished visitors Bill Gates, William Hewlett, and David Packard during the dedication of the Gates Building.)


John Hennessy becomes Dean of the School of Engineering.

Mendel Rosenblum initiates the Disco virtual machine monitor project. [See http://www-flash.stanford.edu/Disco]


Bill Dally and Dan Boneh join the faculty.

Jean-Claude Latombe becomes chair.

Mark Horowitz becomes director of the Computer Systems Laboratory.

Oussama Khatib appointed director of Computer Forum.

First Stanford Graduate Fellowships awarded.

Bill Dally initiates the Imagine Project to develop a programmable architecture for achieving the performance of special purpose hardware for graphics and image/signal processing. [See http://cva.stanford.edu/projects/imagine/]

Bill Dally initiates the High Speed Signaling Project to develop several high speed signaling techniques for off-chip communication. [See http://cva.stanford.edu/projects/hssp/]

Eric Roberts begins the Bermuda Computing Curriculum Project to develop a computing curriculum for Bermuda public schools that uses programming as a central theme [See: http://bermuda.stanford.edu/]


Beginning of Marc Levoy’s “Digital Michelangelo Project.” [See: http://graphics.stanford.edu/projects/mich/.]

Balaji Prabhakar, Dawson Engler, and Armando Fox join the faculty.

Google founded by CS PhD students Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Bio-X program established.

Mendel Rosenblum and CS PhD students Edouard Bugnion and Scott Devine found VMware.


Kenneth Salisbury, Chris Manning, and Chris Bregler (1999-2002) join the faculty.

Hector Garcia-Molina, Terry Winograd, and Andreas Paepcke begin phase two of the Digital Library Project.

John Hennessy becomes Provost of the University.

Marc Levoy begins Digital Forma Urbis Romae Project (1999-2005). [See http://formaurbis.stanford.edu/.]

Armando Fox, Pat Hanrahan and Terry Winograd initiate the iRoom Project for interactive workspaces. [See http://iwork.stanford.edu/.]


CS/EE Professor John Hennessy becomes Stanford President.

Ronald Fedkiw and Russell Shackelford (2000-2003) join the faculty.

Hector Garcia-Molina becomes chair.

Hector Garcia-Molina appointed director of Computer Forum.

CS Department receives a multi-million dollar gift from Siebel Systems to endow five student fellowships.


Serafim Batzoglou joins the faculty.

Fouad Tobagi appointed director of Computer Forum (2001-2004).

Daphne Koller initiates the Computer Science Undergraduate Research Internship (CURIS) program whose goal is to encourage students, particularly CS undergraduates, to get involved in CS research with faculty mentors early in their careers.

Rajeev Motwani and Jennifer Widom initiate the STREAM project for reinvestigating data management and query processing in the presence of multiple, continuous, and rapid time-varying data streams. [See: http://cs.stanford.edu/research/project.php?id=118.]

Bill Dally initiates the Merrimac Streaming Supercomputer Project to develop a streaming supercomputer (SS) that is scalable from a single-chip to thousands of chips. [See http://merrimac.stanford.edu/.]

Monica Lam initiates the Collective Desktop Architecture project to develop a new computing system architecture that is secure, reliable, easy to administer, and provides ubiquitous access to users' computing environments. [See: http://suif.stanford.edu/collective/index.html.]


Christoforos Kozyrakis and Andrew Ng join the faculty.


Sebastian Thrun, Alex Aiken, and Mihalis Yannakakis (2003-2004) join the faculty.

Some CSD faculty move their offices to the Clark Center.

The department is a primary participant in the Portia project to look “comprehensively at sensitive data in a networked world.” [See: http://crypto.stanford.edu/portia/.]

Bill Dally initiates the High-Radix Router project to develop a high-performance multicomputer router employing new technologies ranging from architecture to circuit design. [See http://cva.stanford.edu/projects/router/]

Christos Kozyrakis and Kunle Olukotun start the Transactional Coherence and Consistency (TCC) project to make parallel programming practical for the masses. [See http://tcc.stanford.edu.]

Timothy Roughgarden and Scott Klemmer join the faculty.

Maggie Johnson appointed Assistant Chair for Undergraduate Education.


Bill Dally becomes chair.

AI faculty re-constitute the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. [See http://ai.stanford.edu/.]

Vladlen Koltun, Philip Levis, and David Mazieres join the faculty.

John Mitchell appointed director of Computer Forum.

The department is one of the founding departments for the interdisciplinary “d.school” component of the Hasso Plattner Institute for Design at Stanford. [See: http://www.stanford.edu/group/dschool/.]

Stanley, Stanford’s robot auto, wins the DARPA “Grand Challenge,” completing a 132-mile drive autonomously in the California/Nevada desert. [For information and videos, see: http://www.stanfordracing.com/.]

John Mitchell is the PI for Stanford’s participation in a multi-university project, called TRUST, to design, build, and operate trustworthy information systems. [See: http://trust.eecs.berkeley.edu/overview.htm.]

Andrew Ng initiates the STAIR project (Stanford Artificial Intelligence Robot). Andrew says, “[its] goal is not to engineer one robot to solve a narrowly defined task but to create a single platform to perform a wide variety of tasks.” [See: http://soe.stanford.edu/profiles/profile_infotech_ng.html.]


The Department of Computer Science turned 40 in 2005. On March 21, 2006 CS alumni, faculty, students and industrial affiliates came together to reflect on where we’ve been and discussions of where we’re headed. Prominent speakers and panelists ranged from founding faculty to founders of innovative young companies, The day was an enlightening and engaging event. The symposium was chaired by Professors Ed Feigenbaum and Hector-Garcia Molina. [See http://forum.stanford.edu/forty]

Page created --Dbrown 21:47, 20 March 2006 (PST)