3.929 support of humanities computing (53)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Sun, 14 Jan 90 22:36:40 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 929. Sunday, 14 Jan 1990.

Date: Sat, 13 Jan 90 15:07 EST
Subject: UT Austin's Funding of Humanities Computing

I cannot resist imparting a historical note about the University of Texas
at Austin and its knowledge/understanding of humanities computing.

In 1969 my doctoral program was approved to study for a Ph.D. in English
literature with a second field in Computer Science. Part of my interest
in the subject was fueled by a course I took in the Computer Science
department, "Computers in the Humanities" taught by Nell Dale, still in
the CS department there. When I began trying to use the computer (a
massive punched card input system -- long before PCs or minis were
available on campuses), I found that the Dept. of English had no account
with the Computation Center and thus no way for me to use the computer.
I had to obtain a grant from the Graduate School in order to run any
program for an English course. I also used the grant money for the
early stages of my dissertation work on collating manuscript poetry.

Later when I had left Austin and continued my work long distance from
New Orleans, I had to haul two boxes of punched cards back to Austin,
beg and borrow computer time from friends and acquaintances, and rent
computer time in New Orleans for data input. The final processing was
accomplished by using some of the funding set aside for computer
processing of D.H. Lawrence at the Humanities Research Center (now the
Harry Ransom Center for something or other). I later paid back the HRC
out of my own pocket ($100 in 1975).

I am telling this story to point out that the University of Texas at
Austin has known about humanities computing for quite a long time. They
just don't choose to endorse the discipline now any more than they did
20 years ago. By the way, I did get my degree as approved (in 1975),
but some esteemed faculty member (and I really don't remember who) vowed
that the department would never again approve a program combining
English lit. and Computer Science. To my knowledge, they have not
broken that vow.

Mary Dee Harris
2153 California St. NW
Washington, DC 20008