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Appendix D The Support of Computer Use in Higher Educations A Statemen/; by E. A. Feigenbaum, Director, Stanford Computation Center Automatic high-speed computing today Winter 1966] constitutes one of the nation's most important scientific and economic resources. Modern science and modern defense systems would be impossible without computers. Computation differs from other areas of "big science" in its immeasurably greater impact, now and in the future, on our social, economic, and educational processes and institutions. In the context of East-West competition, especially on national defense considerations, the state of computer science and technology was assessed at the White House level under President Kennedy. Universities have played a major role in the development of this resource. Their ability to continue to do so is threatened by the application of certain auditing and accounting standards that in ordinary circumstances would be considered routine. At present ~ The two memoranda included in this appendix were written at Stanford Uni- versity in January or February 1966, in an attempt to explain a problem posed by a government auditing policy which greatly restricted the access of Stanford students to the Computation Center for instructional work. As of October 1967 the problem appears temporarily to be solved at Stanford University on an ex- perimental basis. However, because the problem still has no permanent solution at most of our nation's universities, the memoranda are reproduced here as a statement of the problem. Some possible solutions are discussed elsewhere from a different point of view (see reference 38 of the main text). 249
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250 A Spend ices there is no national policy toward computer education. No federal government program supports instructional uses of computers at universities. The standard auditing procedures (as relevant to the operation of a peanut factory as to a university computer center) have filled this policy vacuum. The result has been to generate an absurd situation in which an expensive computer facility sits idle and cannot be used to compute instructional jobs. The money to "buy time" to do these jobs is not available, even though the mar- ginal cost of running the student jobs is virtually zero. To run these jobs would, literally speaking, not cost anybody anything. The fa- cility is at present fully funded (primarily by recharges to federal government grants and contracts). It is the "logical" method of ac- counting for the time used that produces the absurd result. What is the story behind this situation? When any growth process is geometric, the quantities involved grow very large very fast. Com- puter technologists have been observing and warning for years that the growth in demand for information processing done with com- puters has been a geometric growth. The general rule of thumb has been a doubling every two years. This average growth rate has been observed at all levels, from the federal government taken as a whole, down to the level of the small college or small business. Recently the pace has quickened somewhat, so that the period is now about 16 months. Even the world's largest manufacturer of computers has not been able to boost its production fast enough to keep up with the growth of demand. Policy makers and planners find it hard to keep pace with a geometric growth process, since normally the parameters of the management process grow slowly and are obviously under con- trol. Thus the crisis caused by geometric growth sneaks up swiftly. In computing this has happened to the universities and to the government. Consider the Stanford case. In 1953, a small Computation Facility was established, with a small budget. As demand for computing grew, the size of the facility grew to meet it, until in 1962 (and none too early) a Computation Center of the first magnitude was estab- lished and funded. A vigorous academic Computer Science program was begun, culminating in the establishment of a Computer Science Department in 1965 that now had 111 graduate students at the Master's and PhD degree levels. Vigorous educational efforts by the Computer Science faculty, and by the faculty of many other depart- ments, were carried out. The result has been astonishing. It is esti
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A ppend ices 251 mated that currently one fourth of the Stanford community (faculty and students) are active computer users. The computer is used in virtually every phase of the university's work, in virtually every department and administrative function. In the Fall 1965 academic quarter over 1,000 students in 44 different courses used the computer in some part of their assigned homework. From September 1, 1965, to December 15, 1965, $150,000 worth of time for "unsponsored" graduate student and faculty research was allocated. The demand for "unsponsored" use during the 1965-1966 academic year has doubled since the 1964-1965 year a factor of two in one year in- stead of the usual two. These numbers are the measure of Stanford's success in computer education and computer science. But the success has brought on a crisis, since under the present audit guidelines all the "unsponsored" use must be paid for at the supportable rate. The university's budget, with its slow growth from year to year, cannot absorb the impact of a geometric growth process, at least not imme- diately, because of a natural inertia in the budget. The crises in university computing, like a man's death, came "unexpected." When computing was "small business" at universities, it received little attention from U.S. Government auditors. Because computing came to involve very large sums of money, and because of actual or presumed "irregularities" on the Dart of universities. the audit agencies reacted (some would say overreacted) by issuing tightly drawn audit guidelines, the effect of which will be to inhibit severely the future growth of computer education. A short statement on the audit policy lay Courtney S. Jones, Assistant to the Controller, Stan- ford University, is appended. Mr. Jones suggested one way out of the crisis a change in the cost-accounting policy being applied. Another possibility is a direct congressional attack on the problem by enacting legislation estab- lishing a policy toward, and appropriations for, educational uses of computers. The absurdity of the present situation is hard to communicate in a short statement like this. It is best understood in the computer room at a major university like Stanford on a Sunday afternoon, after the run of jobs has been finished, and the computer and its operator sit idle. To use it for the students' jobs would cost nothing to anyone. The seconds, minutes, hours being wasted (translated into computer activity at 250,000 operations per second) are ir- recoverable.
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252 A Statement by Courtney S. Jon es, Assistant to the Controller, Stanford University Appendixes Currently at Stanford for many hours a month the major computers are idle, and yet students and faculty who are eager to use these hours are turned away. It is reasonable to assume that a similar sit- uation to a greater or lesser extent exists at most universities. The situation is the result of a shortage of funds for nonsponsored use of the computers in combination with the effect of the costing prin- ciples required by the government for allocating computer costs. The costing principles are set forth in the Bureau of the Budget Circular Ant, paragraph J37. It is difficult, if not impossible, to attack the cost-accounting logic of the referenced paragraph that the government pay only that percentage of the costs which is its share based on hours of use. However, the result is that while the uni · · · . - versltles are providing computer services to government-sponsored research at rates significantly less than commercial rates, they are unable because of the costing mechanism to utilize without charge residual idle time for training students. Stanford, which is presently providing approximately $250,000 annually for nonsponsored users of the computers, cannot afford to increase the amount of these funds rapidly enough to meet the tremendous demand. Thus, computers are forced to be wastefully idle while this student and faculty de- mand for computer time goes unsatiated. An idle computer benefits no one, and when one considers that computers are probably idle to some extent in nearly all the universities in the nation, the amount of waste is immense. Clearly this waste is not in the national interest. It is also clear that a relatively simple remedy is at hand. The wastage could be eliminated by a government policy overruling the basic cost-accounting principle being applied, to the effect that the idle time could be used by otherwise unsponsored students and faculty. Such a policy properly implemented would result in no addi- tional cost to the government. It would result in greater instruc- tional and research benefits to the nation as the academic com- munity utilized more fully the universities' computers.
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