ETHistory 1855-2005


Computer Science (INFK)

Changing Tasks

by Andreas Nef and Tobias Wildi

In the fall of 1981, 110 freshers enrolled for the new graduate program in computer science at ETH Zurich. Together with 23 students, who switched from other departments and were allowed to enter directly into the fifth semester, they were the first students of the Division of Computer Science (IIIC), the Department of Computer Science (D-INFK) of today. It was the first new division at ETH since 1935.

For the professors of computer science, a long period of struggling for acknowledgement and autonomy for their field of research came to an end. Up to then, they had already gained an international reputation for the research done so far. Their knowledge and skills had already been extensively used internally as well as from outside ETH for years.

Regarding the international development of the field, the establishment of a separate division for computer science came comparatively late; during the 1980s, therefore, ETH was often accused of having waited too long. The computer scientists at ETH, however, had been left alone for a long time and had hardly received any support for their ideas and postulations regarding a special gradutate program. Not until the late 1970s did the industry show any interest in their doings, which then rapidly turned into demands and reproaches towards the ETH.

The still quite short history of the department and its computer science curriculum is characterised by the setting up and consolidation of the educational structures. The middle-term plannings proved to be a difficult task particularly in the 1980s. A sharp increase of students during the first decade was followed by a considerable decrease of student numbers around 1990.

At the same time it was important to continue the research activities and keep the quality thereof on a high level. This was all the more challenging against the background of the international reknown already gained as well as for the new burden of educative tasks.

© 2011 ETHistory 1855-2005 | Last update: July 25, 2005 |
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