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From Alcoa to Anacom - Pittsburgh

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has for some decades successfully striven to outgrow its reputation as the dirty, hard-edged, industrial-era steel- and aluminum-making capital of the world (companies headquartered there include U.S. Steel and Alcoa). In recent years it has been routinely cited as one of America's cleanest and most livable cities, and it is an excellent tourist destination for any traveler. The computer specialist on a busman's holiday will know that part of Pittsburgh's success has been a shift to a high-tech economy, fueled in part by research at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and at various spinoffs it has engendered. CMU's Department of Computer Science, one of the first in the world, was founded in 1965. Not to be outdone, in 1967 its nearby rival, the University of Pittsburgh ("Pitt"), started to offer a master's degree in computer science. In 1979 CMU upped the ante when, again ahead of its time, it established the Robotics Institute, and the Computer Science Department became the first in the world to offer a PhD in robotics. CMU had also become a leading center for artificial intelligence research. Pitt responded by being named one of the National Science Foundation's five supercomputing centers in 1986. The important developments that have come out of both schools are well known. As a result, by 1999 the Wall Street Journal could dub Pittsburgh "Roboburgh." As a computer-tourist, you are well-advised to visit both of these scenic and historic universities, which, in addition to their computer history, offer a range of museums, galleries, libraries, and historical and architectural attractions. However, you should also realize that the history of high tech in Pittsburgh significantly predates 1965.

Published in:

Annals of the History of Computing, IEEE  (Volume:30 ,  Issue: 2 )