Since its foundation, the Department has repeatedly moved into a new building - possibly designed to fit its requirements in kind if not in size - and then outgrown it. It has then set up outposts around the University site, at some cost through inconvenience. It has then been granted a new building possibly designed to fit its requirements in kind if not in size - with minimal thought to further expansion.
1. Old X/A and X/B Blocks
In 1966, the Flowers Report gave a strong hint - backed up by money conditional upon taking the hint - about what a 'Computation' building should be like, in terms of the accommodation for people and machines, and for users of the service, that were required. (In those days, 'the computer' did not come to the people: the people came to the computer.)
Our initial accommodation consisted of two 'Clasp' blocks, either side of the footpath that runs up the hill from Vanbrugh to the Library bridge. The Vanbrugh College buildings were then two or three years old, the Library a year older, and the Library bridge a year older than that. The 'Student Services' building, now just north of Vanbrugh, was not built until some twenty years later, and the present Environment building ten years after that. It is not known why the Computation buildings straddled the footpath. It was inconvenient, and brought no discernible benefit.
X/A block was a single-storey building consisting of a small lecture room, a reading room (called the 'library' but containing no books), a small staff common room that was also used for staff meetings and the first meetings of the Board of Studies, a Director's room with secretarial office en suite, and seven staff offices. X/A block was eventually demolished to make way for the Market Square building, and was where Costcutters now is.
X/B block was a single-storey building consisting principally of an air-conditioned computer room with a high ceiling. It also contained a card-punch room, a rest room for the computer and card-punch operators, and a room near the door equipped with pigeon-holes where users from around the University would come and go to deposit and collect their 'jobs' that were dealt with by batch processing.
In X/A block, David Burnett-Hall occupied the Director's room. There was just one secretary to handle all the activities of the entire Department. Of the seven staff offices, four were occupied by academic staff - two lecturers and two (permanent) fellows - and one by the Computer Manager, Peter Roberts. Of the remaining two, one was occupied by David Hardcastle, the University's Data Processing Officer. He was a member of the Bursar's Department (now the Finance and Facilities Management departments), and was responsible for all those operations of the University administration that had been computerised: that meant, money, but not yet students: no one in the Registrar's Department had yet seen a computer. The final office was called the 'Calculator Room' and contained three electromechanical calculators: donated, for general use, by science departments who had no further use for them. It was the end of an era.
1.1 Our complete occupation of X/A block
Gradual expansion of the Department resulted in David Hardcastle moving to Heslington Hall, and the electromechanical calculators going to a rest home, to make way for new staff: Ian Wand and Colin Tully. Ian Pyle arrived as our first Professor and became Head of Department. David Burnett-Hall, as Reader, took over the common room as his office. The department library, which was larger, became also our common room and meeting room.
1.2 Our temporary accommodation in Langwith
Our first two research students, Steve Bostock and John Jones (1973-1977), required somewhere to sit, and so took over an office in Langwith D block.
1.3 Our first temporary accommodation in Wentworth
In 1975, John Willmott moved, with his research group, into converted residential accommodation in Wentworth C block. Colin Tully also moved there before moving to Physics . . .
1.4 Our temporary accommodation in Physics
The successor to the Flowers Committee was the Computer Board for England and Wales, a quango that ensured that universities spent some money on what had become called computer centres, and gave them the money to enable that to happen. In 1974, the Computer Board announced that a number of university computer centres were to have extensions built. York was one of them. The plan was to extend X/B block northwards. That did indeed happen - it is still there, and you can go and look at - but, at a late stage in the design there was a sterling crisis and one metre was sliced out of each of the extensions due to be built in England (though not, for electoral reasons, those in Wales). To enable these building works to take place, the Computing Service (as it had by then become - now IT Services) moved its staff into some X/A block offices, with its punch card room moving into our small lecture room.
In 1975, to make room, three lecturers (Bill Freeman, Colin Tully and Bill Freeman) moved offices into temporary accommodation in the Physics building. We were able to have a medium-sized room for a group of research students and research assistants, and also a larger room as our first proper research laboratory - it contained a DEC PDP-11 for general-purpose software research (the result of a grant obtained by Ian Wand and Ian Pyle) and a GT40 vector graphics computer, as well as the nucleus of our present hardware workshops and research areas.
When the building of the Computing Service building was complete, we were able to take over the older, southern, part of X/B block and move our research laboratories into the old Service computer room. Our academic staff offices also came back from Physics, some back into X/A block, and others elsewhere.
Verbatim from the Computer Science Students' Handbook for 1976: The new building to house the DECsystem-10 computer, having been delayed by the government cuts before those before last, will not be ready until April. At that point, the DECsystem-10 will be moved to the new computer room and the old computer room will become the Computer Science Research Laboratory. The card punches and terminals will move to their new home, allowing the Computer Science Lecture Room to be just that again; and the Computer Science Departmental Library will be relieved of the Computing Advisory Service and such like.
1.5 Our temporary accommodation in Chemistry
In 1980, Ian Wand moved his research group into temporary accommodation in the Chemistry buildings (C/D block), where a 'server room' as we would now call it (but didn't then) was established, containing a large VAX-11 system. He was then joined by the newly-appointed Keith Mander. In 1982, they all (except the VAX-11) moved across to C/A block, as a result of a serious fire in Chemistry. (No, not us.)
1.6 Our temporary accommodation in Language
Even that was not enough. We needed several new offices. The Department of Language and Linguistics needed a few. So their building (Z building) acquired a new extension (Z/A block) in which we occupied a new departmental office, a new professorial suite, a seminar/meeting room, and about six new academic staff offices. (Z/A now contains the University's Careers Service; the main Z building was overbuilt by the Berrick Saul Building.)
Most of X/A block was converted into hardware and software teaching labs, hardware workshops, a Chief Technician's room (Peter Cooper), and store rooms.
1.7 Our temporary teaching accommodation in Vanbrugh
The number of undergraduate computer terminals had to increase significantly, and we needed somewhere to put them. Also, we needed a new name for where they were put. 'Computer room' was out: for one thing, these were just dumb lines-of-text screens, even if they did have direct cursor addressing; no images; a keyboard, yes, but no mouse. For another, 'computer room' meant then what we now call a 'server room'. One alternative was 'terminal room', but that seemed a bit extreme.
We settled on 'software teaching laboratory' (software lab, for short). So one of these remained in X/A001 (the old lecture room, long ago, of the Department of 'Computation'), and we also had a new one in V/044 (later to move to V/058, which was bigger).
That is how we were - in X/A and the original part of X/B block, in Z/A block, in Chemistry and in Vanbrugh - when we were planning a whole new building: X/D block.
1.8 A Snapshot: 1984
Future historians, trying to track research groups, etc., may be interested in the fact that the Student's Handbook of 1984 records locations before and after the intended move 'due in March 1985'. If you have ever tried to work out what happened before what, you will know what I mean. (Telephone numbers and precise room numbers have been omitted, to save you and me pain. Also, all occurrences of 'Ms', etc., have been omitted.)
|Before||After||Member of Staff or Research Student|
|Z/A||X/D||Benest, Dr I.D.|
|Z/A||X/D||Briggs, Dr J.S.|
|C/D||X/D||Harrison, Dr M.D.|
|C/D||X/D||Lister, Prof A.M. (visiting)|
|C/A||X/D||Mander, Dr K.C.|
|X/B||X/B||Pyle, Prof I.C.|
|C/A||X/D||Runciman, Dr C.|
|Z/A||X/D||Thimbleby, Dr H.W.|
|C/A||X/D||Wand, Prof I.C.|
|C/D||X/D||Wellings, Dr A.J.|
|Z/A||X/D||Whittington, Dr R.P.|
|Z/A||X/D||Willmott, Dr A.J.|
|X/B||X/B||Computer [server] room|
|X/A||X/A||Technicians' common room|
|C/A||X/D||Ada research project|
|C/D||X/D||Aspect research project|
|P/S||P/S||Control systems research lab|
|X/A||X/D||X25 research project|
|X/A||X/D||1st-year HW teaching lab|
|X/A||X/D||2nd-year HW teaching lab|
|X/A||X/D||Real-time teaching lab|
|V/-||V/-||Software teaching lab|
|X/A||Software teaching lab|
2. Old X/D Block
In 1985, we were given a new building. This was the first building designed for our purposes. Previously, we had expanded into existing but converted accommodation; or accommodation that, even if newly built, was intended as temporary housing for only part of the Department.
Into X/D block, there moved: Ian Benest, Jim Briggs, David Burnett-Hall, Bill Freeman, Michael Harrison, Keith Mander, Gary Morgan, Colin Runciman, Harold Thimbleby, Colin Tully, Ian Wand, Andy Wellings, Dick Whittington and John Willmott. (John Willmott also retained, for some time before and after this move, an experimental control systems laboratory in Physics P/S021.) Ian Pyle, still occupying a Chair in the Department, remained in the Computing Service building X/B.
In X/B055, the old 'Computation' computer room, we had a computer room attended to by Anne Benninger, a member of our hardware support staff: this housed hands-on research computers and also the servers for the undergraduate software laboratories. Our other hardware support staff (Rick Pack, Peter Cooper, Gurmit Singh and Vivienne Wilson) remained in X/A; while software support staff (Charles Forsyth, David Snowden and John Murdie) moved into X/D. Valerie Fry - now Atkinson - led the administrative team (Angela Fairclough and Jenny Turner) also in X/D.
X/D block could not hold the whole of the Department, just most of it, but it did provide us with a nucleus: central administrative offices; fifteen academic staff offices with adjacent space for research students, staff and equipment; offices for software support; a library; a reasonable common room; and new hardware teaching labs for first and second years. That meant that the hardware teaching labs were, for the first time, very well housed: but the software teaching labs remained in X/A001 and V/044: adequate, but only just, and they remained only adequate until our later move into CS building. (The problem was that you could put software labs just about anywhere, on the end of pieces of wire; but you could not do that with hardware labs: you either had them near essential services or did not have them at all.)
[The compiler felt more detail could be added here.]
2.1 Our temporary research accommodation in Vanbrugh
Further pressure on staff and research space entailed an expansion into converted residential accommodation in Vanbrugh: V/X block. (This block has since been truncated to allow for the construction of the Information Centre in Market Square, and given the new name 'Grimston House'.)
Two groups moved into V/X: an AI group; and also a new Management group. The former included Fiona Polack. The latter was led by Alan Sanders, who held a joint appointment between us and Electronics.
2.2 Our temporary accommodatuion in X/D block car park
In 19xx, a two-storey Portakabin building was erected in X/D block car park, to house the High-Integrity Systems Engineering (HISE) group, led by John McDermid.
2.3 Our second temporary accommodation in Wentworth
Late in 1995, the establishment of MSc Safety-Critical Systems Engineering meant that further staff/research/teaching accommodation was required. So, the Department expanded into a part of Wentworth College which had just been vacated by the Department of Psychology (which had just moved into a large new building near what is now James College). This new venture was to provide one-week modules for a taught MSc programme designed to attract students mainly seconded for short periods (a week or two) from industry.
The accommodation consisted of a lecture room, three staff offices, a support office and a staff common room. This continued to be used by the Department - with the addition of another MSc programme, in Software Engineering - until the move into CS Building.
2.4 Our temporary accommodation in X/E block
In between Vanbrugh College and what is now IT Services lies a single-storey building, adjacent to the covered way, and now used for Student Services.
That was where the High Integrity Systems Engineering group expanded into, from X/D block. This group included John McDermid, Jim Briggs,
This building was designed specifically for the Department's expansion, and we were involved in the process. After the design was costed, but before construction went to tender, it became apparent that it would come in under budget. We asked if the two sides (with offices) could be pulled apart by one metre, giving a larger central research area. That was done within the budget, and that was the way it was built. Could such a thing happen now?
3. CS Building, next to the Library
By the year 19XX, we were divided among nine distinct locations around the University site. We were all brought together for the first time - if not for long - in the 'CS' building. (The University had to be persuaded to release the designation 'CS' from the Cricket Store on 22 acres playing field; and, no, that is not a joke.)
[The compiler felt more detail could be added here.]
4. CSE Building, at Heslington East
In 2010, we moved into a new building, once again designed to suit our requirements; and, once again, designed to hold all the Department. Actually, not all of it: intentionally, those members with a 'interdisciplinary' bent were located in the Ron Cook Hub: a multi-purpose building just across the path. By the time we moved in, this had been supplemented by robotics research laboratory just around the corner.
What we mainly moved into was CSE building: officially Computer Science East, but colloqually and usefully known Computer Science and Engineering building.
[The compiler felt more detail could be added here.]
4.1 Our accommodation in the Ron Cooke Hub
[The compiler felt more detail could be added here.]
4.2 Our robotics lab building at Heslington East
Even before we moved in, we had expanded. Next to CSE building lies TFTB building, which houses the Department's robotics lab ('Rob Lab'). This purpose-built lab houses a workshop, a public viewing gallery and a 90-square-metre arena for robotic experiments.
Jon Timmis has provided the following details. 'The robot lab supports research into autonomous robotic systems ranging from individual and swarm land-based robots to underwater swarm robotics. The lab is owned by the Non-Standard Computation (NSC) group but supports activities across a range of groups within the Department and the York Centre for Complex Systems Analysis (YCCSA). Undergraduates and masters students also have access to the lab to support project work in the area of robotics, and in the medium term a new MSc in Autonomous Robotics is planned between the departments of Computer Science and Electronics. The lab houses suitable infrastructure for the support of robotic experiments, and a range of land-based swarm robots, 2 larger land-based robots (one suitable for outside use), 2 quad-rotor flying robots, a 6-rotor flying robot and a water tank for underwater robotics work.'