Oxford has been a major centre for innovative practices in the use of IT over the years in the areas of e-learning, e-research, and technical developments. For a comprehensive history of Oxford University Computing Services see our online chronology at http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/history/. However, on a wider basis, cross the University these are just *some* of the highlights illustrating our innovative track record in IT:

Technical Infrastructure & Strategic Developments

  • 1957 Oxford sets up its first central computing laboratory and service, ordering a Ferranti Mercury (installed in 1958)
  • 1965? Oxford develops pre-compiled standard libraries for Algol 60 programs. This halved the processor time for a single Kidsgrove Algol compilation
  • 1965 St Cross College establishes remote access terminal to the Atlas Computer in Chilton using a Teletype ASR35
  • 1972 Oxford Physics connected via network to major Physics departments and CERN (using IBM JRE protocol)
  • 1975 Oxford Physics establishes 'Physics Network Workstation' (GEC2050) and also Oxford science departments submit jobs to Rutherford HEL
  • 1975? ARPANET connection established
  • 1977 OUCS designs and builds VDUs, subsequently sold to a commercial company
  • 1977 Oxford Physics becomes first site to run packet-switching protocols (X25), eventually allowing use of 'chat' facilities
  • 1979/80 Oxford purchases a Kurtzweil Data Entry Machine becoming one of the few sites in the world to pioneer OCR and text analysis
  • 1980 Gandalf service installed
  • 1981 Central VAX-2980 link hardware/software developed providing various key services; Oxford Physics installs VAX-11/780 and becomes one of the first sites to run Coloured Book Software (CBS, later replaced by TCP/IP)
  • 1982 Oxford hosts the National Academic Typesetting Service
  • 1982/3 Oxford connects to SERCnet - becoming one of the first Universities (if not the first) to start using the future JANET
  • 1984? Fibre-optic network installed
  • 1990 Computer Teaching Centre provides Image Processing Centre for the University (Gemstone Campus with a Digital microVAX as the front end)
  • 1990 FT-RELAY introduced as a national JANET services - developed and hosted at OUCS, it provided on-the-fly file transfer conversion between systems running any of internet ftp, blue-book ftp and the ISO FTAM protocol
  • 1992 Oxford produces and adopts its first University IT Strategy (revised in 1996 and 2006-7)
  • 1993 FDDI backbone introduced
  • 1993 First version of oxmails introduced allowing host-independent email addresses based on peoples name
  • 1994 Oxford sets up a security CERT team (OXCERT)
  • 1994 The University Card Database was established. For the first time, there was one place where all people connected to the University could be authorized and recorded.
  • 1995 Oxford orders its Hierarchical File Server (HFS) to store the digital intellectual assets of the University. Currently holds over 1 billion files, and nearly 240 TB of data
  • 1996 First University-wide IT Support Staff conference
  • 1997 Network Systems Management Services (NSMS) set up to provide chargeable server management services.
  • 2000 Gigabit ethernet backbone network introduced
  • 2002 Oxford begins to fully deploy WebAuth and Kerberos solutions
  • 2003 Anti-spam and anti-virus measures introduced on oxmails
  • 2004 Oxford Library Services announces its participation in the Google mass digitization programme - Google will digitise the Library's 19th century printed collection
  • 2004 NSMS starts new services based on processor virtualisation technology using the VMware ESX operating system
  • 2005 Backbone network enhanced to run at 10 Gbps
  • 2005-7 Oxford conducts a major exercise to establish a University ICT Strategy.
  • 2006 Self registration web pages use webauth to allow users to manage accounts themselves.
  • 2006 Oxford begins work on a major project to create an Enhanced Computing Environment for desktops.
  • 2007 NSMS starts prototyping storage virtualisation with a new service providing virtual servers for rent.
  • 2007 Office for Director of IT established.
  • 2009 Oxford launches ground-breaking open source Mobile Oxford application (m.ox.ac.uk). This wins the UCISA national award for excellence in 2011.
  • 2010-11 New Shared Data Centre built (OMPI building)

E-learning

  • 1973 OUCS establishes a Humanities Computing Centre
  • 1974 OUCS set up a Teaching Officer's post to "introduce the use of computers to non-scientific students and staff"
  • 1983 Oxford establishes a Computer Teaching Centre to provide free IT training for the University (later to become part of OUCS in 1991)
  • 1988 Centre for Humanities Computing set up at OUCS to provide facilities for humanities academics to use IT in their teaching/research
  • 1988-1990 Oxford involved in several Computers in Teaching Initiative projects to develop e-learning packages
  • 1991 OUCS hosts the national Computers in Teaching Initiative Centre (Textual Studies and main support office) to encourage the use of IT in teaching across the whole of the UK in selected disciplines (ran for 10 years)
  • 1991 OUCS hosts HUMBUL, an online bulletin board for information on humanities computing projects (now part of the Intute service)
  • 1992 Information Technology Training Initiative - OUCS develops two hypertext based projects
  • 1993 OUCS mounts the world's first web-based tutorial for teaching literature ('Break of Day in the Trenches' January 2003)
  • 1995 OUCS establishes the Humanities Computing Unit (ran until 2002)
  • 1996 Continuing Education establish the Technology Assisted Lifelong Learning - one of the first e-learning units in the UK to specifically address the design and delivery of online courses for part-time students
  • 1996-1998 OUCS hosts the award-winning 'Virtual Seminars for Teaching Literature' project which has been the benchmark for online tutorials and digitization projects
  • 1998 OUCS establishes the Academic Computing Development Team to work alongside lecturers to build e-learning or e-research tools (to date has complete nearly 50 projects)
  • 1998 Department for Continuing Education launches the Oxford-Intel initiative (led also to the Intel Teach to the Future Project)
  • 2001 Oxford launches its annual Digital Video Competition in collaboration with ProQuest
  • 2001 Educational Studies and ComLab develop Kar2ouche with Immersive Education, a scripting system for schools and FE
  • 2001 Oxford's English Faculty offers a course in Hypertext and Publishing requiring the students to submit a web-site as an assessed piece of work
  • 2001 OUCS establishes the Learning Technologies Group to support e-learning throughout the University
  • 2003 OUCS launches WebLearn - the University's VLE, using the OpenSource tool Bodington. Becomes one of the leading sites in open source and open standard VLE development
  • 2009 Following a migration from Bodington, Oxford becomes the first enterprise-wide user of Sakai VLE in the UK.
  • 2004 Medical Sciences begin examining some courses purely online (Principles of Clinical Anatomy; First BM and Second BM in 2006)
  • 2004 Exploration begins into mobile blogging via the RAMBLE project (OUCS, Department of Chemistry, Medical Sciences Division)
  • 2005 Educational Studies and OUCS launch a new 'Masters in E-learning'
  • 2005 Bodington (WebLearn) becomes first VLE to provide Shibboleth SP and IdP
  • 2005 Oxford joins Cambridge, Hull, and UHI to form Tetra - a collaborative venture to develop the SAKAI VLE system
  • 2006 ASPIRE launched - an open source PDP tool for graduates (Careers service and OUCS)
  • 2007 Oxford puts its first podcasts of lectures into Apple's iTunes Music Store (March, 'Medieval English Literature' lecture series; May, Admissions Office advice for applying and studying at Oxford)
  • 2007 Oxford begins exploration of immersive education by purchasing an island in SecondLife
  • 2006-2008 Oxford runs major project with English Faculty that pushes forward moves in the field of community collections.
  • 2010 Oxford becomes one of the first Universities to make ebooks available within iTunes U, supplementing a Shakespearian course by Dr Emma Smith.
  • 2010 Oxford becomes one of the first UK universities to make large quantities of teaching materials available as open educational resources under a Creative Commons licence.
  • 2010 Downloads from Oxford's iTunesU area exceeds 2 million.
  • 2011 Downloads from Oxford's iTunesU area exceeds 4 million.

E-research

  • 1965 Research into computer techniques for the analysis of Shakespearian texts
  • 1970 Department of Atmospheric Physics sets up a high speed data link to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to receive data from experiment on NASA's Nimbus 4 satellite. Data was processed on a dedicated PDP8 computer and provided near real-time maps of the temperature structure of the stratosphere. This became the largest PDP8 installation in the country with floating point hardware, 4 disk drives, 2 tape drives, 3 communication links, 2 line printers and 2 graph plotters. It went on to process data from subsequent experiments on Nimbus 5 and Nimbus 6. It was replaced in 1977 by a PDP11-70 and then in 1990 by a VAX.
  • 1972 Lexicon of Greek Personal Names project begins, employs text analysis and databse to store and analyse data
  • 1976 The Oxford Text Archive established at OUCS to collect digitally created texts (hosting an Arts and Humanities Data Service centre from 1996)
  • 1978 OUCS developed the Oxford Concordance Program (OCP) for desktop computer analysis of texts
  • 1979 Beazley Archive begins to create a large textbase of information recording information of Athenian vases; in 1987 the Ashmolean commissions a report to look at CD-ROM storage for digital objects (applied to the Beazley Archive); in 1992 joins the RAMA project and begins digitising images of its collections
  • 1987 Oxford a founding member of the Text Encoding Initiative, an international consortium for electronic text encoding and interchange
  • 1991 OUCS leads the development of the British National Corpus (BNC), a 100 million word collection of samples of written and spoken British English, on behalf of the BNC consortium
  • 1992 Oxford begins digitization of some of its rare collections, becoming one of the world's pioneers in digital imaging
  • 1995 Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents founded, begins pioneering work on digital image processing of artefacts
  • 1996 Oxford performs a major scoping study of its collections with an aim to digitizing them, leading to the formation of the Oxford Digital Library
  • 1996 Oxford Text Archive is one of the founding centres of the Arts and Humanities Data Service, providing a national support centre for the creation and use of electronic resources in literary and linguistic subject areas
  • 2000-2001 Oxford becomes part of a major project on Climate Prediction (to become ClimatePrediction.net)
  • 2001 Oxford announces the establishment of the Oxford Internet Institute
  • 2001 Oxford establishes the e-Science Centre - a collaboration between OUCS and OUCL
  • 2002 Oxford launches e-Diamond - a grid computing project to pool and distribute information on breast cancer treatment
  • 2003 OUCS wins funding for the Digital Certificates in a Complex Environment project (until 2005)
  • 2003 OUCS wins funding to host the national Open Source Software advisory service (OSS Watch)
  • 2003 Oxford wins funding to host a compute cluster of the National Grid Service
  • 2004 Work commences on developing a campus grid for Oxford University, utilising spare computing power in existing clusters and desktop machines
  • 2004 Oxford wins funding for two Virtual Research Environment projects and participates in a third (collaborative projects between OUCS and Divisions)
  • 2004 OUCS wins funding for projects to investigate shibboleth as the next generation access management protocol (leading the ESP-Grid and SPIE projects, participating in the Guanxi project -- ran until 2006)
  • 2004 OUCS receives funding from the Andrew Mellon Foundation to develop Xaira, an open source general purpose XML search engine of use to any large electronic text project, e.g. corpus linguistics (until 2005)
  • 2005 Oxford becomes a founding member of CancerGrid, employing grid technologies to cancer informatics
  • 2005 Oxford becomes part of the NeuroGrid consortium - a collaboration between clinical, imaging and e-scientists to create a Grid-based network of neuroimaging centres and a neuroimaging tool-kit
  • 2007 OUCS wins funding for the e-Infrastructure Use Cases and Service Usage Models (eIUS) project, in collaboration with the OeRC and NCeSS (Manchester)
  • 2007 The Oxford e-Research Centre is launched by the VC
  • 2007 Oxford becomes part of GIMI initiative (Generic Infrastructure for Medical Informatics)

Other Things To Note

  • 1928-1931 Dorothy Hodgkin studies Chemistry at Oxford (Somerville), returns in 1934 as Research Fellow (Professor in 1960)
  • 1953-1957 Tony Hoare studies Classics and Statistics at Oxford (Merton), returns in 1977 to lead the Programming Research Group
  • 1973-1976 Tim Berners-Lee studies Physics at Oxford (Queen's College)