Then & Now: Computers on Campus

Then & Now: Computers on Campus


  • Few students had their own computers. To work at a computer, students had to go to the “computer terminals.” These were placed throughout the library and in academic buildings.
  • During exam periods computer terminals were open twenty-four hours per day.
  • Textbooks were still a large part of the academic experience and were carried by most students.
  • All notes were taken with the standard pen-to-paper method.
  • Most computer rooms in dorms were equipped with dot-matrix printers.
  • The ResNet project—which gave students access to email, the Internet, and cable TV in their dorm rooms—was launched until 1997.


  • Most students own personal computers, and many have a laptop or tablet at the ready.
  • Computers are used for everything from taking notes in class to researching a course assignment to streaming television shows and movies during study breaks.
  • Instead of having to print out assigned readings for classes, at the click of a button a document
    can appear on the screen, where notes can be taken within the margins of the text.
  • Students have the option of trading their heavy textbooks for e-books.
  • Students (and faculty and staff) may borrow computers and other technology items through LITS for up to three hours.
  • Residence halls and many academic buildings are equipped with computer rooms, and laser printers are stationed in buildings across campus.

—By Amy Yoelin ’18

1985 photo courtesy of Archives & Special Collections / 2016 photo of Leah Greenhaus ’19 by Meredith Heuer

This article appeared in the summer 2016 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.

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3 responses to “Then & Now: Computers on Campus”

  1. Danielle Guinebertiere says:

    I arrived on campus in September 85 with my portable typewriter. The seniors next door had a computer with a super loud and slow dot matrix printer. Quiet hours were modified specifically, with “no printing between midnight and 6” but they would do it anyway. My junior year I went to Wesleyan, where my roommate had one of the apple computers. Jr and sr years I borrowed a friend’s word processor — a glorified typewriter the size and shape of a toaster oven — to write my papers.

    I love the convenience factor of students having their own computers now for research and writing, but I read an article stating that note taking is more effective when done by hand rather than computer. Apparently the act of writing something down leads to better memory retention. Never mind the distraction factor — it was bad enough when all we had to resist was an hour of General Hospital! I can’t imagine having the temptation to stream any show, any time, on my laptop….but maybe today’s students are more driven and focused 😉

  2. Susan Mund '82 says:

    The IBM PC came into being when I was a student at MHC. My only exposure to computers at that time was the PASCAL course I took and programming was done on a link to a UMASS DEC computer. I disliked the experience and didn’t want to have anything to do with computers (or so I thought!). Now, I make my living working with personal computers.

  3. Lori (Macellaro) Kelman says:

    I love this! I think I hold the distinction of being the first student to have a “personal computer” on campus. In 1981 I was loaned an early DEC computer, complete with daisy wheel printer, that I kept in my dorm room in Mead Hall. This was thanks to a local computer expert and friend of MHC who worked for DEC and knew about my interest in “home computing”, something that didn’t yet exist.

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