Dan Atkins' Symposium
Witness to the computer revolution
by Patrick Dunn
"I guess my revelation was that I would never have to decide what I wanted to be if I went into computers," Dan Atkins says. As an undergrad at Bucknell University in the early sixties, he worked with a computer called the Burroughs E101. "You actually programmed it with little pins, almost like doing a Lite Brite puzzle," he recalls. He went on to become one of the first Americans to earn a PhD in computer science, designed systems for the Mayo Clinic and others, and joined the U-M faculty in 1972.
Atkins' academic work has ranged from computer architecture to developing early computer networking frameworks to studying libraries' transition into the digital world. He also put in time as an administrator--he was dean of engineering from 1987 to 1992, then the first dean of the School of Information as it made the transition from library science. All the while, "the raw capacity of technology has improved exponentially," says Atkins, who'll be honored by a symposium at the Michigan Theater on October 8 (see Events). "I'm still amazed at the pace of technology and the variety of things that it enables people in society to do--both the good and the bad."
[Originally published in October, 2012.]