University of Vermont

A Brief History of Campus Wide Information Systems at UVM

A Brief History of Campus Wide Information Systems at UVM

There was a primitive Electronic mail system on the admin VM IBM system (precursor to UVMVM) as early as 1978. Originally, mail was "confined" to a particular mainframe computer: UVM VAX users could send other UVM VAX users messages, but that was as far as it went.

In September 1987, UVM joined the BITNET network. BITNET originally linked IBM "VM/370" style computers via leased telephone lines. In 1987, there were some 2000 such systems linked around the world. BITNET allowed the exchange of email and large data files between any user on any BITNET node. Early 1988 also added the VAX mainframe added to the BITNET network.

It was not until 1990 that UVM received a grant from the National Science Foundation that funded a gateway from UVM's growing campus network to the collection of wires and computers known as the Internet. In these early days, services available over these wires were little different than what was available over the BITNET wires: exchange of email and large data files.

The University of Vermont's first Campus-Wide Information System effort was born in September 1991. It was based on the Princeton News Network (PNN) — a full-screen IBM VM/CMS based system. PNN was a monolithic server in which all information components are added and updated by a central "information administrator" entity. For internal identification purposes, the UVM implementation of this system was named INFOCAT.

By late 1993, both Princeton and UVM began to migrate away from the original PNN model towards a gopher-based system. Ironically, that was about the same time that the first permanent (EMBA did have one first, but it did not stay up for very long) UVM World Wide Web (WWW) server was deployed (November 3, 1993), and was born (November 11, 1993).

With this birth, Computing and Information Technology (CIT) began to lay the foundation for a new INFOCAT. Janet Cottrell developed a design prototype for a UVM "home page" menu and several secondary pages as an official electronic 'front door' to all of our electronic information services. This UVM home page was announced to the UVM community and the world at large on December 20, 1993.

Janet continued to manage the "official" UVM web pages, which at that time comprised the bulk of our web, from November 1993 through March 1995. She retired much frustrated by the lack of institutional commitment, support, and recognition or rewards commensurate with the responsibility. Glutton for punishment, Wesley Wright took over from he in April 1995.

Since that time the gopher based INFOCAT system has languished and is all but obliterated. The UVM web has become the Campus-wide Information System for the University, providing not only static facts and figures over the internet, but dynamic mission critical data on our intranet as well. Near as I can tell the UVM "website" numbers more than 50,000 pages. This web has been built almost completely from the grass roots on up, and provides something of a mirror for the institution: nobody is really in charge of it all, nobody owns it all, nobody manages it all. Yet one way or another, we at UVM are all involved in its construction.

Back to UVM Web Futures Document

The University of Vermont

Wesley Alan Wright (

Monday, September 29, 1997


Last modified November 21 1999 10:00 PM

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