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Thursday, July 14, 2011

History of Computing in India

Recently, I read Ross Bassett excellent paper titled, "Aligning India in the Cold War Era: Indian Technical Elites, the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur, and Computing in India and the United States." This paper talks about history of computing in India, and the relationship of US and Indian academicians and technical people. It was published by JHU in October 2009, and is available here.

A couple of interesting points.

On page 14, it says, "Part of the reason the Indian government sought different sponsors [for different IITs] was to introduce a variety of ideas into its engineering institutions."

It is obvious that the government of the day was very aware of the need of experiments in educational institutions. Today, most stake holders want similarity across all educational institutions. Most states have a technical university, which will force same syllabus in hundreds of colleges affiliated to it. A state like UP is trying to create common syllabus across all state universities for all programs, including BTech, BA, BCom, BSc, BEd, and so on. Everyone is being encouraged, if not forced, to admit students through a single exam.

Another interesting observation is the undergraduate institute of Computer Science professors in top 10 CS Departments of US. In 2008, the author looked at the background of all Indian professors (those who did undergraduate studies in India) in the top 10 CS departments of US. There were 38 such faculty members (almost 4 per department, that is a lot). The two IITs dominated this group - 11 from IIT Madras, and 10 from IIT Kanpur. (5 from IIT Delhi, 4 from IIT Bombay, none from any other IIT.) I guess this reflects the migration of undergraduate students to US in 80s and 90s, which was perhaps a lot more from IIT Madras and IIT Kanpur at that time.


Diwaker said...

Very interesting indeed. Do you happen to have a copy of the paper? They're charging $20 for the PDF!!

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Diwaker, I searched on google and got this

URL for the paper.

vivek singh aka vfix said...

Very interesting article.I really liked how IIT Kanpur undergrads developed India's First compiler(page 13),as they say "Necessity is mother of all inventions".

Vikram said...

That paper made for some interesting reading. It's incredible that things reached a point that professors refused to write recommendation letters for the students.

A comment from the last post mentioned IIST, Trivandrum. To my knowledge, IIST is the first IIX that has a bond system. Graduating students who do not join the funding agency (ISRO) have to pay Rs. 10 lakhs to break the bond. I wonder if things at the IITs would have been different if some kind of bond system was present there as well.

iitmsriram said...

@vikram, interesting to speculate. IIST can take such a bond since all charges including mess bills are paid for. IITs dont have this.

Vikram said...

@iitmsriram, I thought that the total expenses for a student over four years at an IIT would still be much lower than 10 lakhs, but is that not the case ?

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Vikram, the subsidy per under-graduate student in an IIT is over 10 lakhs. Depending on how you apportion costs between teaching and research, and how much of research expense should ideally come from UG students, it could be argued any where between 10-15 lakhs.

Vikram said...

Thanks Dr. Sanghi.