Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

December 12, 2005

Profs Listed Among Canadian Computing Pioneers

Three University of Guelph professors have been named among 90 “Pioneers of Computing” by the IBM Centers for Advanced Studies and the National Research Council.

The honour recognizes individuals who have influenced the history of computing. Prof. Dilip Banerji, Department of Computing and Information Science (CIS) and two retired colleagues — Tom Wilson and former department chair Jim Linders — were chosen based mostly on their computing science teaching and research at Canadian universities.

All three have been involved in numerous aspects of computing science, from founding university computing science departments in the 1960s and 1970s to groundbreaking research in artificial intelligence, networking and various programming languages.

“I was very surprised,” Banerji said of making the list. “I was almost humbled because among the list of honourees were some really outstanding people.” A U of G faculty member since 1983, he called for reuse in computer-aided design of microelectronics to make computer chips. At the time, chip makers routinely threw out earlier designs for microelectronic components and built new ones from scratch. He argued that it would be less costly and more efficient to reuse existing designs — an argument that met with stiff industry opposition. “Fifteen years later, everybody is doing what we proposed in designing computer chips,” he said.

Earlier Banerji worked with Bell-Northern Research (now Nortel Networks) and with AT&T Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. In 1978, he was invited back to his native India to help establish the country’s first dedicated computer science department at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

Wilson, who retired in 2005 after more than 30 years at U of G, was honoured for his involvement in curriculum and program development. “The interesting thing about being a pioneer was that they didn’t even have degrees in computing when I was an undergraduate,” he said.

He started his career at Bell Laboratories, where he helped design the first computer-controlled switching equipment, the forerunner of equipment used routinely today in telephone communications. At U of G, Wilson taught extensively and helped design numerous courses. His research involved efficient translation of programming languages and development of design automation software for use in specialized communications applications.

Linders, who retired from U of G in 2001, chaired the Department of Computing and Information Science from 1978 to 1981 and from 1996 to 2001. His career focussed on designing digital maps and related database and geographic information systems.

Working as a consultant with the Canadian government, he helped automate the process of making topographical maps, a task that had formerly occupied hundreds of drafters working on paper. He has worked in about 50 countries and also served on a technical committee to develop digital topographical maps and related information through the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Locally, he worked with the City of Guelph and Waterloo Region on systems still used to monitor municipal plants and utilities. He’s president of Waterloo-based Georef Systems Ltd., a company that makes GIS and transportation management software.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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