As part of a major strengthening and extension of its computing resources, Vassar purchased a Digital Equipment Corporation VAX II/780 computer, which featured a network of video terminals, messaging between terminals and a self-repair function. The substitution of 25 new terminals—in the computer center, science departments and Blodgett and Rockefeller Hall "clusters"—for the previous punch-card system made the new system, according to Keith Welch '83 in The Miscellany News, "better suited for academic use.... Beside these there are approximately 15 other micro-computers on campus which can also be hooked into the VAX, making them useable as terminals."
"A useful service of the Vax," Welch added, "is its ability to send electronic messages between terminals. If the recipient of the message is currently using the terminal, it is possible to 'phone' that person through the computer. Two-way communication is then set up through the terminals between the two locations. If the recipient is not 'on line' a message may be left for that person. The next time he uses that computer, it will inform him that he has a message. There is even a special 'GRIPE' location where complaint messages can be sent."
To accommodate the new equipment and terminal "clusters," all administrative offices in the Old Laundry Building were moved to Baldwin House or Main Building. Although there was not yet a computer science major, the main floor of the building was devoted to a computer science department with offices for faculty members in the field a terminal room and a smaller room for various micro-computers. Computer scientists Lilo De Campo, Martin Ringle, David Guichard and Nancy Ide were joined in the program by Michael Duffy and Frederic Chromey from the physics department, along with Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Vassar College Observatory Henry Albers. As acting chairman of the computer science department, Albers was assisted by Mark Resmer '85, an undergraduate British transfer student from the University of York with extensive computer training, who served as computer center manager.
"I'm very optimistic about the system," Resmer told the Misc. reporter. "It's very neat, very friendly, and I'd be glad if others who had bad experiences with the old machine would brave the new one." "The new computer," Albers added, "is for use by the entire campus."