History

BACKGROUND

Computers were used on a large scale for the first time during the World War II for military data processing. Its non-military uses gained momentum in the post-war period. India was one of the first countries of the world to utilise the capabiliity of computers in Education, R&D, Planning and National Dvelopment. The developments during ’50s and ’60s in terms of computer resources chronicled here would testify to this trend.

Arrival of Computers in India

1950

First Analog Computer at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata

1954

First digital computer – HEC-2M developed by A.D. Booth at Birbeek College, London for ISI.

1955

HEC-2M operational at ISI in August

1958

URAL from the Soviet Union through the United Nation’s Technical Assistance for ISI.

1961

First commercial computer installed by ESSO Standard Eastern Inc., Bombay (Mumbai)

1962-1964

14 computers in R&D organisation

1963

IBM 1620 at IIT, Kanpur

1964

IBM 1401 by IBM for ISI to supplant the above two

1965

CDC 3600 acquired by TIFR, Mumbai

1965-1966

30 commercial installations

1966

IBM 7044 at IIT, Kanpur

1967

10 Honeywell Computers at Department of Statistics, Cabinet Secretariat

1968

IBM 1401 at IIT, Kanpur

1969

IBM computer at Planning Commission under a grant of Ford Foundation

Number of Computers in India as on 1 August 1974

Year

No. of Computers Installed

1961

2

1962

1

1963

2

1964

8

1965

12

1966

16

1967

22

1968

20

1969

21

1970

11

1971

33

1972

14

1973

16

1974

11

1971-’74*

28

Total

217

1971-’74* - Exact year of installations not known but installed during this period.

Source: Two Hundred and Twenty First Report of the Public Accounts Committee (1975-76) on Computerisation in Government Departments. Department of Electronics. p3,1976, Lok Sabha Secretariat, New Delhi .

Government of India Initiatives

After the war with China in 1962, the Governemnt of India realised the importance and felt the need of a strong indigenous electronics base for security and national development and accordingly set up the Electronics Commettee (also known as the Bhabha Committee) under the Chairmanship of the renowned nuclear scientist Dr. Homi J Bhabha. The Committee in its report in 1966 focussed on computers as tools “to the dvelopment of a new outlook and a new scientific culture” and suggested the establishment of a National Computer Centre and five regional centres.

The Electronics Committee convened a National Conference on Electronics in 1968 wherein Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the then Chairman of the Committee, suggested the formation of National Informatics Organisation towards fulfilling the goal of a self-reliant electronics industrey.

Recognising the need for rapid progress in this regard, the Government of India set up a separate Department of Electronics (DOE) with effect from 26th June 1970 with Professor M.G.K. Menon as the Secretary of the Department. The department functioned directly under Prime Minister as a scientific department.

The Government constituted the Electroncs Commission in February 1971 under the Chairmanship of Professor M.G.K. Menon.

For policy formulation and implementation through meaningful, effective and in-depth studies in the field of electronics including computer industry, an Information, Planning and Analysis Group (IPAG) of the Electronics Commission was constituted in October 1971 with Dr. N. Seshagiri as its Director.

The Headquarters of the Department of Electronics were at Delhi and those of the Electronics Commission at Mumbai (then Bombay ). The IPAG as part of the Electronics Commission was centred at Mumbai.

GENESIS

The Electronics Commission and the DOE put forward a proposal to UNDP for assistance to set up a National Computer Centre in Delhi for building up national data bases, developing the methodologies for utilising these, and for defining the various options and paths in decision-making at the national level. A UNDP team visited Delhi in March 1975 to study the proposal. The UNDP agreed to fund the National Informatics Centre to the extent of US $4.4 million for the purchase of a large computer system (costing approximately US $3.3 million), other hardware, training, the services of experts, etc.

The 1976-’77 Annual Report of the DOE noted:
‘In view of this, action has been taken to proceed with the preliminary work relating to the National Informatics Centre so that when UNDP financial assistance becomes available and the major hardware is commissioned (in 1978 on the basis of current information), the Centre can get on with its work on an expeditious basis. NIC is a plan project administered by the Information, Planning and Analysis Group (IPAG) of the Electronics Commission in its initial stages’.

The Advisory Council set up for the NIC in 1976-1977 had the following composition:

1.

Prof. M. G. K. Menon, Chairman, Electronics Commission

Chairman

2.

Shri M. Satyapal, Advisor (I&M), Planning Commission

Member

3.

Shri C.S. Swaminathan, Controller General of Accounts, Ministry of Finance

Member

4.

Prof. V. S. Rajamani, Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi

Member

5.

Col. A. Balasubramanian, Officer on Special Duty, Department of Electronics

Member

6.

Dr. N. Seshagiri, Director (IPAG) and Executive Director (Protem), NIC

Member





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