The Electron and the Bit: 100 Years of EECS at MIT

author: Paul L. Penfield, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: March 27, 2012,   recorded: May 2003,   views: 2766
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In many ways, MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) sits at the center of the university. Soon after the department was founded in 1903, more than 25% of all undergraduates chose to major in electrical engineering—a number that has remained much the same. Paul L. Penfield describes how EECS fostered many of the key technological innovations of the last century, from telephones and light bulbs to semiconductors and networks. He also discusses how rapid changes in technology led to the transformation of the department’s curriculum. For instance, the emergence of computer technology in the 1970s led to an identity crisis for the Electrical Engineering department, which was resolved by adding computer science requirements to the program, and to the department’s title. Penfield says engineering students will increasingly need to help ease tensions between civil society and chaotic institutions like the Internet, by addressing such issues as privacy, intellectual property and email spam.

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