Tom Rioux - Doctorate: Transportation Engineering, 1977

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Tom Rioux

I believe that I was the first PhD candidate to use the computer as a word processor to produce my dissertation in 1977.  I used the computer software Runoff on the university's DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) System 10.  It was the first computer on campus accessible to students to support uppercase and lowercase characters.  We purchased completely white 11”x17” continuous feed computer paper with sprocket holes along the sides to put in the printer and then copied it onto the 100% rag 8.5”x11” paper required at the time.  Runoff took as input a text file interspersed with commands starting with a period in the first column and produced an output file for printing.  Runoff featured automatic Table of Contents, chapter numbering, section heading and numbering, footnotes, and indexing.  My dissertation had 100 pages of pure text, 200 pages of tables and figures, and 400 pages of computer software printouts.

I believe that I was the first Ph.D. candidate allowed to use my Computer Science courses to satisfy the Foreign Language Requirement for a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering.  I knew 7 computer languages at the time.  My supervising professor Dr. Clyde E. Lee stated that since the major research in my field of computer traffic simulation within Transportation Engineering was being done in the United States, England, and Australia, it would not be of much benefit for me to learn French or Spanish.

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