Purdue Knowledge System

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Mary Hopper led development of something that she informally dubbed the Purdue Knowledge System. It was an unfunded effort that was the natural culmination of two related projects that were separately sanctioned and funded by Purdue’s School of Engineering and School of Education between 1989 and 1993.

The project began in 1989 when Hopper was hired as Project Manager for an Engineering Career System for Freshman Engineering at Purdue University. That system was organized around twelve engineering disciplines and included information on specific careers, plans of study available at Purdue University (including all engineering course descriptions), as well as descriptions of key organizations and publications.

In addition, Hopper managed the successful conversion of the 5000 card HyperCard stacks into a networked version viewable on Sun workstations in Gopher, HyperNews and early versions of the World Wide Web. The system was completed and used in all Freshman Engineering courses starting in 1992.

The newly hired Dean of Education saw a demo and decided that it was only natural that Hopper should create a similar system for the School of Education. She quickly found the funding and hired Hopper to manage the creation of the Education Career System (ECS). It was organized around the education majors in the School of Education and included information on careers, plans of study (including course descriptions), as well as descriptions of organizations and publications. The system was completed and in use by the end of 1992.

The Schools of Engineering and Education which were the two largest at Purdue, by far, so after the first two systems were finished, the information in them dwarfed the information for the other schools. Combining the information from the first two systems and then adding the information for the remaining schools was actually a trivial task that begged to be undertaken. So it was started in late 1992, and it was completed by early 1993. The resulting unfunded and unsanctioned system was informally christened the Purdue Knowledge System. It included information on all of the plans of study and course descriptions at Purdue, as well as descriptions of key organizations and publications in most fields.

Finally, Hopper also managed the conversion of the HyperCard version of the system into a networked version viewable in Gopher, HyperNews and the World Wide Web. This happened to make the Purdue Knowledge System one of the earliest and largest university sites on the early Web.

Of course, when the Purdue Publications department found out about the unsanctioned initiative, they took it over and managed it afterwards. Thus the Purdue Knowledge System became Purdue’s official presence on the Web and was recognizable as such for years to come.