The Computer That Ran for School President

The Computer That Ran for School President


n the spring of 1975, at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a laptop ran for student-frame President.

It became the leading fringe of the technology of personal computers. The IBM 360, first launched in 1964, changed into the primary huge overhaul of IBM’s pc mainframe considering the fact that 1952. It had what changed into, on the time, terrific amounts of storage—1024 KB. It changed into the pc that had helped guys attain the moon.

It should possibly deal with pupil authorities.


The IBM 360 ran at the pinnacle of the price ticket of the Pro-Apathy Party, with Rick Horton as its first Vice President and Ray Walden as its 2d Vice President. The celebration has been formed with the aid of a collection of college students who wanted to “make the point that pupil government was unnecessary and elitist,” says Walden. (Few college students voted, and the birthday celebration that won always featured candidates from the Greek device, which voted together.) The Pro-Apathy Party planned to declare victory when—another time—only 10 percent of the student frame grew to become out on the polls.

“We additionally recommended for pencil sharpeners in every study room and a few different matters that appeared humorous at the time,” says Walden.


The leadership of the Pro-Apathy Party got here from an experimental college program called Centennial, which didn’t have regular instructions. Instead, Centennial installed faculty as fellows who proposed and authorized projects that students inside the software should take on. It turned into the mecca for coeds who wanted to stay differently and venture authority. (It has on the grounds that been close down.) Centennial students had formerly shaped a Surrealistic Light People’s Party, which promised to construct an actual 60-by using-ninety-backyard platform as a part of its platform or even attempted to levitate the campus bell tower. (There had been many less-than-completely-significantly student political parties in this period in Lincoln, together with a “Cut the Crap” party.)


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The Centennial students who fashioned the Pro-Apathy Party cautiously study the faculty’s election regulations and found that even as college students needed to publish their names for office, special names may want to seem at the poll. So whilst Horton, Walden, and the birthday party’s slate of senators all ran beneath their very own names, Brian Thompson, the apathetic presidential candidate, did now not put his own name on the poll. He had the IBM 360 run in his location.

The ploy for attention worked. Pro-Apathy marketing campaign posters featured a shot of Horton, Walden, and the IBM 360. (There had been also posters providing senatorial candidates sleeping of their chairs, and one with the party protecting up spoons, a riff on a famous cereal advert campaign.) The birthday party took the race significantly enough to argue for a slot within the debates, wherein Horton proposed strategies to reform the student government. The marketing campaign additionally made the Daily Nebraskan, the scholar newspaper: “Pro-Apathy presidential candidate is a pc,” study the headline.

The competition for student body president that 12 months become fierce. According to the Nebraskan, there had been “sufficient independents to form a football crew.” When it got here time to vote, but, the Pro-Apathy Party become demonstrated proper. Only a fragment of students stricken—around 10 percent, as typical.

The IBM 360 did no longer win the election, but it did are available in 1/3 within the huge subject, with 278 votes. “So we didn’t get to the factor of getting to deal with having a few really apathetic guy prevailing the presidency underneath the name of the mainframe,” says Walden. At least they made their point, and they had super pics to prove it.

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