SCS Videotapes

SCS Alan Newell



The Computer Science Videotape Collection is an irreplaceable record of Carnegie Mellon University speakers spanning much of the formative history of the Computer Science Department and the School of Computer Science (SCS). It provides rare, direct accounts of the field as it was being created.

Captured between 1970 and 1993, these videotapes feature compelling and candid lectures, discussions and classes led by Carnegie Mellon faculty — many prior to the formation of SCS — from academic departments such as mathematics, engineering and psychology. Other speakers include computer science pioneers from peer institutions and private industry. Unique to CMU, the tapes serve as the primary record of conversations that would eventually shape nearly every aspect of modern life. Sadly, without urgent action we could lose these artifacts. Recorded on a variety of early and obsolete formats, they are rapidly deteriorating, and replaying these videos to digitize them is becoming less reliable. Inaction will result in the loss of this irreplaceable collection.


The Project

Speakers featured in the hundreds of videos in the collection include Turing Award winners Manuel Blum, Edger W. Dijkstra, Barbara Liskov, John McCarthy, Alan Perlis, Raj Reddy, Shafi Goldwasser and Ivan Sutherland, as well as other giants in the field. The tapes also provide insight into other pioneers whose contributions deserve to be better known and more widely available.

Over the past six decades, computers and the emerging field of computer science shaped the trajectory of this university and radically transformed all aspects of economic, cultural and political life as we now know it. This collection represents the true history of the evolution of the field and the profound impact Carnegie Mellon has made along the way. These are the voices of the visionaries, telling the history of computer science in their own words. This is a history we can’t afford to lose.

The Carnegie Mellon community must act quickly to preserve and digitize this vital part of our history before the tapes become too degraded to use. Primarily recorded on ½” open-reel videotape and U-Matic cassettes, much of the collection is fragile and in poor working condition. By supporting this vital preservation effort, you will ensure that Carnegie Mellon’s position as a pioneer in the formation of the computer science field is documented and that our legacy is preserved for future generations.


Works Completed

  • Thanks to donor and faculty support, we have preserved and digitized 65 videos.
  • Another 20 of the most at-risk videos will be digitized soon.
  • A selection of newly-preserved videos are available online.

Works Remaining

  • To date, we have identified approximately 325 existing videos still in need of preservation.
  • Each video costs about $250 to digitize and process. (The price varies among differing formats.)
  • Gifts made beyond this base cost will support the University Archives’ ongoing initiatives to digitize, process, preserve and make accessible the Computer Science Videotape Collection, as well as our wider collections of at-risk audiovisual materials.



It is through the remarkable generosity of our supporters that we are able to preserve this irreplaceable videotape collection. Please consider supporting our work by making a donation to the Computer Science Audiovisual Preservation Fund.

For more information, or to inquire about specific giving opportunities, please contact:



The Computer Science Videotape Collection is available for research through the University Archives and digitized examples are available online.

For more information about the collection or the project to preserve it, contact the University Archives at