Smith Celebrates 50-Year Career in IT

Various buildings have housed campus IT servers and data-processing devices during Charles Smith's time on staff with the most recent being the Administrative Services Building.
Jennifer Brown

Various buildings have housed campus IT servers and data-processing devices during Charles Smith's time on staff with the most recent being the Administrative Services Building.

Imagine starting a career in Information Technology Services before the internet. Before email. Before Google. This is the story of Charles Smith, a systems analyst at the University of Arkansas who recently celebrated 50 years on staff.

Smith's first day was Aug. 18, 1968, just one day after his initial job interview. 

"I was looking for a job after returning to Fayetteville from technical school. My family recommended checking with the university to see if they had any openings, and they did. I was offered a job in data processing and asked to start the next day. I've been here ever since," said Smith.

Smith's first office computer was an IBM 1460. This data processing system, the width of a standard desk, came without a monitor and offered a "faster" solution for entering information on punch cards, including student grades, business invoices and admit-to-class cards. Data could then be sorted and used for campus reports. Although this computer lacked the capabilities that modern computers have today, it was a step in the right direction for advancing technology on the U of A campus. 

Spend time talking with this seasoned staff member and you will uncover stories of IT innovation and increased efficiency. However, the true secret of Smith's longevity stems from a commitment to life-long learning. "You can't quit learning, or you better get out of this business," Smith said.

In an era where nearly every device has a Wi-Fi connection, it is hard to imagine working in IT without being able to "Google" a solution. For the first part of Smith's career, though, research was not quite as simple.

"If I wanted to know how a device worked I had to read the manual that came with it. If the machine didn't have a one, I had to go find it at the library or call and ask IBM to mail one," Smith said. "Today, I can research problems from my computer." For those who might be interested, a searchable PDF version of the IBM 1460 system operation manual is still available with a quick online search.

From his first-floor office in Administrative Services Building, Smith ensures that programs like BASIS and UAConnect work efficiently day after day. Smith, along with 20 additional staff members of IT Services were honored during a staff appreciation banquet in October.

"Thank you, Charles, for 50 years of dedicated service! Much of that time has been in support of our campus administration and student information systems," said Randy Putt, associate chief information officer for IT Services. "Charles has done a great job as a member of our production control team. He has a great attitude and is always willing to go the extra mile to help in any way he can."

View a complete list of university and IT Services staff who were recognized for their years of service.
 

Contacts

Jennifer C. Brown, communication strategist
University Information Technology Services
479-387-3849, jennb@uark.edu

Chris Butler, director of communications
Information Technology Services
479-575-2901, chrisb@uark.edu

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