The formative roots of the Department of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) extend back to the late 1960’s. At that time, UH began a project to provide radio-linked satellite computers to the existing University time-shared computing system. The purpose of this project, then known as the ALOHA system, was to make the full information processing capabilities of the central computing facility on the Manoa campus available to all operating units of UH on Oahu and the neighbor Islands. Norman Abramson, the principal designer of the ALOHAnet, whose principles formed the design philosophy of the Ethernet, became the first chair of a new interdisciplinary program that awarded a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Information and Computer Sciences (the science of processing information by natural or artificial systems). Other professors in the initial Information Sciences program included W. Wesley Peterson (awarded the Japan Prize in 1999 for his work on error correcting codes, the Claude E. Shannon Award in 1981, and the IEEE Centennial Medal in 1984), David Pager, (the inventor of an early parser for computer languages), Wilbert Gersch, and Art Lew.
During the early 1970’s, the Information Sciences program became the Department of Information and Computer Sciences. In the mid 1970’s, Professor Peterson, the ICS chair from 1973 until 1984, initiated an interdisciplinary program leading to a B.S. degree in Computer Science. This program was designed to give students an understanding of computers, their operation, programming, and applications, and to provide the knowledge and skill needed for a career in the computer field.
In 1986, the ICS Department joined with three other programs, the Department (now School) of Communication in the College of Social Sciences, the Department of Decision Sciences (now Information Technology Management) in the College of Business, and School of Library and Information Studies (now the Library and Information Science program) to provide an interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree in Communication and Information Sciences (CIS). In 1994, CIS became organizationally housed in the College of Natural Sciences. In 1995, the ICS Department moved from Keller Hall to the newly constructed Pacific Ocean Sciences and Technology (POST) building. In 1998, the B.A. in ICS and the Ph.D. in Computer Science were established.
In 1997, the School of Library and Information Studies merged with the ICS Department and changed its name to the Library and Information Science (LIS) Program. The LIS Program offers a Master of Library and Information Science (MLISc) degree. A detailed history of the LIS program appears here.
Today, the ICS Department has approximately 400 students pursuing the B.S. degree and 150 students pursuing the B.A. degree. Enrollment in the B.S. degree program has grown approximately 50% over the last five years (2013-2018). In 2018-2019 academic year, the ICS Department established a Data Science track and a Security Science track as specialized certificate programs within the B.S. program. According to CSRankings.org, the ICS Department excels in the areas of high performance computing, human-computer interaction, logic and verification, databases, visualization, and architecture.