The History of IT at the Church

Some discussions just don't fit into a well defined box. Use this forum to discuss general topics and issues revolving around the Church and the technology offerings we use and share.
User avatar
McDanielCA
Member
Posts: 490
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2007 3:38 pm
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

The History of IT at the Church

Postby McDanielCA » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:34 pm

Information technology is instrumental in furthering the mission of the Church. But even before the first IBM computers, members have been envisioning a future in which computers would improve essential data processes for the Church and better the lives of others.


Implementing information technology into the infrastructure of the Church came about gradually through the faith and dedication of many people.


George Y. Jarvis, head of the newly formed Financial Department in 1953, hired Alfonso Gerrit Pia to mechanize the accounting functions of the Church that same year. The Church Financial Department then became the first department of the Church to use a punch card system for accounting purposes, the direct predecessor to computing, in 1954. In the early 1960s an IBM 1401 became the Church's first computer and was also used for accounting.


In the 1950s there was also an unofficial group of men in the Los Angeles, California area working to implement technology into the Church. Gary Carlson, Kendall Wright, and Bruce Smith began creating a program that would demonstrate the possibilities of computing to the Brethren of the Church. This program was written on an IBM 709. Its purpose was to read raw christening records and then compile them into family group sheets. After that, an official call to join the Data Processing Committee came to these three men.



Throughout the late 1950s, until the 1970s this group of men actively promoted the use of technology and provided consultation about how it could most benefit the Church. Reservations about the need for and proper use of technology were the major points of discussion. Many people were not used to thinking in terms of information technology and data processing. The risk and reward associated with the investment of this undertaking was large and daunting. Because computers were so new to many organizations, many thought that the possibility of failure simply wasn't worth the risk given the unproven results. But, the perseverance of these men eventually paid off. All of them held key roles in bringing the Church into the information technology world.


In 1962 Kendall Wright was hired to determine the best ways in which to go forward with technology. He was appointed by the First Presidency to be the head of the Advanced Planning Department, the first computer department of the Church. He worked with related departments to find the data that was needed in order to explore the areas in which technology would best serve the Church.


Gary Carlson moved from California to Utah to help vitalize the computer program at BYU in 1963 and became the director of the Computer Research Center. He led efforts to develop the first computer science courses and then a computer science degree. During this time he continued to serve on the Data Processing Committee until 1977.


In 1969 Management Systems Corporation (MSC) was established, with Bruce Smith as president. It began as a Church-affiliated corporation, but became a private corporate entity within a year. Its purpose was to not only serve the Church's needs, but also to provide data processing solutions to many organizations such as hospitals, Deseret News Press, Bonneville Insurance, Deseret Book, U & I Sugar, Beneficial Life, and Hotel Utah. An IBM 360-65 was the first computer used by MSC.


In the early 1970s the Church membership records were computerized. This effort was the precursor to Member Information System (MIS) and later, Membership and Leader Services (MLS). Although the idea was embraced, the technical hurdles caused sluggishness and it became a challenging project to maintain.


MSC served the information technology needs of the Church and many other entities, until 1980. With the advent of personal computers, the lower cost of mini and mainframe computers, the loss of key accounts, and the Church's decision to execute its information technology needs in house MSC services were discontinued and many of the employees went to work for the Church. Information and Communications Systems (ICS) became the new information technology department of the Church.




The world in which we live today is blooming with technology. It can be used for ill and for good. It makes us more efficient or can hold us back. We strive to learn from those who so wholeheartedly believed that technology would benefit us as a Church. Their efforts proved the validity of their dreams and have even surpassed what anyone could then imagine. It's up to us to continue the effort as we look forward to a bright future.



Note: This information is based on documents from Church history archives.

User avatar
mkmurray
Senior Member
Posts: 3241
Joined: Tue Jan 23, 2007 9:56 pm
Location: Utah
Contact:

Postby mkmurray » Thu Jan 24, 2008 2:18 pm

I think this would make a great article posted somewhere on the LDSTech homepage (outside of these forums). Thanks for posting this!

User avatar
McDanielCA
Member
Posts: 490
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2007 3:38 pm
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Postby McDanielCA » Thu Jan 24, 2008 9:24 pm

Thanks! It is already posted though on the homepage.

pack1096-p40
New Member
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:21 am

Postby pack1096-p40 » Fri Jan 25, 2008 10:05 am

One minor correction - the first department name was Advance Planning not Advanced Planning.

This history would be more complete if it included the financial and genealogical systems that were developed in the 1970's and 1980's. These were the major work of church computing personnel.

User avatar
marianomarini
Senior Member
Posts: 594
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 3:13 am
Location: Vicenza. Italy
Contact:

Postby marianomarini » Fri Jan 25, 2008 10:39 am

Close to Head Quarter lie far small units technical history.
In Vicenza (Italy) during late years of '80, I gave to my branch a Pc with DOS and with the program, made by me, to manage financial report.
Then I updated it for windows till MLS came (2005).
Sorry to say that MLS lack some features as Bank deposit report with detail of notes and coins (requested in Italy) that was present in my software.

User avatar
Mikerowaved
Community Moderators
Posts: 3133
Joined: Sun Dec 23, 2007 12:56 am
Location: Layton, UT

Postby Mikerowaved » Sat Jan 26, 2008 5:15 am

If I recall, didn't President Kimball get heavily involved with technology? He even had a special sign made that said "DO IT". :D
So we can better help you, please edit your Profile to include your general location.

User avatar
McDanielCA
Member
Posts: 490
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2007 3:38 pm
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Postby McDanielCA » Wed Jan 30, 2008 12:17 pm

One minor correction - the first department name was Advance Planning not Advanced Planning.


Thanks for that tip. All of the documents that I read called it the Advanced Planning group. I will have to look into that.

User avatar
bhofmann-p40
Member
Posts: 272
Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2007 9:47 am
Location: Tulsa, OK
Contact:

Postby bhofmann-p40 » Thu Jan 31, 2008 7:59 am

Very interesting. Thanks.

User avatar
McDanielCA
Member
Posts: 490
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2007 3:38 pm
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Postby McDanielCA » Mon Feb 04, 2008 8:51 am

No problem. It was so fun to write!

User avatar
daddy-o-p40
Member
Posts: 237
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2007 1:22 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Postby daddy-o-p40 » Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:14 pm

Neat. When does the history since 1980 come out so we can read it too?
"What have I done for someone today?" Thomas Monson


Return to “General Discussions”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest