SIPB was originally founded in 1969 by Bob Frankston, Gary Gut, David Burmaster, and Ed Fox. The original purpose of the board was to provide students with access to MIT's big timeshared computer systems, particularly Multics, back when computers were room-sized and cost millions of dollars. In addition to distributing computer time on Multics to students, SIPB provided a printer for text output, operated modem-based terminals in dormitories, fraternities, and the Student Center library, and maintained the Educational Calculator Service (ECS) subsystem, which allowed users to code in a BASIC-like language.
The SIPB office was originally located in 39-541. Within a year or two, it relocated to 39-200. From there it moved to 11-205. There it stayed for a while, until its move to its present location to W20-557 in the summer of 1989.
From the very very very beginning, SIPB has had meetings on Monday at 7:30. That's an international constant to which the world can synchronize. SIPB meetings have even happened with as few as 1 member showing up during winter break.
SIPB has changed in the four decades since its founding, but a look at the 1978 SIPB Office Manual reveals striking similarities:
1. What is the SIPB?
First and foremost, the Student Information Processing Board (SIPB) is a service organization whose function is to provide easy access to computer facilities at MIT, and assistance to those who use them. We provide funding from our yearly budget to members of the MIT community who would like to use a computer to assist them with a project. Such projects may be related to class work or UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) study, or may be of only personal interest. It is our job to assess the value of a given user's proposal, and to provide funding based on that evaluation.
There is, however, another side to the SIPB: we are also one of MIT's many student activites. The membership of the Board is composed entirely of MIT students (Footnote: An “associate membership” mechanism is provided for those who do not fall into this category, but are still interested in involving themselves in our activities.) No knowledge of, or interest in computers is assumed or required for membership, although the majority of members acquire a little of both in time. We generally have a very good time.
Many of SIPB's traditions date back to this time, including member drawers, Cokecomm, and Joseph Jeffrey Sipbadmin. There were also some significant differences; for example, full members were expected to provide regular office hours. There was also a carpeted wooden loft.
As computing technology has progressed (and Project Athena happened), SIPB has gone on to provide many groundbreaking services to the MIT community, such as:
Much more documentation from SIPB's history was incorporated in a term paper written in 2001 by students in an MIT science-history class.