Unless the Harvard bureaucracy gets in its way, a complex system of cables designed to transmit and receive television signals throughout the University will probably be ready for next fall.
The Harvard Information Transfer System (HITS) could function as a two-way closed circuit television system capable of carrying ten channels of video information and two channels of digital information to television monitors at Harvard. Potentially, the transmissions could serve academic, cultural, political and special interest groups.
The system, which has been in limited use since its installation in 1965, will technically be open for more widespread use next year. However, no administrative procedures to give access to HITS have been developed, nor are any being considered.
According to Alfred Pandiscio, Assistant Director for Communications Sources in Harvard's Office of Information Technology, the future of HITS depends "on the results of tests it is now undergoing. It still has great potential-we're not clear how much. The thing we're trying to find out is how much it would cost to achieve that potential."
The system, which was installed six years ago at a cost of over $120,000 and with a maintenance cost of over $600 a month, has been largely unused since its installation, and was never used during its first three years. Recently, HITS has been used for instruction with computers in Nat Sci 110, "Automatic Computing."
According to Pandiscio, the system has been neglected simply because so few people know about it. "I don't think the failure to use HITS can be attributed to anybody," he said.
But if administrative neglect is a cause of the lack of interest and lack of use of HITS, the Harvard administration will have to change its policy of refusing to consider applications for access to the system. According to John E. Bishop, a member of the Dean's Committee on Information Technology which administers HITS, the University has not acted upon petitions for access to HITS because "we're in an interim stage and it is too early to determine access procedures." Although the system will technically be available for more widespread use next fall, the committee has no plans to change its policy,
Exactly how the system can be best used will be determined partly by the results of Pandiscio's experiments and partly by the amount of money available.
HITS has 12 channels-ten for transmitting video and two for digital data-which can relay information various places throughout the University. Potentially, HITS could transmit and receive from countless out-lets throughout the University.
It can be hooked up with a microwave transmission system at M.I.T., with WGBH, and potentially with a larger Boston-Cambridge community antenna television system. Community events could be televised live. Visual study projects, lectures, seminars and films could be taped and transmitted.
Special interest groups could use HITS to convey information through a medium that is much more effective than leafleting or bullhorns. And with 12 channels running 24 hours aday, there would be more than enough room for a wide variety of groups to have airtime.
Because of cost alone, not everything that can be done with the system will materialize. But it is clear that the system is not being used to more than a small fraction of its capacity-even as it now stands. Transmission and reception points have been in operating order with little use at Larsen Hall, Pierce Hall, and the Computation Labs.
According to Pandiscio, nine or ten other reception points could be installed at a cost in the neighborhood of $1000 to $2000 per installation. It appears that Harvard, if it expects to get any use out of its original $120,000 investment, will have to put up more money.
Pandiscio also said that the University is considering adding a microwave broadcasting system to supplement the cable system. He said that such a decision would not be made for at least a year, however.