“Nowadays, a data center is a standard facility at every university.” When Professor Hans Werner Meuer, the Data Center’s first full-time director, uttered those words, the center was not yet 15 years old. It was described as having a “key position in teaching and research” all the way back in 1973. Ten years before that, the Senate had discussed setting up a punch-card center with IBM machines to attract sought-after researchers to Mannheim, especially ones working in the field of empirical sociology, as part of the university’s expansion efforts. The annual equipment costs would have come to 100.000 deutsche mark.
The first computer that the center actually purchased was a Siemens 4004/
Over the decades, the Data Center’s focus shifted from being a research institute to being a service provider for all university members. Its services for staff and students include the learning platforms ILIAS and ecUM (which have been rolled out over the past two decades and combine numerous different services), a wide range of training courses, digital solutions for teaching, exams, and student administration, and internal communication services. The center was renamed UNIT (short for “university IT”) to more explicitly emphasize the university’s mission of “becoming one of the most modern and customer-centric IT service providers in the German university landscape,” which was announced in a press release in January 2020.
Text: Dr. Sandra Eichfelder/