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Carolina web site losing a `master'


Use the term "webmaster" 32 years ago and folks would have wondered what you were talking about.

King of the spiders? A Golden Glover at first base?

Today at Carolina, when folks think webmaster, they think Judy Hallman, the woman who's been behind the links of the campus web site since 1994.

And after a 32-year career that spanned mainframe computers to World Wide Web URLs, Hallman is giving up her seat as one of Carolina's most plugged-in people. She will retire March 1.

She has filled many information technology positions over the years, including manager of user services in the days of the IBM mainframe and manager of campuswide information systems from 1989 to 1992.

From running the mainframe help desk in the late 1960s to taking 962-HELP calls today, Hallman has been a patient voice guiding befuddled computer users through questions ranging from the intricacies of FORTRAN to difficulties with ResNet connections.

"Judy has been a key player in the development of the University's information technology services," said Jeanne Smythe, director of computing policy at Academic Technology and Networks. "I'm in awe of the range of things she's done."

Through it all, she has served as the "public face for information technology projects," said Bruce Egan, Hallman's supervisor and a manager in the IT Response Center.

"What do you say about an employee who has dedicated 32 years of professional expertise and commitment to this family we call Carolina?" Egan said. "Judy was one of the first people I learned I could count on when I started working at UNC."

Hallman earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Carolina. As a student, she worked with the University's first computer, a vacuum-tube driven behemoth that was installed in 1959 and filled a room in the basement of Phillips Hall.

By the time Hallman joined the Carolina staff in 1967, an IBM mainframe had been tapped into a relatively high-powered computing center in Research Triangle Park that also served Duke University and N.C. State. Carolina used the network for tasks such as statistical analyses and computational chemistry problems.

It was cutting-edge stuff at the time, but not infallible. When the network broke down, punch-card data made its way to RTP the old-fashioned way.

"We were making car runs," Hallman said.

Hallman called the advent of e-mail and e-mail listservs in the early 1980s one of the most important developments in information technology on campus.

"We began putting people together who have common interests and common problems," Hallman said.

Then came the Internet and the World Wide Web. For Carolina, the web really took off in 1992, when a joint venture between the University and Sun Microsystems resulted in SunSITE, one of the first 50 web sites in the world.

But while Carolina helped pioneer use of the web, Hallman feels the University hasn't done enough to take advantage of the technology.

"Right now, people are still doing everything on paper," she said. "The common way for organizations to do things now is the way they've done things for the last 20 years."

Rather than start with hard copy and eventually post the information on the web, departments should go to the web first, Hallman said.

As for the chance of leaving behind employees without Internet access, Hallman said the University should focus on getting access for everyone.

Hallman also would like to see the University web site have a stronger campus administrative office presence, with administrators marketing Carolina's quality to prospective students. Using the site for public service -- such as an "Ask-an-expert" feature -- would be another good way to apply the technology, Hallman said.

Regardless of how the site evolves after Hallman's departure, Carolina's first webmaster will be missed.

"Many of the information technology staff on campus today got their start working for Judy," Egan said. "It will be hard to imagine this campus without her."

After Hallman retires on March 1, the main University web site will be administered by the Office of University Relations and Academic Technology and Networks.

University Relations will manage graphic design and content of main pages, while ATN will handle the technical development and maintenance of the pages.

Future coverage in the University Gazette will let employees know where to go with questions about the site.

Hallman still can be found on the web

Judy Hallman won't leave the World Wide Web behind in retirement. She plans to devote more time to RTPnet, a community network for Research Triangle Park, for which she serves as executive director.

RTPnet provides web space and listservs to nonprofit groups for $50 a year and uses the proceeds to fund projects that improve the computer skills of area residents.

One such project is going on now at the Birchwood Community Center in Durham. About 10 young adults are learning web skills, such as how to create web sites and find jobs on the Internet. Class members also learn life skills, such as how to communicate with peers and parents.

Along with sponsoring such projects, RTPnet works to give local communities more access to computers. For instance, plans are under way to put five new machines in Chapel Hill's Hargrave Recreation Center this spring.

E-mail Hallman at info@RTPnet.org for more information about RTPnet.



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