The Oxford University Computer Society (CompSoc) promotes the use of computers, programming, and new technology amongst our diverse group of members from across the university – we welcome everyone! We regularly host talks from major technology companies and academics as well as weekly social events. You can find a full list of our upcoming events on our Facebook page. Every Michaelmas Term we also run an introductory programming course in Python.
The society was founded at St John’s College in 1978. To find out more, have a read of our fairly comprehensive history below. You might also want to read our constitution.
If you are interested in receiving details of our events by e-mail but are not a member, you can subscribe to the CompSoc mailing list, or of course join! (If you are a CompSoc member you should already be on our members’ mailing list which will receive much the same information.)
Please address general comments or questions on CompSoc to the committee (email@example.com); matters related to the administration of the network should be sent to our System Administrators (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The society was formed as the "St John’s College Microcomputer Society" (shortened, for obvious reasons, to MicroSoc) in 1978 to provide an environment for college members to discuss, use and build microcomputers. Originally, the club used early home computer systems such as the Commodore Pet, the RML 308Z and a home-built 6800 system.
In 1979, the club grew into the "Oxford University Microcomputer Society". Membership increased to over 100, and the society now had access to five machines which were used for a mixture of game playing and programming. Regular speaker meetings were arranged, covering a variety of topics, including:
- The Z80 instruction set
- The application of microprocessors in the film making industry
- Semiconductor and software processes
- Pinball design geometry
The society benefited from good relations with computer manufacturers, leading to lectures from Acorn and Research Machines. In 1980, the society’s made its first major purchase – an Acorn Atom, which was subsequently expanded and improved by members. The club also bought and expanded a BBC Model B.
In 1985, the society gained a base in the newly installed Orion Computer Room in the Nuclear and Astrophysics Laboratory (NAPL). However, the society’s membership and bank balance fell. The society recovered over the next couple of years, organising trips to the Atari Computer Show and the Research Machines Development Centre as well as holding a number of lectures.
The University’s VAX system enabled the society members to become familiar with e-mail and multi user systems. Furthermore, the society’s long term relationship with Acorn paid off in 1992 when they donated an A3000 for general use by members.
In 1993, MicroSoc’s home became the NeXT laboratory in the NAPL where it promoted members’ interests in e-mail, USENET, the world wide web and using the internet as well as programming skills. The society organised weekly information sessions, visits to computer manufactures and computer shows, maintained a small library and sold reduced-price floppy disks to its members.
In Trinity term 1995, the society acquired a new hard disk drive. Major changes were made to the constitution, with a change in name to the "Oxford University Computer Society" (Compsoc) and an increasing emphasis on the internet.
In Trinity term 1996 the donation of a Digital Pentium PC by Progress Computer Systems sparked the creation of the Compsoc Network. Two more computers were acquired, the plan being to run Linux on them and connect them to the University Network. In Michaelmas term of that year the society completed its change of direction with an aim of giving members basic computer facilities as provided by OUCS and colleges and an emphasis on regular speaker meetings, hands-on practical sessions and social events.
In 1998 another machine was donated to the society by DecisionSoft Ltd. This initially ran Windows NT, but was later swapped with another of the machines and became the main user box. In the same year, all the machines were moved to Trinity College, where space was kindly provided by Alastair Johnson, the Trinity College Computing Officer. The society continued to hold a busy calendar of events each term.
1999 saw a record intake of new members and the establishment of sponsorship links with industry leading to the donation of a range of computer equipment by Warburg Dillon Read. This included two Sun UltraSparc Enterprise 1 machines, one of which is currently hosted by Planet (now Energis Squared) in Leeds and provides the society with a base for running services outside the limitations of the University network.
The society was well prepared for the "millennium bug" and managed to keep all its data intact. Hilary term 2000 saw the twenty first anniversary of the society’s formation, celebrated in style with a black tie dinner at Linacre college.
2001 saw the reintroduction of more socially orientated hands-on events, as well as a range of talks from major industry players such as Microsoft, Nvidia and AMD.
2020/2021 marked the COVID-19 pandemic and thus the temporary suspension of in-person meetings. As such, all CompSoc events during this period were held online, largely via our Discord server.