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I.T. History

The City of Canton's Information Technology (IT) Department does varying amounts of work for each of the City of Canton's departments. IT started in the early 1970's to automate the billing process of billing for the Water Department's Utility Billing Division, and it grew from there.

The hardware was literally room-sized mainframes, the room had to maintain its environmental conditions (temperature and humidity) to within specific ranges. The hard drive cabinets were the size of filing cabinets and held 2 "207 disk modules", each disk module was 207MB, so each cabinet could store 414MB of data. There were several of those disk cabinets. The programs were written in COBOL (COmmon Business Oriented Language).

Backups were stored on large reel-to-reel tapes, that were not as reliable as modern backup technologies.

Back then the IT Department was called Data Processing  That name stuck through the mid 1980's, then the name changed to Management Information Systems (MIS), that was around the same time the City started getting "Micro Computers" (Personal Computers, PC's, or Desktop computers), and "Macro Computers" (that were about the size of a small desk).

It was in the late 1980's that the City also began networking computers,  initially with "daisy chain" networking that was reliant on every computer being in the network (or every computer in the chain after one that was disconnected would also be disconnected).  Then around 1990 the City switched to ethernet networking technologies, where if one computer was removed from the network, it wouldn't take any other computers off the network. In the early to mid 1990's the Department's named changed again, to Information Systems (IS).

Around 1995 the City had its first web site (its domain name was, it was hosted on external commercial servers and it was written entirely in static HTML. Only one person in the Mayor's office was permitted to make changes on the web site, so it took a while to get some of the changes of the information updated on the web site.

In the mid to late 1990's the City began, in earnest, switching to PC technologies from "dumb terminal" technologies, that was also the time when the City began providing internet access via proxy servers to the PC's on its networks.

As the year 2000 was approaching, there were wide-spread fears of Y2K computer issues. This is because a lot of computer technologies were using a 2 digit year instead of a 4 digit year (ex. 99 instead of 1999). Now it seems silly to have ever used a 2 digit year, but the practice started back in the beginning of computer storage when storage was extremely expensive and limited, and we had to try to save space everywhere we could. Thankfully due to the Y2K hype, just about every place (including the City of Canton) spent most of 1999 making sure there wouldn't be any issues as the year changed to 2000. Some people think that Y2K was over-hyped, but that is what made everyone in the computer industry work to the point that any problems from the year switching to 2000 were insignificant.

In 2000 the City hosted its first internal, intranet web server, internally it was called "ISNet" and it provided information to employees and it was written in a more dynamic language, SHTML with some JavaScript. It also hosted an In/Out Board written in Perl.

In the early to mid 2000's the IS Department began writing internal applications in PHP and using MySQL databases, at that time PHP and MySQL had become the defacto standards on the internet.

In 2008 the IS Department was tasked to create a new web site that each department could maintain their own section of. At the time, no Content Management System (CMS) existed with the required security that would keep each department's section secure unto itself, so to get an advanced starting point on the CMS application one of the programmers brought in his own CMS he had been developing as a hobby at his house, and it became its own unique branch of the CMS for the City to use. It was designed from the beginning with security in mind. The CMS undergoes security probes a few times a month from an external online security company to look for any vulnerabilities, to date there have been no vulnerabilities detected in the CMS. The CMS was also created to have applications developed for it and run within it, leveraging everything developed for the CMS (including its security).

In the 2010's the Director of Information Systems' title was changed to the Director of Information Technology, even though the department name remained Information Systems. So un-officially the IS Department has become the IT Department.

The IT Department has spent most of the 2010's moving away from older expensive technologies to more modern and efficient technologies.

On May 4, 2018, the IT Department moved away from it's historic position of being by the Water Department's Utility Billing Division to being within City Hall. Where we are better able to assist the users face-to-face.

Last updated: 05-07-2018