Introduction to Linguistics Computer Resources

Computing at the Linguistics department is mostly on Macintoshes and on babel, a Sun Sparcstation 10 running the Unix operating system. There are several other unix machines (mostly belonging to the Computer Science department) that many Penn linguists get accounts on, and innumerable computer labs around campus with Macintoshes and PC-compatibles. You will need at least some familiarity with Unix to read your email etc. (unless you use webmail), and more if you take any courses that have a computational component.

At the beginning of each year our system administrator gives a computer orientation which should get you started working on babel. The linguistics club may be taking over this orientation in the coming years. See below for information on getting more help.

As soon as possible, you should get an account on babel, and should know about things like emacs, email and netscape. The department depends heavily on email for its communications, so you should get up to speed with it as soon as possible. Emacs is the editor used on unix by most people in the department (though some fossils still use vi). Netscape, of course, is the web browser you'll find all over Penn. Most people write write their papers on Macs or PCs using Microsoft Word, but a growing number are using LaTeX.

Nobody ever sees babel; we access it by logging on from an "X terminal" (an NCD workstation, with a nice huge screen), or from a Mac, a PC, or another unix machine.

In order to login from home, you will need a PennNet ID, which you can get either at the Computing Resource Center (see below) or at the CETS in Moore 169 (33rd and Walnut, 1st Floor).

When you have some free time on your hands, you should try and make a home page for yourself.

Where to get help

In case you have computer related problems, you can send email to It is also useful to ask the people around you in the computer lab in the department.

You should also notify if you notice any problems with the computers that require the administrators' attention, such as network problems, a keyboard or mouse that has stopped working, problems with the displays, etc. (We can replace printer cartridges without going through the administrators, though). If not sure, it's best to ask someone else.

Colin Devine is the system administrator for babel, the linguistics computer. To reach him, you should send email to

Jon Wright, jdwright AT , is the Linguistics Club's "designated computer resource person", which means he will usually have the answers to any computer related questions you have, and will be glad to give them.

The basics of Penn Computing are provided on the UP Computing website, along with a fairly extensive suite of free software (Netscape etc.) that allows you to access e-mail, browse the Internet, etc.

Computer rooms

There are a bunch of computer resources accessible to linguistics students scattered around campus, many more than you may realize. This is a partial listing.
Warning: General-access computers are especially likely to be infected with viruses!

Ling Dept. Computer Lab
has several Macs, Xterminals for unix access, PCs running Linux, and a laser printer named "aries". If you print things from babel, this is where they'll go by default. (But you can change that).
Ling Dept.
has a laserprinter named "ling".
Phonetics Lab
OUTDATED INFORMATION has three color workstations (Suns) with audio capabilities, one X terminals, a PC, and a printer named "speech". These computers are reserved for phonetics related work.
Sociolinguistics Lab
has several macs, a printer, and various sociolinguistic resources. If you're in sociolinguistics, you probably live there already.
IRCS, 3401 Walnut Street, 4th floor
and CIS LINC lab, Moore Hall
many more X terminals (mostly color by now), several Macs, PCs running Windows, printers, and the odd Sun workstation.
Library Basement
Lots of general-access Macs and PCs. it often gets very crowded, though. You can also log in (through netscape) from the card catalog stations scattered around the library.
Meyerson Hall
Meyerson Hall is at the corner of 34th and Walnut, and houses the Graduate School of Fine Arts. Their computer lab is available for general University use, although GSFA students have priority. The computer lab is on the third floor, and has a whole bunch of nice Macs and PCs, several scanners, and all the design and image processing software you could dream of.
PC resources
The closest places where you can work on a PC are at the library basement, at the third floor of Meyerson Hall (see above), and at the computer labs of the Wharton school.

Computer information and help pages

This page provides links to more help pages on topics such as creating your own web page, dealing with Word viruses, etc. Expect more information to be added periodically.

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