Call for proposals: 2020 Fellowships in ACM History

The Association for Computing Machinery, founded in 1947, is the oldest and largest educational and scientific society dedicated to the computing profession, and today has 100,000 members around the world. To encourage historical research, the ACM History Committee plans to support up to four research projects with awards of up to $4,000 each. Successful candidates may be of any rank, from graduate students through senior researchers. The current and past winners of the fellowship can be found here.

An announcement of 2020 call for proposals can be found here. Proposals are due by 15 February 2020.

Call for proposals

2019 ACM SIG Heritage Workshop held at Charles Babbage Institute

The ACM History Committee held a successful workshop to stimulate ACM Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to document and preserve their history from May 20th, 2019 to May 21st, 2019. The workshop had broad participation from the following dozen ACM SIGs:

  • ACM SIG on Multimedia (SIGMM)
  • ACM SIG on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI)
  • ACM SIG on High Performance Computing (SIGHPC)
  • ACM SIG on Spatial Information (SIGSPATIAL)
  • ACM SIG on Computers and Society (SIGCAS)
  • ACM SIG on Information Retrieval (SIGIR)
  • ACM SIG on Mobility of Systems (SIGMOBILE)
  • ACM SIG on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE)
  • ACM SIG on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH)
  • ACM SIG for Information Technology Education (SIGITE)
  • ACM SIG on Data Communications (SIGCOMM)
  • ACM SIG on Computer Simulation (SIGSIM)

The workshop also had significant participation from the ACM History Committee membership. The University of Minnesota and the Charles Babbage Institute provided resources, logistics, and a number of relevant speakers to help guide the discussion.

On the first day, UMN University Libraries Director of Special Collections Kris Kiesling gave an opening welcome. CBI Outreach Historian and Admin Juliet Burba served as MC to orient attendees to the program and introduce speakers. Next, Jeffrey Yost gave a brief overview of CBI programs, collections, and its history prior to the main instructional program. CBI Archivist Amanda Wick followed providing an hour-long crash course on key archival principles and methods. She arranged for three archivist colleagues in University Libraries—Carol Kussman, Valerie Collins, and Kate Dietrich—to speak on digital archiving and institutional matchmaking (between record creators/holders/organizers and archival repositories).

Brianna Morrison describing work done to support the SIGCSE’s 50th anniversary.

Jeffrey Yost invited University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor of History Thomas Haigh to co-lead a session with him on oral history theory and practice, and the two briefly discussed computer scientists publishing history (outlets, opportunities, mentoring, etc.). ACM History Committee’s own Vicki Almstrum addressed oral history, as well, presenting on the committee’s longstanding oral history effort with SIGCSE. Following each of the presentations there was extensive time for discussion, which proved quite rich. To round out the work of day one, two of the SIG representatives presented. This was followed by a tour of the underground Andersen Library climate-controlled Caverns (home to the CBI Archives and other special collections units), a happy hour, and then dinner in the Dale Shepherd Room of The Campus Club.

Amanda Wick teaching archiving principles.

On May 21, the remaining ten SIG representatives presented, and the workshop concluded with a fruitful discussion and next-steps brainstorming session on future SIG heritage/history/archiving/oral history efforts. The ACM History Committee Members then went to the Bakken Museum for a special tour by Curator Adrian Fischer, arranged by Juliet Burba from CBI.

Mitchell and Searleman describing their work for SIGGRAPH.

Two representative comments from feedback collected after the workshop are:

  • GREAT workshop. Maybe longer discussion time or breakouts on specific topics. Why do history anyway?!
  • The organizers did an excellent job. Andersen Library is really nice. Love the librarian-archivist framing of the workshop. Hope to see a summary of recommendations and future actions sometime this Summer.

Note that some of this material was extracted with permission from the Charles Babbage Institute Newsletter, Volume 41, Number 1, Spring/Summer 2019.

Workshop on ACM History (21-22 May 2014): Call for Participation

The ACM History Committee is sponsoring a two-day archiving workshop to help diffuse knowledge of professional archival practices into ACM”s membership and others with an active interest in preserving our computer heritage. Applications are invited to a two-day archiving workshop, to be held 21-22 May 2014 at the Charles Babbage Institute (CBI) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For each successful application, one person”s expenses for workshop travel, lodging, and meals will be paid by the ACM History Committee. Project proposals are due by 15 January 2014. The details can be found here.

2013 ACM History Fellowship Winners Announced

Congratulations to 2013 ACM History Fellowship Winners: Sarah A. Bell (University of Utah), Amy Bix (Iowa State University), Irina Nikivincze (the Higher School of Economics in Saint Petersburg), Joseph November (University of South Carolina), and Andrew Russell (Stevens Institute of Technology). The current and past winners of the fellowship along with their project information can be found here.

Erwin Tomash (1921 – 2012)

By Thomas J. Misa (ACM History Committee Member)

At CBI we wish to recognize the passing of Erwin Tomash, who died last week at his home. A funeral home announcement can be found here.

It’s not easy to give a short version of Erwin’s impact on computer history. First and foremost, he was the founder of the Charles Babbage Institute and for years its guiding spirit. In the 1970s, even before he retired from Dataproducts, he consulted with leaders in the academic, museum, and business worlds about creating an institution to support and foster computer history. Initially located in California, CBI’s first task was finding a permanent home. It turned out that the University of Minnesota put in the winning bid in a national competition; see here with a permanent link. CBI moved to Minnesota in 1980, Arthur Norberg arrived the next year as director, and the field of computer history would never be the same.

Arthur took up Erwin’s plans to have CBI engage in collecting archival materials on computer history, conducting oral histories, and engaging in research projects. In practice, these three activities have been complementary ones. A significant number of CBI’s 200+ archival collections have roots in an oral history and/or CBI research project. A special issue of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing (2001) provides additional details and perspectives, as does the CBI Newsletter (Fall 2003) on CBI’s 25-year anniversary.

Since 1978 CBI has awarded the Adelle and Erwin Tomash Fellowship in the History of Information Technology, to a Ph.D. student completing their dissertation. The 32 recipients, beginning with the first awardee Bill Aspray and continuing to the most-recent Ksenia Tatarchenko, now include many leaders in our field. At the University of Minnesota an additional Tomash fund supports our Ph.D. students.

Erwin was also a book person. In the 1980s the CBI-Tomash Reprint Series published notable editions with expert commentaries. Some of these volumes are still available. Then, notably, there was Erwin’s personal efforts in rare-book collecting. A glimpse of his efforts is The Erwin Tomash Library on the History of Computing: An Annotated and Illustrated Catalog, a significant scholarly effort itself done in collaboration with Mike Williams.

We are planning our spring CBI Newsletter to deal more fully with Erwin’s long life and remarkable career. If you would like to write a personal note to Adelle Tomash, please contact CBI at for her address.

ACM History Committee New Members

The ACM History Committee welcomes two new members (effective November 2012): Roy Levin from Microsoft Research, Silicon Valley and Peri Tarr from IBM T. J. Watson Research Center! A former member of the committee, Brent Hailpern from IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center recently finished his role of the SGB Liaison in the committee, and now serves as an ACM SGB Council Representative. Brent’s valuable contributions to the committee have been greatly appreciated. An existing member of the committee, Tao Xie from North Carolina State University has taken the role of the SGB Liaison in the committee.

Call for ACM History Fellowship Proposals

The Association for Computing Machinery, founded in 1947, is the oldest and largest educational and scientific society dedicated to the computing profession, and today has more than 100,000 members around the world.  The ACM History Committee is preparing groundwork for a special history workshop in 2014.  Aiming at the workshop, we will support research projects related to ACM””s professional and educational activities and/or to ACM””s rich institutional history including its organization, publications, SIG activities, and conferences.  We may also consider support for wider synthetic projects, analyzing existing research on ACM and outlining themes to illuminate ACM””s nearly seven-decade history.

We will support up to four projects with awards of up to $4,000 each. Successful candidates may be of any rank, from graduate students through senior researchers. All awardees must be willing to present their work to a two-day ACM History Committee-sponsored workshop, to be held during the spring or early summer of 2014. Workshop travel, lodging, and meals will be paid by ACM History Committee, in addition to this project award.

The current and past winners of the fellowship can be found here.

An announcement of 2013 call for fellowship proposals can be found here (also as a pdf-format document here). Proposals are due by 15 February 2013.

ACM SIG Events on Learning from History

In this upcoming Friday, November 16, 2012 in Cary, NC, USA, there will be a SIGSOFT event in conjunction with SIGSOFT 2012 / FSE-20: Symposium on Learning from Experiences in Software Engineering (SLESE 2012), co-organized by Barbara G. Ryder (Virginia Tech), Wolfram Schulte (Microsoft Research), and Tao Xie (North Carolina State University).

The goal of this SLESE symposium is to bring together researchers with substantial research experiences to give invited presentations and panel discussions on sharing their lessons learned from their research experiences in developing a research project, area, or agenda, including lessons learned from their research-development process, strive for high-impact research.The SLESE symposium highlights five distinguished researchers: Crista Lopes (UC Irvine, USA), Brian Robinson (ABB Research, USA), Zhendong Su (UC Davis, USA), Andreas Zeller (Saarland University, Germany), and Dongmei Zhang (Microsoft Research Asia, China).

Back in 2010 in Toronto, Canada, there was a SIGPLAN event in conjunction with PLDI 2010: the International Workshop on Learning From eXperience (LFX 2010), co-organized by Shaz Qadeer (Microsoft Research, USA), Xavier Rival (Ecole Normale Supérieure, France), Koushik Sen (UC Berkeley, USA), and Eran Yahav(IBM Research, USA). The goal of this LFX workshop is to bring together researchers with practical experience to share their lessons, tips, and tricks, on how stuff really works.