50 Years of SIGCSE: History Blog

In 2018 we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of our SIGCSE organization. As part of the celebration we are posting a “timeline” of events that happened in the organization’s history. We are building this week-by-week over 2018.

Quick links to each year: 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981

If you have any information about a specific event or any additional information or pictures to include in the posts below, please forward to Briana Morrison: bbmorrison@unomaha.edu.

--------------------- to be continued during 2018 --------------------------

1981 brought several now-familiar elements to our organization. It was the first year the Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education award was given out, and it went to William Atchison, the Head of ACM Curriculum Committee that produced Curriculum '68, and a founding leader of University of Maryland Computer Science Department. Here’s the announcement from the Bulletin:

The Bulletin 1981

In 1981 we elected a new Board: Norman Gibbs (who moved to Arizona State University) as Chair, Della Bonnette (University of Southwestern Louisiana) as Vice-Chair, John Frederick Schrage (Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville) for Secretary. At-Large members elected were Robert Aiken (University of Tennessee), Nell Dale (University of Texas at Austin) and Joyce Currie Little (Community College of Baltimore).

The 12th Technical Symposium was held February 26-27, 1981 in St. Louis, MO. The Conference Chair was Kenneth Magel (University of Missouri at Rolla). The Program Chairs were Frank G. Walters (University of Missouri at Rolla) and Nell Dale (University of Texas at Austin). There were 62 papers submitted with 46 accepted giving a 71.2% acceptance rate.

There were many changes made to the Technical Symposium based on feedback from the previous ones. This Technical Symposium introduced some of our now well-known conference features: tutorials, workshops, Birds of a Feather, and Panel Sessions. These were all explicitly stated in the call for scholarship.

On February 14-15, 1980 the 11th Technical Symposium was held in Kansas City, MO. Bill Bulgren (University of Kansas) served as Conference Chair. Virgil Wallentine (Kansas City University) was the Program Chair.
The Bulletin (Vol. 12, Issue 2, July 1980) reported on the Business Meeting held during the conference:

The Bulletin Vol. 12, Issue 2, July 1980

The same issue of The Bulletin contains a survey asking questions about plagiarism in computing classes. Students haven’t changed that much…

The 10th Technical Symposium was held Feb 22-23 in Dayton, OH. Doug Kerr (Ohio State) served as the Conference Chair. John Dalphin (Indiana University – Purdue At Fort Wayne) was the Program Chair and 54 papers were accepted.

We also elected a new Board. Robert Aiken (University of Tennessee) was re-elected as Chair and Norman Gibbs (College of William and Mary) was re-elected as Vice-Chair. James Powell (Burroughs Wellcome Company) was elected as Secretary-Treasurer. All three Director members were re-elected: Richard Austing (University of Maryland), Gerald Engel (Christopher Newport College), and Betty Sproule (Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp). Della Bonnette (University of Southwestern Louisiana) continued as Bulletin Editor (the last of 4 terms) and John Gorgone (Bentley College) continued as the Assistant Bulletin Editor.

The Bulletin (Volume 11, Issue 3, September 1979) announced the creation of the SIGCSE Annual Award for Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education, and that the recipient would give a keynote at the Technical Symposium. It took 2 years from announcement to the first award.

Here’s a good one: at the October 31, 1979 Business meeting, the idea of corporate sponsors was initiated. The proposal was for sponsors to pay $200 and receive SIGCSE publications, free attendance at the Technical Symposium, and have their company listed on the inside cover of the Bulletin.

This year was the 10th Anniversary of the founding of SIGCSE. During 1978 we held two conferences, but only one was designated as the Technical Symposium.

As reported in The Bulletin (Vol. 9, Issue 4, Dec. 1977):

Ken Williams is organizing what appears to be one of our most successful SIGCSE Symposia (scheduled for February 23-24 in Detroit). He reports that he has already received a number of interesting papers and they're still rolling in.

Volume 10, Issue 1, February 1978 contains the papers of the SIGCSE/CSA technical symposium on computer science education – but is NOT an official numbered Technical Symposium. This conference was held in Detroit, Michigan and chaired by Ken Williams (Western Michigan University) and had 53 papers accepted with 352 people in attendance. A full report can be found at https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=382187.

The official 9th Technical Symposium was held August 14-15 in Pittsburgh and was joint with IEEE/Computer Society Education Committee. Alf Bertztiss (University of Pittsburgh) was the General Chair.

From The Bulletin (Vol. 10, Issue 2, June 1978):
The Bulletin Vol. 10, Issue 2, June 1978
Volume 10, Issue 3, August 1978 contains the papers from this conference. There were over 100 attendees and they came from 25 different states, Canada, Mexico, and Iceland.

You may find it interesting to know the types of events, around the world, that SIGCSE members were involved in, way back in the late 70s. In Volume 10, Issue 4, December 1978 of The Bulletin, the following events were brought to members attention:

  • ACM ’78, December where a business meeting was held and SIGCSE sponsored several sessions
  • CSC/SIGCSE, the 10th Technical Symposium in February, 1979
  • National Education Computing Conference (NECC), June 1979 in Iowa City, billed as a cross-fertilization effort with other organizations such as AEDS, ADCIS, and IEEE Computer Society.
  • International Symposium on Computers and Education in Dusseldorf, Germany, March, 1979
  • Third World Conference on Computer Education, Lausanne, Switzerland, July 1981

Even then we were global! At the December 1978 Business Meeting, there was a discussion on whether we should be named CSE or CE (computing education). The name issue is 40 years old!
(Briana Morrison)

The 7th Technical Symposium was held February 2-3, 1977 at the Marriott Hotel in Atlanta, GA jointly with CSC. John Goda from Georgia Institute of Technology was the Conference Chair. See https://portalparts.acm.org/810000/800008/fm/frontmatter.pdf?ip=
for the proceedings. This appears to be the first occurrence of a workshop (then called Birds of a Feather) on Structured COBOL by Daniel McCracken, and the first occurrence of a student programming contest at Georgia Tech.

SIGCSE held another Technical Symposium, the 8th on August 4-5, 1977 at the University of Southwestern Louisiana Conference Center in Lafayette, LA. Della Bonnette (from University of Southwestern Louisiana) was the Conference Chair and Terry Walker, also from University of Southwestern Louisiana, was the Program Chair. Eighteen papers were accepted for presentation.

New officers were elected to lead the organization. Robert Aiken served as Chair with Norman Gibbs as Vice-Chair. Terry Walker was the Secretary/Treasurer. Board Members were Richard Austing (past chair), Gerald Engel (past vice-chair), and Betty Sproule (first female board member!). Della Bonnette continued in her 3rd term as Bulletin Editor and John Gorgone assisted.

It appears that Betty Sproule has found a successful second career after CS: http://stuffcure.com

There were three special issues of the Bulletin this year: the February issue contained the proceedings of the 7th Technical Symposium; the June issue was on computer science curricula; and the July issue contained the proceedings of the 8th Technical Symposium. From the June issue:

June 1977 issue of the Bulletin

From 1976 through 1978, there were actually TWO Technical Symposiums held each year. The first was held in February, jointly with CSC. The second, held late mid-year was only a SIGCSE event.

In 1976, the 5th Technical Symposium was held February 12-13 at Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, CA as part of the ACM Computer Science Conference. Paul Lorton, Jr. of the University of San Francisco and Ron Colman from California State University at Fullerton were Conference Chairs. We don’t know how many papers were submitted, but 66 were accepted. In the Digital Library, this is listed as the “Proceedings of the SIGCSE-SIGCUE joint symposium on Computer Science Education” (SIGCUE being Computer Uses in Education), but I can find no corroboration that this was joint.

Bob Aiken adds this explanation:

I remember our Symposia being at least two days with their own General Chair and Program Chair (and committee). Some registration numbers were difficult to unearth and cost sharing sometimes hard to negotiate (though each leadership group tried hard to be equitable). I do remember that during that period we set a goal of 1,000 attendees for the SIGCSE Symposium … and it took us a number of years to finally reach it (though we were only slightly under that goal for several years before achieving it)!

In July of 1976, SIGCSE held its 6th Technical Symposium at Fort Magruder in Williamsburg, VA – on our own! Norman Gibbs from the College of William and Mary was the Conference Chair. Thirty-five papers were accepted for presentation.
(Briana Morrison)

The 5th Technical Symposium was held February 20-21, 1975 in Washington, D.C. The Conference Chair was Gerald Engel from Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Program chairs were Bruce Barnes (NSF), Norm Gibbs (College of William and Mary), Susan Gerhart (Duke University), Andrew Molnar (NSF), Glenn Ingram (NIE), Joyce Little (Community College of Baltimore), C.K. Capstick (University of Guelph), Harris Burns (Randolph-Macon College), Richard Austing (University of Maryland), and Larry John (University of Dayton). There were just over 300 attendees. Sadly, there seems to be no record of this event in the Digital Library.

In 1975 a new slate of officers was elected. Richard Austing was re-elected to the Chair Position. Douglas Kerr was the Vice-Chair, and John Dalphin served as Secretary/Treasurer. Board Members included Barry Bateman for a second term, Robert Aiken, and Elliott Organick. Della Bonnette continued as the Bulletin Editor and continued to be assisted by John Dalphin.
(Briana Morrison)

In 1974 the 4th Technical Symposium was held in Detroit, MI on February 14-15. Douglas Kerr from The Ohio State University was Conference Chair. Program Chairs were Toby Berk (Florida International University), Harris Burns (Randolph-Macon College), Clinton Foulk (Ohio State), Larry John (University of Dayton), Bruce Klein (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), and Wayne Tam (Wayne State University). We don’t know how many papers were submitted, but 38 were accepted and there were approximately 250 attendees. The proceedings from this year within the Digital Library only seem to include the CSC presentations and no forward matter exists.

The 4th Technical Symposium was also Frank Friedman’s first SIGCSE conference that he attended, and then he attended for 30 straight years, minus 1. That’s dedication!
(Briana Morrison)

Starting in 1973 our Technical Symposia were held in conjunction with the “Computer Science Conference.” This conference focused more on research and primarily consisted of a few invited speakers and numerous short abstracts of ongoing Computer Science research activities. Providing a forum for PhD candidates to discuss their work and for departments to recruit was also a primary function! Originally it was sponsored by some large Universities and corporations. ACM handled many of the organizing details.

The 3rd Technical Symposium was held February 22-23, 1973 at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, in conjunction with the Computer Science Conference (CSC). Gerald Engel from Pennsylvania State University was the Conference Chair. “Over 80” papers were submitted with 43 of them accepted for presentation. Check out https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1125118 for a look at the programs. Here’s the conference committee:
The 1973 conference committee

However, since the Technical Symposium was held jointly with CSC, exact attendance numbers are difficult to ascertain. It was the primarily those associated with the CSC that handled most of the finances, registration, etc. (though we had a reasonably straightforward agreement as to how our registration would be handled, finances and expenses determined--mostly from exhibits and registrations). This resulted in SIGCSE not having total control over the exact “numbers.” For example, one day and late registrations were sometime difficult to ascertain. However, we do have a few estimates. For our meeting in Columbus in 1973 we had about 200 attendees.

We have two pictures from this conference:
Marshall Yovits receiving thank you gift from Orrin Taulbee.
Orrin E. Taulbee, University of Pittsburgh and Marshall Yovits, Ohio State CS Chair, 1973
Taulbee did the Taulbee Report. Yovits probably chaired the very first CSC.

1973 Computer Science Conference Committee. One man surrounded by 9 women.
1973? Computer Science Conference Committee (Thanks to Frank Friedman for the picture).

Some were ACM officers, including Gwen Bell. According to Frank: “Most of the CSC Committee were women and they were REALLY GOOD people. They basically ran the show.”

A new Board was also elected. Chair was Richard Austing. Vice-Chair was Gerald Engel. Secretary/Treasurer was J. Robert Jump. Board Members were Barry Bateman, Aaron Finerman (past chair), and Seymour Pollock (past Symposium chair). Della Bonnette became the Bulletin Editor and was assisted by John Dalphin. A quick internet search says that Della Bonnette is still active with CSAB and accreditation issues.

My sincere gratitude to Bob Aiken for helping me dig up some of this information.
(Briana Morrison)

The 2nd Technical Symposium was held at Washington University in St. Louis on March 24-25, 1972. The Conference Chair was Seymour V. Pollack from Washington University in St. Louis. The Program Chair was Leland Williams from Triangle Universities Computation Center and Robert Aiken (University of Tennessee) once again was Editor of the Proceedings. Again, “over 40” papers were submitted with approximately 30 being accepted. There were 179 attendees. (Briana Morrison)

Also, some additional information from Chris Wilcox about the man who organized SIGCSE and was the first Chair:
Dr. Organick was my master's thesis advisor and a personal friend of our family. I first met him by chance in the 1970's at a remote lake in the Uinta mountains where my father and I were backpacking. He was diagnosed with leukemia shortly afterward, and told that he had a very short time to live, however he actually survived for another ten years. During that period he became my advisor and I learned from him as well as teaching for him numerous times during his illness. I credit him with sending me down the path of becoming a computer science professor. He was a man of complete integrity and boundless energy, both before and after his diagnosis. I still remember him telling me with his usual prescience how excited he was about object-oriented programming (in Ada), and how that would be the next big thing, I think anyone that knew him would give the same sort of testimonial, and I was not in the least surprised that he was a charter member of the SIGCSE organization. (Chris Wilcox)

There was no Technical Symposium held during 1971, instead it was moved to the early months of the following year (February/March) which has been fairly constant since that time. SIGCSE did get a new slate of officers in 1971: Aaron Finerman was Chair, Tom Kurtz was Vice-Chair, and David Matula continued as Secretary/Treasurer. Board members included Robert Aiken, Peter Denning, and Richard Hamming. Robert Aiken continued to serve as the Bulletin Editor. (Briana Morrison)

In 1970 SIGCSE Board Members were Elliott Organick, Chair; David Matula, Secretary/Treasurer; and Robert Aiken was the Bulletin Editor.

The SIGCSE Technical Symposium was the first conference organized by our newly founded SIG. The first Technical Symposium was held on the 16th of November, 1970 in Houston, TX. Peter Calingaert from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the Conference Chair. Edward A. Feustel from Rice University was in charge of Arrangements and Publicity and Robert Aiken from the University of Tennessee was the Program Chair and Editor of the Proceedings. There were 143 attendees. There were “over 40” papers submitted with 18 accepted. :

The program was divided into three main sections:
1) morning session looked at computer science in a global sense
2) afternoon session looked at courses generally, and
3) the evening session considered the first course in computer science

In addition, the question of establishing a Journal of Computer Science Education was brought up and the consensus of the group was that the SIGCSE Bulletin was meeting the current need.

The December 1970 issue of the Bulletin ( https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=873668) lists the 600+ members of the organization! It also contained the announcement of the first student paper competition.
(Briana Morrison)

Beginning in 1969 Elliot Organick served as the founding chair of SIGCSE with Bob Aiken the founding secretary/treasurer and TW Hildebrandt the founding editor of the Bulletin. The first Steering Group (the original Board) consisted of Jack Belzer, Peter Calingaert, TW Hildebradt, Thomas Keenan, Earl Schweppe, and William Viavant. William Atchison and S.D. Conte served as Ex-Officio members of the Steering Group. (Briana Morrison)

The FIRST SIGCSE Bulletin was published in February, 1969 ( https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=873609) and was 22 typed pages! It included information about the organizing committee of the newly formed SIG and a call for a move toward a journal on computer science education (what foresight!). There is also a wonderful article on a survey sent to the SIGCSE members on their ranking of problem/discussion areas.

The second Bulletin was published in June, 1969 ( https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=873611) followed by additional editions in October ( https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=873615) and December ( https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=873618). The October issued noted that there were more than 350 members. We have had 4 or 5 issues of the Bulletin every year since.

The year is 1968. A group of computing educators met at the Fall Joint Computer Conference (FJCC) in Las Vegas to write and sign a petition that eventually led to the creation of SIGCSE. Elliot Irving Organick (1925 – 1985) is credited with being the driving force behind the group. The petition was signed by 20 ACM members, including Bob Aiken. (Briana Morrison)

The petition to form SIGCSE in 1968