Activities & Events

The main SIGCIS activities in recent years have been centered around the annual meetings of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) and related associations in Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Business History fields.

Jump to: SHOT 2010 | SHOT 2009 | SHOT 2008 | SHOT 2007 | 4S 2007 | BHC 2007 | SHOT 2006 | 4S 2006 | SHOT 2005

SHOT 2010 Annual Meeting, September 30 - October 3, Tacoma, WA
New! See photographs from the 2010 meeting.
Several hundred historians of technology from around the world came together to share two full days of conference sessions and a range of other activities including receptions, a salmon bake in a park overlooking Puget Sound, and an opening plenary discussing the past, present and future of the society’s journal Technology and Culture. All sessions took place in the Hotel Murano, a stylish boutique property adorned with an extensive collection of glass art to celebrate the town’s most famous industry.

SIGCIS organized a session for the main conference on “Networks as Places in the History of Computing,” including an international and interdisciplinary set of presenters:

    Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee, Organizer & Chair
    Jeffrey Tang, James Madison University, Commentator
  • Sue Thomas De Montfort University Shaping the Landscapes of
    Cyberspace: West Coast Metaphors
  • J Carles Maixé-Altés University of A Coruña, Spain: Diverging
    Paths to a Networked World: Computerizing Spanish and British Savings Banks, 1965-90
  • Ksenia Tatarchenko Princeton University ‘Not Lost in Translation’:
    How English Became the Common Language of Computer Science, 1960-74

Another panel, on the history of electronic banking, was organized by Bernardo Bátiz-Lazo of the University of Leicester. Elsewhere on the main program, speakers explored topics as diverse as the Kindle e-book reader and the recent return to fashion of paper-based personal organizers.

Like most other SHOT interest groups, SIGCIS holds an annual lunch meeting. This year around forty people attended. Members chatted informally over a deli buffet. As usual the program included a chance for new members to introduce themselves and a series of announcements of interest to the community. We reviewed the SIG’s accomplishments over the past year, including establishment of a new online repository of history of computing course syllabi and resource guides for the history of computing in Britain and Japan.

During the lunch meeting SIGCIS presented travel awards totaling $2,400 to seven graduate students participating in its workshop. These included two Computer History Museum Awards of $500 each, funded by a generous donation from Richard S. Tedlow, the Class of 1949 Professor of Business Administration Emeritus at the Harvard Business School. An auction of history of computing books followed, to raise money for next year’s awards. Generous bidding drove up prices, yielding $970 from the auction and a further $516 in small donations. SIGCIS thanks its members and MIT Press for their ongoing donation of material for the auction.

On the final day of the conference SIGCIS held its second annual workshop, with the theme of “Materiality and Immateriality in the History of Computing.” More than fifty people took part, travelling from Greece, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Canada, and Spain. The program had a distinctly interdisciplinary feeling, with participants based in programs of communication, information science, and science and technology studies as well as history. The full program is online at

Paul Edwards began the meeting with keynote plenary address entitled “Friction: Rethinking Speed, Power, and Possibility in the History of Information Infrastructures.” This drew on material from his recent and well received book “A Vast Machine” to explore the role of different kinds of material factors in the science of climate modeling. The 2010 Computer History Museum Prize was presented immediately afterwards, to Atsushi Akera for his book Computing a Natural World. Participants broke into smaller groups for the remaining sessions, including roundtables on the teaching of computer history and on the relationship between computing and science fiction. Conversation continued over lunch in three local restaurants, proving a chance for relaxed discussion and networking. After lunch, the dissertations in progress session was particularly successful, giving four students a chance to receive a diverse selection of incisive but constructive critiques from a dozen scholars active in the field. The three remaining sessions explored a variety of topics related to the material dimensions of computing, accommodating both traditional presentations and the detailed discussion of pre-circulated drafts in progress. The workshop concluded with dinner at a riverside seafood restaurant.

SHOT 2009 Annual Meeting, October 15-18, Pittsburgh, PA
New! See photographs from the 2009 meeting.
2009’s annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology was a breakthrough event for SIGCIS. This conference saw the first presentation of our new Computer History Museum prize to honor an outstanding book in the field. It was also the site of our first full day post-conference workshop. This year’s venue was Pittsburgh, a pleasant and relaxed location with the downtown Hilton as our base. An editorial board meeting of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing took place just before the conference, helping to ensure a good turnout among historians of computing.

The main conference program included two official SIGCIS organized panels. The first, “Materiality Meets Practice” used the concept of materiality to offer new perspectives on the evolution of IT. Materiality recently came back into fashion in science studies, but remains largely ignored within the history of computing. Thomas Haigh looked at the role of materiality in the evolution of the IBM PC/AT from a single machine design into a template for almost the entire personal computer industry. Jeffrey Tang provided another examination of the importance of materiality to the development of de-facto standards with his analysis of the RCA jack in the development of the home audio industry. Allan Olley considered the interaction of calculating technology and practices in early scientific computing, while David Alan Grier looked at the “material origins of virtualization.” Gerard Alberts was the commentator, and Jim Cortada served as chair. (pdf)

Our other official panel was on “Paths Not Taken and Paths Retraced in the History of Information Technology.” In this lively and well attended session four historians explored failure and rebirth. Jonathan Coopersmith used an extended discussion of the concept of failure in the history of technology to frame his work on the rise and fall of fax machines. Paul Ceruzzi blended discussion of space flight and artificial intelligence to support his analysis of the role that our expectations for the “natural” evolution of a technology play in shaping its actual trajectory. Chris McDonald offered an examination of the transformation of the early timesharing industry away from the computer utility concept at the end of the 1960s, and Evan Koblentz documented a long and largely forgotten history of portable computing prior to its recent proliferation. (pdf)

SIGCIS members were prominent elsewhere in the program. No other panels were concerned exclusively with computer technology, but relevant material was scattered over another dozen panels. In fact this highlights the increasing acceptance of the history of computing within SHOT, as IT topics are often included in thematic panels addressing a range of technologies. Frank Dittman organized a session on “Robots in Practice.” Other panels with computing content explored the history of the Cold War, consumer agency, the gendered aspects of video games, the “third industrial revolution” and public involvement in technology.

For those of you who have not yet been able to attend one, our annual lunch meetings at the main SHOT conference are a combination of informal mingling, announcements, introductions of new members, presentation of prizes and grants and annual general meeting. SIGCIS has no dues, so we rely on donations made at the lunch and the proceeds from our auction of donated history of computing books to cover our annual operating expenses. We had 53 registered guests for the official SIGCIS lunch. They set a new fundraising record for SIGCIS (and I suspect for any SHOT SIG). This was thanks in large part to the energy and enthusiasm of David Anderson as auctioneer and the generosity of MIT Press (in the person of Margurite Avery) in providing a large consignment of books to supplement those carried by our individual members). The auction is great fun, helps make people aware of new titles, and sometimes offers bargains. The out of print CBI/MIT reprint edition of Wilkes, Wheeler and Gill, which is unavailable via Amazon for any price, sold for just $35! We raised a total of $1,117. That handsomely beat our target of $1,000 and was a significant advance over previous years (approx $830 in 2008, $360 in 2007, and $150 in 2006). Of that total about $350 was placed into the money cup as general donations, and the remainder came from the book auction. Funds from the 2008 meeting were used to present four graduate student supplemental travel awards, of $200 each.

The centerpiece of the lunch, however, was the inaugural presentation of our new Computer History Museum Prize. Given to “an outstanding book in the history of computing, broadly conceived” the award consists of $1,000 and a certificate. Tom Misa, chair of the panel of judges, presented the prize to Christophe Lecuyer for his book Making Silicon Valley. This was the culmination of two years of careful work by the judges, SIGCIS officers, the ad-hoc committee set up to establish procedures for the prize (Bill Aspray, Michael Mahoney, Paul Ceruzzi, and Tom Misa) and the Computer History Museum’s Len Shustek who found SIGCIS an anonymous donor to support the prize. The prize also set an encouraging precedent for informal collaboration between SIGCIS, the Charles Babbage Institute, and the Computer History Museum in the development of our field.

2009 SIGCIS Workshop Report – Mike Mahoney & the Histories of Computing(s)
New! See photographs from the 2009 meeting.
Some kinds of scholarly infrastructure came early to the history of computing. For example Annals of the History of Computing was founded more than three decades ago. In contrast, the field has never enjoyed a regular, peer reviewed conference or workshop series where work on all aspects of the history of computing can be presented. There have, of course, been scholarly meetings organized by leaders in the field. In the past decade these included small conferences in Paderborn, Bletchley Park, Manchester University, the Charles Babbage Institute, events on the History of Nordic Computing, and a variety of special events held in conjunction with the SOFT-EU project. But many of these events were invitation only, and most of them were focused on very specific topics or regions.

The SIGCIS Workshop is intended to fill this gap. By a happy coincidence, SHOT decided to forgo its traditional (and sparsely attended) Sunday morning sessions at the end of the conference and instead open this time to allows its SIGs to experiment with new events. SIGCIS seized the opportunity to go beyond this, extending the conference with a full day of events. SHOT’s work in arranging the meeting and handling registration made this a much less daunting challenge than it would otherwise have been.

The inaugural workshop had the theme “Michael Mahoney and the Histories of Computing(s).” As well as honoring our late colleague, a keen participant in SIGCIS events over the past few years, the theme had the benefit of covering all aspects of our field while challenging participants to contextualize their work within a particular tradition of computing. The opening plenary session was concerned directly with Mahoney’s work and legacy. A short presentation by Thomas Haigh dealing with Mahoney’s work on the historiography of computing and his contributions to SIGCIS was followed by longer presentations from William Aspray and Gerard Alberts. Aspray gave a heartfelt talk focusing on Mahoney’s career and the relationship of his work on the history of computing to his earlier (and ongoing) work on the history of mathematics and the scientific revolution. Alberts surveyed Mahoney’s work and legacy, including his sometimes daunting series of papers on the origins of theoretical computer science.

The rest of the day was split into three sessions, each filled with two parallel streams for a total of twenty one presenters. More than fifty people were present for the plenary session, and most stayed returned after enjoying an authentic Pittsburgh lunch at Primanti Bros. Restaurant. A mixup of restaurant locations left us eating outside, all the better to appreciate the warming properties of lare sandwiches stuffed with French fries.

The workshop theme of “The Histories of Computing(s)” built on Mahoney’s recognition, in his 2005 paper of the same name, of the many and diverse histories in which computers have played important roles. Sessions were thus devoted to science, management, politics, and the rise and fall of particular computing contexts. Several presenters, including Anker Helms Jorgensen, Chigusa Kita, Scott M. Campbell, and Joseph November directly related their papers to Mahoney’s work. However the very diversity of the presentations was itself a vindication of his vision of our field.

SIGCIS took advantage of the more intimate nature of the workshop setting to offer something beyond the usual SHOT format of panels with three papers, a chair and a commentator. Two sessions were based on precirculated drafts – one was a dissertation workshop and the other for discussion of works in progress. These events provided participants with the chance to receive expert guidance on their projects in a supportive environment.

As expected the number of participants dwindled through the day, as attendees hurried to the airport for flights home. As the final session concluded at 5:45 there were still more than 25 people left, most of them huddled around Larry Owens’ laptop enthralled by his visual model of the contents of the encyclopedia of computer science. (The projector had been reclaimed by SHOT a few minutes earlier). Seventeen remained that evening for the short walk across Smithfield Street Bridge to the Buca di Peppo location on Station Square. We dined at a large round table in a private alcove, with a rotating Papal bust as the centerpiece. This pleasantly tacky atmosphere provided exotic allure for our international members, while the food proved ample, affordable, and surprisingly well made. This provided a final vindication of Mahoney’s impeccable and eclectic taste. He had suggested the chain as a venue for our 2005 SIG dinner at the Minneapolis meeting but a reservation had proved impossible to obtain on that occasion.

SHOT 2008 Annual Meeting, October 11-14, Lisbon, Portugal
New! See photographs from the 2008 meeting.

Computing history was well represented in the 2008 annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology. As the second of two fiftieth anniversary meetings it had the theme “SHOT@50: Looking Beyond.” The meeting also had a special flavor because of its location in Lisbon – every four years SHOT meets outside North America. The meeting was held in the modern and stylish Parque das Nações area, a riverfront business and entertainment district constructed for the Expo ’98 international exposition. Attendees enjoyed a range of dining options, a great selection of public art, and the nearby aquarium.

SIGCIS organized a number of events. For early arrivers, including participants in the Inventing Europe meeting held immediately prior to SHOT, we held an afternoon excursion by train for a gentle hike in the nearby town of Sintra, famous for its views and castles. The next night around twenty five historians of computing gathered for a convivial dinner at a pleasant Argentine-themed restaurant. Wine flowed as participants renewed old acquaintances and made new friends.

The SIGCIS centerpiece, however, was its annual lunch meeting. Forty people registered to enjoy a tasty menu of salad, baked cod, a desert buffet, wine and port. As always we rushed to combine eating and business within the available time, but in the end the event as a huge success. For the second time we ran an auction of books donated by members, this year bolstered by a sizable donation of new and rare titles from MIT Press. Under the able gavel of David Anderson we raised $821 in sales and cash donations to fund the newly established Michael S. Mahoney/MIT Press Graduate Student Travel Award. Mahoney, who died last summer, had been our auctioneer the year before and so it felt particularly appropriate to honor him in this way. The money he helped raised the previous year funded our first award, presented to Cornell University student Honghong Tinn to assist with her travel expenses to present her work on the Taiwanese computer industry. We also made the first public announcement of the new SIGICS prize for outstanding work in the history of computing. Tom Misa, who chaired the adhoc committee to determine its format, made the announcement. Known as the Computer History Museum Prize it is discussed elsewhere in this issue of Annals. In a brief business session we elected a new slate of officers. Jeffrey Tang took over as Secretary and Petri Paju as Vice Chair, Europe to join me, Joe November, Chigusa Kita, James Sumner and Brent Jesiek who continued in our existing positions.

The official SIGCIS panel was Looks, Chips, Users and Code: The Business of Computing. Janet Delve presented a new look at Jacquard looms, suggesting that Jacquard’s personal contribution to technological evolution was less profound than generally assumed. Annals Editor in Chief Jeffrey Yost discussed divergent component strategies at IBM and Sperry Univac in the 1960s and 70s, shedding new light on the role of semiconductor strategy in the mainframe industry. Labor economist Peter B Meyer of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics crunched historical data on employment in the information industries to compare income inequality among information workers with patterns in other areas. Pierre Mounier-Kuhn looked at the evolution of the Application Software Department of the Compagnie Internationale pour l'Informatique (CII), the 'national champion' computer manufacturer in the French governmental policy (Plan Calcul) launched in 1966. I was the commentator, and Helmuth Trischler of the Deutsches Museum was kind enough to chair.

The history of computing was represented on many other panels. Because of the Inventing Europe meeting being held in conjunction with SHOT a number of formal and informal members of the Software for Europe project (one of four European Science Foundation sponsored research networks within Inventing Europe) were presenting early versions of their work. Corinna Schlombs organized a session on transnational exchange in Cold War computing, in which she discussed the role of the Marshall Plan in spreading American computers and concepts of efficiency in Europe, Petri Paju and Helena Durnova exposed hidden commonalities in their a comparative perspective on the evolution of computing in Finland and Czechoslovakia, and Ksenia Tatarchenko examined the international ties of Siberian computer scientists.

Elsewhere in the program Gard Paulson looked at the creation of a standard computer language for telephone switches in the 1970s as a case study in the institutional politics of innovation, Nathan Ensmenger talked about software maintenance issues, and an ambitious panel on cybernetics and information theory in the 1960s and 70s, organized by Frank Dittman and Bernard Geoghegan, featured no less than seven speakers – probably a SHOT record.

SHOT 2007 Annual Meeting, October 18-21, Washington DC

2007 Annual Meeting Report
New! See photographs from the 2007 meeting.

The Society for the History of Technology, held its 50th annual meeting during October 2007 at the Capitol Hilton in the heart of Washington, DC. As well as being a historic occasion for the society this was also a milestone event for the history of computing: never before had an annual meeting of SHOT (or any other professional society of historians) included so many papers and panels devoted to all aspects of the history of computing. In all, eight of the sixty panel sessions were primarily concerned with the history of computing or simulation and several more included individual papers on these topics – a remarkable increase in activity from the 2005 meeting in Minneapolis where just one panel was primarily concerned with computing.

As chair of the Special Interest Group on Computers, Information, and Society (SIGCIS) I organized three of those panels. Two were all related to the conference theme, addressing 50 Years of Computing Historiography and 50 Years of Computer Use—Continuity and Change. The third addressed Networks of Knowing—Technology Transfer & Open Source Innovation. These panels mixed scholars well known to Annals readers, such as Michael S. Mahoney and William Aspray, with many younger historians and graduate students. They also drew participants from a number of related disciplines, such as computer science and economics, who would not usually attend SHOT. This was in keeping with the society’s hope, on its anniversary, to reconnect with members of the technical communities that had played an important part in its work during its first decades.

The annual SIGCIS lunch meeting was well attended, despite the outrageous price the conference hotel demanded for a pizza buffet. At this meeting we launched our new website, SIGCIS Internet Infrastructure Officer, Brent Jesiek, and its Secretary Joline Zepchevski had been working hard to create a state-of-the-art web presence for the SIG using the powerful Drupal content management system. This allows all members to create and update online profiles as part of our directory of historians of computing. The site also holds archives of our email and discussion list, available to all members, and the newly updated guide “Key Resources in the History of Computing.” We are also working on closer ties with the Mercurians, the SIG for the history of communications. Andrew Buttica, the Mercurians chair, gave a short talk on their activities which this year included a pre-conference workshop held at the US Postal Museum. At the SIGCIS dinner, a smaller and informal affair held late in the evening after the conference reception, around a dozen historians gathered over Malaysian food at a nearby restaurant to chat and learn more about each other.

Passing the hat (literally a soup bowl) among members and holding an auction of donated books with Mike Mahoney of Princeton as the auctioneer raised exactly 360 dollars for the SIG’s funds – an auspicious number in our field. The SIGCIS executive committee has resolved to use this money to seed a fund providing money to assist graduate students with the cost of presenting in future SIGCIS sponsored panels. We also recruited Joseph November as the SIG’s Communications officers – among his duties are maintaining a blog of current news and establishing an online repository of course syllabi in the history of computing. SIGCIS also launched an effort to endow a new prize for the best published work in the history of computing. We hope to be able to announce success on this front soon.

Space prevents us from listing all of the relevant papers presented at the meeting, but they testified to the intellectual diversity of a field drawing ever-growing numbers of scholars from many different traditions. Aristotle Tympas, for example, went back to earlier technologies to ask “Did the Computing Revolution Start In Parallel to the Industrial Revolution” as he argued that slide rules had co-evolved with practices in steam engine and electrical engineering. Joseph November looked at the role of computing with the National Institutes of Health during the 1960s, while several authors explored the use of computers for modeling and simulation. Roy G. Saltman explored the history of computerized voting machines, Greg Downey looked at the relationship of computers to librarians, and Evan Koblentz called for historians to work more closely with computer collectors. Janet Abbate explored gender politics in the first decades of digital computing, and Eden Medina discussed the relationship between Marxism and Cybernetics as part of her ongoing exploration of computing in Allende’s Chile. Peter Meyer used the tools of economic history to draw parallels between modern open source software efforts and early aeronautical innovation, while David Hemmendinger gave us the perspective of a practicing computer scientist in his paper on change and continuity in the history of programming languages

For the 2007 meeting, a special 50th anniversary celebration of SHOT, we organized no less than three panel proposals.

50 years of Computing Historiography
Chair: Christopher Sterling, George Washington University
Organizer: Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Comment: Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

  • Janet Delve, University of Portsmouth: "Historiography in the History of Computing: New Challenges from Other Disciplines?"
  • Evan Koblentz, Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists: "Bridging the Gap Between Historians and Hobbyists in the History of Technology"
  • Michael Mahoney, Princeton University: "The Many Histories of Computing"
  • Allan Olley, University of Toronto: "Charles Babbage: Famous Object of Neglect"

50 years of Computer Use-Continuity and Change
Chair: Michael Mahoney, Princeton University
Organizer: Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Comment: William Aspray, Indiana University

  • Greg Downey, University of Wisconsin: "Library vs. the Computer, the: Five Decades of Premature Obituaries?"
  • David Hemmendinger, Union College: "Fifty Years of Programming Languages"
  • William McMillan, Eastern Michigan University: "Fifty-Plus years of Amnesia in Computing: The Disappearance and Resurrection of Virtual Machines as a Case Study"
  • Roy G. Saltman: "Fifty Years of Computerized Elections: Technologies and Institutions"

Networks of Knowing - Technology Transfer & Open Source Innovation
Chair: William Aspray, Indiana University
Organizer: Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Comment: David Gugerli, ETH Zuerich

  • Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: "Open Source Software at 50: Its Corporate and Mathematical Origins"
  • David Anderson, University of Portsmouth: "Challenging the Engineering Perspective: A New Look at the Development of the World's First Stored Program Computer"
  • Chigusa Kita, Kansai University: "From Technological Mimesis to Creativity: Early Online Rail Reservations in Japan"
  • Peter Meyer, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: "Beyond Computer Exceptionalism: Open Source Aeronautics Before 1903

4S (Society for Social Studies of Science) 2007 Annual Meeting, October 11-13, Montreal

For the 2007 4S meeting SIGCIS hosted its traditional informal dinner for members. We also organized the following panel.

Knowing with Computers: How Software and Systems Encapsulate Expertise.
Organizer: Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

  • Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: "Knowing Numbers: How Numerical Software Libraries Changed Scientific Practice, 1954-1975"
  • Joseph November, University of South Carolina: "Computers and the Unintended Demathematization of Biology"
  • Bill McMillan, Eastern Michigan University: "The Origins of Structured Programming in the Mathematical Abstractions Implemented in the Transition from ALGOL 58 to ALGOL 60"
  • Brent Jesiek, Virginia Tech: "Embedded Boundaries, Embedded Systems: Historical Trajectories and Contemporary Trends"
  • Chigusa Kita, Kansai University, Japan: "Familiar Look, Revolutionary Technology"

Business History Conference 2007 Annual Meeting, May 31-June 1, Cleveland, Ohio

The Business History Conference does not usually have many papers related to information technology. SIGCIS has been working to remedy this, and to provide opportunities for business historians with an interest in the topic to network.

Cleveland is perhaps not the most inviting city in North America, but the conference ran very smoothly and the shiny new Gehry designed Weatherhead School of Management was a spectacular setting for the main events. As well as a paper session, SIGCIS organized a convoy of three cars leaving the evening reception to carry participants a couple of miles to Mint Caf?© on Coventry Road, which lived up to its reputation for tasty and inexpensive Thai food.

The paper session followed on our 2006 SHOT session to showcase three more chapters from the forthcoming Aspray/Cerruzi edited book The Internet and American Business:

Industry Emergence and the Commercialization of the Internet, 1993-2004
Chair: Sheldon Hochheiser
Organizer Thomas Haigh
Discussant: Leslie Berlin, Stanford University

  • Shane Greenstein, Northwestern University: "Innovation and the Evolution of Market Structure for Internet Access in the United States"
  • David Kirsch, University of Maryland, College Park & Brent Goldfarb, University of Maryland, College Park: "Small Ideas, Big Ideas, Bad Ideas, Good Ideas: Characterizing Dot Com Venture Creation"
  • Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee: "The Web's Missing Links: The Search Engine and Portal Industry"

SHOT 2006 Annual Meeting, October 12-15, Las Vegas

As it turned out, historians of technology and Vegas did not fit together particularly well. Rather than taking advantage of the local resources of gambling, strip clubs, and music shows most of the attendees amused themselves by discussing how much they hated Vegas. The optional group trip to the Liberance Museum, it must be admitted, was quite fun. As was the SHOT reception at the Atomic Testing Museum, when the bus driver finally managed to locate the place. Both museums displayed a reverential and supportive attitude toward their subjects quite out of sync with the ironic appeal one might suspect them to hold for most of their visitors.

Despite its determination to hold down registration costs and lack of corporate largess SHOT pulled off the feat of hosting the event right on the Strip. This was accomplished by picking the Imperial Palace hotel, an establishment that has for some time appeared near the top of industry experts' lists of properties tipped for immediate demolition. The quality of guest rooms, lifts, signage, service and elegance were roughly as one might expect from a soon-to-be pile of rubble long (built, it turns out, by a union-busting Nazi sympathizer). Grumbling about the hotel provided another source of comradeship.

The annual lunch meeting featured around forty attendees. Over a buffet of pizza and pasta we mingled and shared some announcements, including a short address by Tom Misa, newly appointed Director of the Charles Babbage Institute.

While Vegas holds a good selection of affordable ethnic restaurants, none of them lie within an easy walk of the middle of the Strip. Thoughts of organizing taxis rapidly crumbled the night before after observing the sad combination of an enormous line of would-be riders and gridlock on the street. Instead the dozen hardy participants in our informal dinner strode around the corner to the upscale Gaylord restaurant buried somewhere inside the Rio Casino.

Though history of computing topics were presented in many other sections of the program, the SIG organized one official panel for the meeting, which included several papers from a forthcoming book on the topic edited by William Aspray and Paul Ceruzzi.

The Commercialized Internet and its Users in the 1990s
Chair: William Aspray, Indiana University
Organizer: Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Commentator: James W. Cortada, IBM

  • Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: "Crippled by its Own Strengths: The Software Infrastructure of the Commercializing Internet"
  • Atsushi Akera, RPI: "Re-envisioning Community: A Contemporary US History of Social Networking and Community Informatics"
  • Jeffrey Yost, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota: "The Internet and the Transformation of American Industries: A Case Study of Travel Reservations"

4S (Society for Social Studies of Science) 2006 Annual Meeting, November 2-4, Vancouver

While SHOT is the home of SIGCIS, there are no corresponding scholarly groups with the associations representing historians of science, business, or labor (or indeed within the major associations for computing: the ACM, IEEE Computer Society or SIAM). SIGCIS is therefore active in organizing panel sessions and information social events at conferences where a significant number of historians with an interest in computing might be present.

The 2006 joint meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science ( and the History of Science Society took place in Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver is known as a rainy city, but the weather outdid itself for the meeting. Four uninterrupted days of heavy rain obscured the views for which the city is justly famous and led to serious flooding up and down the coast. Fortunately we did not let this depress us.

As well as organizing two panels via the SIG's email discussion list, we held a meeting of the SIG's executive committee (Thomas Haigh, James Sumner, Brent Jesiek, Joline Zepcevski and Chigusa Kita) to plan new projects including our state-of-the-art Drupal-powered website.

In the evening, a dozen historians of computing convened for dinner. All the nearby Korean restaurants were too full for a party of this size, but after a wet trek down Robson street we found salvation just around the corner on Denman street at the Ukrainian Village restaurant.

The 4S conference is famous for its inclusive nature, including science studies people, sociologists, anthropologists, information school faculty, and critical theory types as well as historians. Together with its welcome acceptance policy this produces a lively meeting, though overcrowding led to many panels of ten minute papers separated from neighboring presentations by nothing more than a curtain. Luckily our offerings secured real meeting rooms and strong turnouts. Our panels:

State Ideology and Computerized Modernity, 1950-1970
Full Proposal: 4S2006ComputerizedModernity.pdf
Organizer: Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Discussant: James Sumner, University of Manchester

  • Marie Hicks, Duke University: "White Heat in the Office: Clerical Automation in Labor's Britain"
  • Eden Media, Indiana University, "Feeding the Bureaucracy, Technology for a Government of Advisors (in Chile)"
  • Bernadette Longo, University of Minnesota, "Computers for the Masses: Edmund Berkeley and the Social Responsibilities of Computer Development"

The Secret History of Open Source
Full Proposal: 4S2006OpenSourceSession.pdf
Organizer: Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Discussant: Atsushi Akera, RPI

  • Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: "The Corporate Origins of Open Source"
  • Maria Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: "Downloading Communism: Open Source and File Sharing as Samizdat"
  • David Ferro, Weber State University: "Missing the Future?: Murray Leinster, Vernor Vinge, and Science Fiction's Prescient and Less-Than-Prescient Views of Open Source, Networks, and Personal Computers"

SHOT 2005 Annual Meeting, November 3-6, Minneapolis

With the proximity of the Charles Babbage Institute, the leading archival center for computing history, and an IEEE Annals of the History of Computing meeting being held in conjunction with this event, this SHOT conference attracted more historians of computing ever.

Our annual lunch meeting attracted a record crowd of more that 50. The usual round of introductions and explanations of research interests was speeded with the introduction of the SIGCIS online directory of historians of computing. The meeting saw an official handover from longtime SIG chair Paul Ceruzzi of the Smithsonian Institute to Thomas Haigh of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Members thanked Ceruzzi for his long service with a signed card and a book token. Several of the attendees volunteered for provisional roles as SIG officers. The next evening, more than a dozen historians of computing enjoyed casual conversation and excellent food at the nearby King & I Thai restaurant.

The SIG's official panel at the 2005 meeting was:

Use & Usability in Personal Computing: International Perspectives
Full Proposal: SHOT%202005%20panel.pdf
Chair: Paul Ceruzzi, Smithsonian
Organizer: Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Commentator: Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

  • James Sumner, University of Manchester, UK: "The Mighty Microcosm: Home Computers and User Identity in Britain, 1980-90"
  • Martin Campbell-Kelly, Warwick University, UK: "Number Crunching without Programming: The Evolution of Spreadsheet Usability"
  • Frank Veraart, Technical University of Eindhoven, Netherlands: "The Introduction and Use of Personal Computers in the Printing and Publishing Industries in the Netherlands: 1975-1990"