2020 Mahoney Prize


Belcher, Oliver. “Sensing, Territory, Population: Computation, Embodied Sensors, and Hamlet Control in the Vietnam War,” Security Dialogue 50.5, 416-436 (2019).

Prize Citation:

Oliver Belcher – a geographer and Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University – has written a remarkable history of the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES) created and deployed by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. As Belcher details, the story of HES is an important episode both in the history of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and in the history of U.S. “pacification” actions in Vietnam. Particularly striking are Belcher’s arguments that U.S. military advisors acted as “embodied sensors” for HES, and that their transformations of the realities of village life into the data format of HES constituted a form of “epistemic violence” implicated in the broader landscape of physical violence during the war. In this, Belcher positions his study as a contribution to a “history of computers as a technology of imperial violence.”

2019 Mahoney Prize


Menon, Nikhil. "‘Fancy Calculating Machine’: Computers and planning in independent India." Modern Asian Studies 52, no. 2 (2018): 421-457.

Prize Citation:

Nikhil Menon’s fascinating history details and contextualizes the efforts of statistician P. C. Mahalanobis to import a first digital computer to India in the 1950s. As Menon demonstrates, Mahalanobis’ many attempts to secure a computer – from the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom – were central to the national project of economic development and planning, rather than military use. Against a backdrop of decolonization and the Cold War, Mahalanobis was hamstrung in his attempts to source a computer from the United States for his politics, by perceptions that he was too close to the Soviet Union. The Mahoney Prize committee commends Menon for a well-written, rich article based on detailed archival research, which speaks at once to India’s isolation from and connections to the ‘centres’ of computing and key figures of the era. The article evokes not just a history of computers and of Indian national development, but also scholarly meetings, negotiations with governments, and inter-departmental jockeying in an earlier era of ‘big data.’

2019 Computer History Museum Prize


Jaroslav Švelch, Gaming the Iron Curtain How Teenagers and Amateurs in Communist Czechoslovakia Claimed the Medium of Computer Games (MIT Press, 2018).

Prize Citation:

Jaroslav Švelch’s Gaming the Iron Curtain makes an important and fascinating intervention into the history of computing, challenging many basic categories in the field. The history of computing has long privileged the United States and Western Europe. Particularly during the Cold War, these regions have been treated as the primary sources of innovation and novelty, in contrast with the presumed computing backwaters of Soviet Bloc nations and the developing world. Gaming the Iron Curtain challenges this view, showing that computer users and developers in communist Czechoslovakia demonstrated considerable innovation despite and even because of their limited access to Western technology. They developed novel computers and games, creatively modified and built upon pirated code, and built hardware gaming interfaces from available materials. They also alternately utilized (“gamed”) the resources and practices of a centralized state, and critiqued the politics of that state. The book reveals the movement of technology across national borders and through an Iron Curtain that many have assumed to be impenetrable, making a significant contribution to the understanding of computing as a transnational activity. It highlights the distinctive ways in which gaming culture evolved in an environment that was not dominated by mass produced commercial technology and magazines. The book represents an impressive feat of empirical research, based on oral histories and previously unused archival sources. Finally, the book is beautifully written, providing a great deal of historical and theoretical framing while maintaining a lively and engaging narrative.

SIGCIS 2019: EXCEPTION ERROR: Fatal, Illegal, Unknown | Sunday October 27

We're excited to present the conference program for the SIGCIS 2019 Conference, EXCEPTION ERROR: Fatal, Illegal, Unknown. The conference takes place on Sunday, October 27, in Milan, Italy - on the final day of the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology.

We've got a terrific program featuring our keynote speaker, Prof. Gerardo Con Diaz, Assistant Professor, Department of Science and Technology Studies, University of California-Davis. We'll begin by announcing the 2019 winners of SIGCIS Prizes and Grants: the CHM Book Prize, Mahoney Prize, and SIGCIS Travel Awards.

To register, please visit SHOT's website, where you have the option to register for the entire SHOT conference or the Sunday SIGCIS conference only. Please take a look at the program for the SHOT Annual Meeting itself, packed with exciting sessions and papers (including several on computing and information history), as well as the traditional Friday SIGCIS lunch meeting.

2018 Mahoney Prize

Joanna Radin. “Digital Natives: How Medical and Indigenous Histories Matter for Big Data.” Osiris Vol. 32, No. 1 (2017): 43-64.

Prize Citation:
In “Digital Natives: How medical and Indigenous histories matter for Big Data,” Joanna Radin argues for critical engagement with “the metabolism of Big Data”. Radin presents the remarkable history of a dataset known as the Pima Indigenous diabetes study, derived from research conducted with the Akimel O’odham Indigenous community in Arizona. Since the loss of their ability to farm the land, this community has an extremely high rate of diabetes. Reconstructing the circumstances of the dataset’s production and its presence in a Machine Learning repository where it is used in projects far removed from diabetes, Radin draws attention to the way that data is naturalised, and bodies and economic struggle are elided. Significant questions are raised about the ethics and politics of research in an age of Big Data, including the reproduction of patterns of settler colonialism in the research enterprise, and the community’s work to redefine the research encounter. The prize committee were impressed by Radin’s depth of research, quality of analysis, and the contribution to multiple literatures, and commend her for an inspired and inspiring article.

2018 Computer History Museum Prize


Ben Peters, How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet (MIT Press, 2016).

Prize Citation:

Benjamin Peters’s history of the Soviet Internet represents a pathbreaking contribution to the understanding of the history of computing and networking. Based on detailed empirical research in Russian archives, it extends the reach of these histories into new, non-Anglo-American domains. In describing the complex institutional and political reasons for the ultimate failure of the All-State Automated Systems (OGAS), How Not to Network a Nation challenges common assumptions about the relationships between decentralization, free markets, and electronic networking. Peters’s treatment of Soviet networking brings into sharper view the infrastructures, power relations, successes, and shortcomings of our own electronic networks.

STORED IN MEMORY: 10th Annual SIGCIS Conference

We're very happy to announce the Conference Schedule for STORED IN MEMORY, the 10th Annual SIGCIS Conference to be held in St. Louis, Missouri on October 14, 2018. This conference will once again take place on the final day of the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology.

2017 Computer History Museum Prize


Elizabeth Petrick, Making Computers Accessible: Disability Rights and Digital Technology (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015).

Prize Citation:

This is a groundbreaking book on an understudied topic in the history of computing. Petrick integrates histories of technology and civil rights and demonstrates the interaction of technological, social, and legal supports for accessibility. She uses disability studies frameworks to highlight how the shifting paradigms of “normality” and “universality” have shaped computer technology. She argues convincingly that principles of “universal design” that were aimed at making computers usable for the disabled significantly shaped the evolution of personal computer technology in general—thereby making the larger historiographic point that we can’t tell complete or accurate histories of computing without including (dis)ability as a factor. The book is clearly written and well-researched, with a helpful appendix on her sources and methods.

Prize Committee:

  • Joy Rankin (2017 Chair), Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, 919 E. Shaw Ln. E-35, East Lansing, MI 48825, USA
  • Janet Abbate, Dept. of Science, Technology and Society, Virginia Tech Northern Virginia Center, 7054 Haycock Road, Falls Church, VA 22043, USA
  • Hallam Stevens, Room 1705, 7/F wenke Building, China Center for Special Economic Zone Research, Shenzhen University, Nanhai Avenue 3688, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, 518060

2017 Mahoney Prize


Erica Robles-Anderson and Patrik Svensson. “’One Damn Slide After Another’: PowerPoint at Every Occasion for Speech.” Computational Culture (January 15, 2016). 

Prize Citation:

In “’One Damn Slide After Another’: PowerPoint at Every Occasion for Speech,” Erica Robles-Anderson and Patrik Svensson provide a highly original and insightful history of PowerPoint’s design, development, and use.  They convincingly argue how PowerPoint has become a dominant and indispensable medium for communication, yet like many other forms of ubiquitous software programs and packages it has undergone minimal critical analysis.  As such, the conditioning of knowledge production with PowerPoint is overlooked, and once distinct situations and settings such as classrooms, press conferences, and church sermons become more alike.  Overall, their article stands out for astutely engaging with communication theory, as well as making significant IT history and historiographical contributions by analyzing PowerPoint within the context of precursor technologies such as the DuPont Chart Room, white boards, and overhead projectors.


SIGCIS is pleased to announce its 2017 Conference: MEASURE, MODEL, MIX: COMPUTER AS INSTRUMENT.

The conference will be held on October 29, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, as part of the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology.

The conference keynote speaker will be Joanna Radin from the Department of History at Yale University.

Measure, Model, Mix invites scholars and independent researchers across the disciplinary spectrum to explore the historical conditions of computation. The conference program is now available.


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