SIGCIS 2010 Workshop

SIGCIS 2010 Workshop:

Materiality & Immateriality in the History of Computing

Sunday October 3, 2010, Hotel Murano, Tacoma, Washington

New! Workshop photos available online.

The Society for the History of Technology’s Special Interest Group for Computers, Information and Society (SIGCIS – announces its 2010 workshop with the theme Materiality and Immateriality in the History of Computing. The workshop will be held in Tacoma Washington all day on Sunday, October 3 2010. This is the final day of the annual SHOT meeting. SHOT has reserved that day for SIG events and therefore the symposium will not overlap scheduled sessions in the main program. For details on the main SHOT meeting see

Registration: Registration for the workshop should be made through the registration procedure for the main SHOT meeting at There is no separate charge for the SIGCIS workshop (though we will be seeking donations to cover the cost of the coffee breaks!). The deadline for SHOT registration is September 10, after which a late fee will apply. Note that SHOT does not offer online registration and will not accept scanned registration forms sent via email -- you'll need to dig out that fax machine or find some stamps. When you register be sure to check the box for "Sunday Workshop on History of Computing" -- that's the SIGCIS workshop. We've been told that there is a special one day registration option for those not attending the full conference -- contact if you are interested in this option.

Workshop Meals: We will organize nearby group options for lunch during the workshop and dinner afterwards. Details will be provided closer to the meeting time, and we will contact registered attendees to determine how many people to reserve for. Payment for this cannot be made through the SHOT reservation process so please bring plenty of dollars with you.

Precirculation of Materials: Some of the workshop sessions follow the traditional format for SHOT and other history conferences, with a commentator but no publication or precirculation of materials. However the conference features two round table sessions devoted to discussion of precirculated items (syllabi and papers), a works in progress session, and a dissertations in progress session. Full text for the items to be discussed in these sessions will be available from this site by September 15th. Please make an effort to read these papers prior to attending the sessions as their authors will be making only very short presentations to highlight key points and frame questions for discussion.

Schedule:   Pavillion E Room Pavillion F Room 9:00-10:30

Opening Plenary (Pavillion F):

10:30-10:45 Coffee break 10:45-12:00

Roundtable: Computers, Information and Society in the Classroom

  • Andrew Russell, Stevens Institute of Technology (chair & organizer)
  • Nathan Ensmenger, University of Pennsylvania
  • Rebecca Slayton, Stanford University

(Short presentations to introduce pre circulated documents, followed by general discussion). Consolidated file of syllabi now available for download.

Examining the Interaction of Speculative Literature and Computing: Toward a Research Agenda

  • David L. Ferro, Weber State University (chair & organizer)
  • Janet Abbate, Virgina Tech
  • Eric G. Swedin, Weber State University
  • Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

(Short presentations to introduce pre circulated documents, followed by general discussion)

12:00-1:30 Lunch break (group lunch option TBA) 1:30-3:30

Dissertations In Progress
Chair/Commentator: Paul Edwards, University of Michigan

  • “The Akademgorodok Computing Center (1958-1990)” Ksenia Tatachenko, Princeton University.
  • “Digital Equipment's Rise and Fall, Could it Have Been Avoided?” Dave Goodwin, Birkbeck College London.
  • “A History and Ethnography of the Cocoa Software Community.” Hansen Hsu, Cornell University.
  • “Connecting Minds in a Multimedia Episteme: The Academic Supercomputer Centers and the Construction an Advanced Cognitive Infrastructure for the U.S. Research Community: 1983-1993” Kevin Walsh, University of California, San Diego.

(Short presentations to introduce pre circulated dissertation proposals, to be discussed in turn by workshop participants)

Traditional Papers: Teaching & Showing
Chair: Olga Pantelidou, National Technical University of Athens
Commentator: Rebecca Slayton, Stanford University

  • “The PLATO Computer-Based Education System: Teacher's Tool or Teacher?” Christopher McDonald, Princeton University.
  • “Car Navigation Systems – A History of Associative Clusters.” Tristan Thielmann, University of Siegen.
  • “A Material History of Bits.” Jean-François Blanchette, UCLA.
  • “Museums and the Material Culture of Video Games.” Petrina Foti, Smithsonian NMAH.

(4x20 minute presentations followed by a 10-15 minute comment and general discussion) 3:30-4:00 Coffee break
(Demonstration of the "IT History Society Archival Database," Jeffery Stein, IT History Society). 4:00-6:00

Works in Progress
Chair/Commentator: Tristan Thielmann, University of Siegen

  • “Making Computers Logical: Edmund Berkeley’s promotion of logical machines.” Mai Sugimoto, Kyoto University.
  • “Technological system or military-industrial-complex – the diffusion of numerically controlled machine tools in Sweden, 1950–1970." Gustav Sjöblom, Chalmers University of Technology.
  • “Meta Filter: Coming to Agreement with Interactive Computer Technology.” Sharon Irish, UIUC.

(Short presentations to introduce pre circulated papers, to be discussed in turn by workshop participants)

Traditional Papers: Place & Space
Chair: Ann Johnson, University of South Carolina.
Commentator: Peter Meyer, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • “The Material History of Digital Electronics: The Development of Silicon Manufacturing Technology at Fairchild Semiconductor.” David C. Brock, Chemical Heritage Foundation & Christophe Lecuyer, University of California.
  • “’The World Looks to Britain’: Technology Transfer, Heterogeneous Engineering, and British Computing Companies’ Attempt to Capture the Indian Market, 1955-1965.” Marie Hicks, Duke University.
  • “Wat' Forever: Computing Education at the University of Waterloo.” Scott M. Campbell, University of Waterloo.
  • “Materiality, modernity and space: The British banks and their computer centres, 1961–1963.” Ian Martin, Open University & University of Manchester.

(4x20 minute presentations followed by a 10-15 minute comment and general discussion)

Dinner: An optional group dinner will be held following the workshop for those eager to continue conversation over food.

Sponsorship: SIGCIS wishes to thank the following organizations and individuals for donations made specifically to fund travel awards and other costs for this workshop.

  • Richard S. Tedlow of Harvard Business School, on behalf of the Computer History Museum, $1,000
  • The MIT Press, $800 raised from donated books
  • School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, $500
  • IT History Society, $200