Director's Desk
CHARLES BABBAGE INSTITUTE
NEWSLETTER

 

 

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Director’s Desk

Visibility in the wider world is one of our concerns at CBI.  Some years ago, the quip went that CBI was better known in Japan than in Minnesota.  An active community of historians of computing had formed in Japan, and CBI successfully did extensive international outreach.  This year we welcome Mai Sugimoto of Kansai University for a 12-month research stay; she was previously at CBI on a Fulbright fellowship in 2008-9 and also for a shorter visit in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, when she led a memorable and moving impromptu seminar for us to share her personal perspective.  We continue to cherish international visitors that extend our horizons and enrich our culture.

Our reach now encompasses a number of local groups and history initiatives.  This September the documentary film “DocuMNtary: The Story of Tech in Minnesota” featured numerous CBI images.  Yours truly explains the ins-and-outs of the Minnesota computing scene.  Talks to the local community publicized my book, Digital State: The Story of Minnesota’s Computing Industry (University of Minnesota Press 2013), available now online at JSTOR and Kindle.

Documntary

Contacts in Minnesota computing led to several significant archival connections.  In our annual appeal letter I mentioned Mike Svendsen’s small but valuable collection of materials on Univac’s Semiconductor Control Facility.  Corporate records identified and organized by historical-minded insiders resulted in the Lockheed Martin Records, 1945-2013 (CBI 238), at nearly 200 linear feet one of CBI’s larger archival collections.  Series 1 “Patent Applications” has files ranging from Symbol Detection (1952) and Memory Apparatus and Method (1954) through many electronics, computing, and military topics into the 1980s including patenting processes; and Series 2 “Historical Files” has documentation on ERA, Univac, and other topics stretching back to the dawn of Minnesota computing as well as photographs, slides, and film clips. 

Numerous local and state chapters of national organizations and companies can be located in the alphabetical listing of CBI’s 348 collections or the online keyword finding guide.  One caution: the University of Minnesota Libraries has installed a new content management system, so finding research materials can require new strategies.  Prospective researchers can always contact Amanda Wick <abwick@umn.edu> for assistance.

In connecting to the local Minnesota community, CBI staff have not shortchanged our national and international activities.  CBI associate director Jeffrey Yost has taken up several leadership positions in the IEEE, serving as editor-in-chief of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing and more recently as chair of the IEEE Computer Society’s History Committee.  I too worked with the IEEE History Committee, and since 2008 have been active with the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and its History Committee, which I chaired for two years.  Currently I’m series editor for ACM Books, a new publishing venture, which has already brought out three history titles and this fall will publish Communities of Computing: Computer Science and Society in the ACM, a volume I edited from scholarship that the ACM History Committee supported with its annual fellowship awards.

CBI staff, visiting researchers, and graduate students actively contribute to annual meetings of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) and its computer-history special interest group (SIGCIS).  At the 2015 Albuquerque meeting we collectively gave three papers, organized two full SHOT sessions, and participated in numerous additional ways.  Attentive SHOT watchers may have seen the late-breaking news of the annual announcement of voting results.  I was elected to be incoming vice president/president elect, which entails a two-year term followed by a second two years as SHOT’s president.  One way or another, CBI remains at the forefront of making history.  Your support through the CBI Friends helps us keep up with the times.

Thomas J. Misa

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