At the Charles Babbage Institute we have enjoyed long and productive relationships with the computing profession. CBI was organized originally in California by Erwin Tomash before moving to the University of Minnesota in 1980. During these months of early organizational effort CBI concluded an agreement with Al Hoagland, then president of AFIPS, to financially support CBI and to assist with its governance.1 AFIPS, the American Federation of Information Processing Societies (a consortium of 13 computing organizations), was simultaneously launching publication of Annals of the History of Computing. (Some years later the journal came under the wing of the IEEE.) History of computing was clearly in the air!
The IEEE and ACM, constituting the founding societies for AFIPS in 1961, have been much on our minds at CBI. In recent years our most prominent activity in the IEEE has been CBI associate director Jeffrey Yost’s editorship of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing from 2008 to 2011. Yost continues on the Annals board as well as serving as the new chair of the IEEE Computer Society’s History Committee. For this committee Jeff organized an oral history initiative to capture the perspectives and insights of IEEE Computer Society presidents and longtime executive staff leaders. Among those he has interviewed in the past year was none other than Al Hoagland, who served as Computer Society president before taking the leadership position at AFIPS.
This autumn I concluded a four-year term on the IEEE History Committee, which assists with the governance of the IEEE’s History Center. My professional activity is now concentrated in the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). I have been on the ACM’s History Committee since 2008 and will be chairing it next year, following the leadership of University of Utah’s Mary Hall. For ACM I am also editing the history of computing series within the newly launched ACM Book Series.
This spring and summer CBI will host two professionally oriented history workshops. In May with the sponsorship of the ACM History Committee, CBI’s archivist R. Arvid Nelsen is leading a hands-on workshop which aims at disseminating professional archiving practices to the ACM membership. Archivists, librarians, historians, computer scientists, and museum professionals from five countries will participate in a two-day workshop here at CBI during 21-22 May. Arvid himself is the newly installed chair of the ALA-affiliated Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries. He also brings to this archiving workshop his University of Minnesota Libraries experiences in digital archiving and data curation. For many ACM members this will be the first opportunity to see their organization’s headquarters records, professionally organized and safely stored in the caverns below CBI.
Later this summer in July, with support from the National Science Foundation, we are organizing a unique meeting between computer-security professionals and academic historians. This workshop is an activity of our NSF-funded project on “Building an Infrastructure for Computer Security History.” The workshop will have the goal of presenting new knowledge about the history of computer security, based on professionals’ assessments as well as historians’ research. Among those presenting papers will be such computer-security luminaries as Steve Lipner and Bob Johnston; internet governance expert Laura Denardis; several former CBI-Tomash fellows including Bill Aspray, Nathan Ensmenger, and Andrew McGee; and CBI’s own Jim Cortada and Jeffrey Yost. Michael Warner, as command historian of U.S. Cyber Command, neatly spans all sides. Papers will be revised for a special issue of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing.
So if you’d like to join the professionals, the historians, or even the professional historians, please drop us a line at the Charles Babbage Institute. For more than three decades, we have been cultivating—with the active assistance of many valued institutional partners—new approaches to computing history. Your support of the CBI Friends helps us to keep these professional relationships active, strong, and vital.
Thomas J. Misa