Various curricular debates spiced many SIGCSE meetings
(as well as other CS educator symposia). For example, I had
an ongoing “argument” with Niklaus Wirth regarding the role
of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in computer science … and as
to whether it was really a “discipline.”
While I maintained it was, Niklaus
saw it more as a facet of psychology
rather than a field unto itself. I don’t
think either of us was able to convince
the other of our differing positions.
But our discussions, both formal and
informal, were always lively and informative, and other colleagues were
quick to offer their opinions! I certainly benefited from these discussions as
it helped form my later research interests, particularly the role of AI in CS
Education. Perhaps you have had a
similar experience that led to sharpening your research focus and/or proposals.
Discussions such as these have been a mainstay of SIGCSE
meetings. Many of them begin in formal settings such as a
paper or panel session and then evolve into informal chats in
lobbies, over drinks and/or dinner. I remember a particularly
lively evening when Joe Weizenbaum elaborated on some of the
major themes in his (then) recently published book, “Computer
Power and Human Reason.” [ 7] A small group of us sat around
a table in the lobby of a (now forgotten) hotel listening to Joe
discuss his thoughts about computing, what computers could
do, might do and definitely what they should not do. This was
based not only on his famous program, ELIZA, but the reactions to it and the different ways it was perceived by society.
I mention it since for me it underlines the importance of the
informal exchanges and meetings one has at a SIGCSE symposium that simply add an extra dimension to the experience.
COMPUTER SCIENCE CONFERENCE
After our first technical symposium in Houston (1970) and our
second at Washington University in St. Louis (1972), SIGCSE
decided it would be beneficial to collaborate with another
group of computer educators. Starting in 1973 the technical
symposia occurred in conjunction with the Computer Science
Conference (CSC). This conference focused on research and
primarily consisted of a few invited speakers and numerous
short abstracts of ongoing computer science research activities. It provided a forum for doctoral candidates to discuss their
work and for departments to recruit, a primary feature of this
event! Originally, several large universities and corporations
sponsored it and ACM handled many of the organizing details.
CSC was a larger and more financially secure organization.
So, although SIGCSE had its own set of terrific volunteers to
organize and host the symposia, SIGCSE needed to cede to
the CSC organizers many of the decisions such as choice of lo-
we went from matte repro paper to computer typed process-
es in 1997. The magazine ACM Inroads began with the 2010
March issue. That was the point of bifurcation with the SIGCSE
Bulletin continuing and ACM Inroads starting with Vol 1, No 1.
ACM Inroads followed the publication
policy of ACM. However, I did develop some guidelines before 2010 for the
SIGCSE Bulletin.” John later mentioned
that ACM required the use of Quark
software, which at the time was the
professional software required by the
publications division of ACM.
Even though communication modes
have changed significantly with email,
all forms of social media, and other assorted technology, the Bulletin remains
(at least for me) a key way in which we
share information with our members
except now it is electronically rather
than paper. In addition, ACM Inroads provides us a forum to
broadly disseminate opinions, articles and research papers in
HOT TOPICS AND DEBATES
Yes! There even were programming “language wars” and “
heated discussions” on other topics in the early days of SIGCSE.
For example, should one teach FORTRAN, ALGOL or, later,
PASCAL as the programming language in the first course for
computer science majors? Should machine or assembler language programming be included as a requirement for a computer science major?
However, even more strongly worded opinions surfaced
in discussions regarding whether computer science should
be strictly a graduate level offering—both at master and PhD
levels—or whether it was robust enough as a discipline to be
offered as an undergraduate major. Of course, we reached no
definitive conclusions, but the opinions expressed were certainly eloquent and often vociferous. As time went on, these questions gave way as to how to best accommodate the increasing
number of students who wanted degrees of all three types AND
how best to provide the quality and quantity of professors and
mentors to teach and guide them.
As noted above there were also early conversations regarding whether undergraduate computer science programs, IF
developed, should follow some type of accreditation process.
Some members felt we should develop a set of guidelines that
would provide a minimum set of courses/topics required for
a CS major. Others said that the discipline was not sufficiently mature to have agreement on what the minimum guidelines
should be. The minutes of the SIGCSE meeting at FJCC in 1969
[ 3] already indicated that there was considerable interest in this
topic though the only consensus was that accreditation in computer science “is not in the immediate future.”
… it underlines the
importance of the
informal exchanges and
meetings one has at
a SIGCSE symposium
that simply add
an extra dimension to