The SIGCSE Symposium: A Brief History
2. The SIGCSE Symposium gained revenue, allowing the
registration fee for the main conference to be relatively low
(as befitting an event for academics).
3. Some airlines gave substantial discounts to travelers who
stayed over Saturday night, so attendees often could obtain
very attractive fares by attending a Saturday workshop and
returning home on Sunday.
In retrospect, two elements of ACM
Computing Week 1996 also had a substantial impact on later events, both for
ACM and for the SIGCSE Symposia.
Although submissions to SIGCSE Symposia increased steadily over the years,
submissions to the ACM Computer
Science Conference showed steady decline. As an example, SIGCSE 1996 could accept only 78 papers
of 205 submitted (acceptance rate of 38%) given the time and
space available for parallel sessions. However, to fill its program,
CSC 1996 accepted all 51 of its submissions (acceptance rate of
Philadelphia was chosen for the site of Computing Week
1996 and the second week of February was chosen as the date.
These choices were important for historical reasons—the ENIAC computer was dedicated on February 15, 1946, at the Moore
School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Also, ACM was founded in September
1947. In celebration of both landmarks, ACM planned “a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of modern computing
that will culminate with the celebration of the 50th anniversary
of the ACM at Computing Week ‘ 97 in San Jose in March 1997.”
[ 4] Several of these events (e.g., a “History Retrospective,” “
Electronic Global Village,” and “Electronic Education Event”) were
held during ACM Computing Week 1996.
3. ON OUR OWN
Over the course of two years, 1997 and 1998, the world of the
SIGCSE Symposium changed dramatically!
The year 1997 marked the culmination of ACM’s 50th anniversary celebration. As reported by Charles H. House in the
Communications of the ACM,
ACM97: The Next 50 Years of Computing incorporated a
professional conference where 1,800 attendees gathered
to listen to key technologists share their visions of the future, with a spirited, interactive exposition spotlighting
some of the most outstanding projects on tap for future
generations [ 5, p. 31].
Since Computing Week 1996 had few submissions and de-
clining attendance, and since ACM wanted to celebrate its 50th
anniversary, effectively ACM97 became a replacement for a
CSC. Those who registered for the SIGCSE Symposium were wel-
comed to attend the plenary sessions of CSC held on Thursdays.
This session in 1973 featured the invited address given by Allen
Newell from Carnegie-Mellon University, titled “MERLIN and the
Problem of Understanding.” The Friday sessions for SIGCSE 1973
were held jointly with the American So-
ciety for Engineering Education Commit-
tee on Education (ASEE/CoED).
This close association with the Computer Science Conference was helpful
to SIGCSE members in many ways. It
allowed those interested in teaching
computer science an opportunity to
participate in a research conference and
an education conference in the same
venue, so an attendee could pay for travel to one destination and
partake in a wide range of activities and events. The power of
CSC to draw exhibitors produced a rich connection with industry and with publishers. However, CSC planning dictated many
things for the Technical Symposia, including the site, the dates,
the structure and format of the exhibits, and the need for careful
space coordination on the overlap day.
The last year of Computing Week was 1996, held in Philadel-
phia, PA, and included [ 4]:
• the ACM Computer Science Conference (CSC ‘ 96),
• the Computers and the Quality of Life Symposium (CAL
‘ 96), sponsored by SIGCAS (Computers and Society),
• the Symposium for Applied Computing (SAC),
• the 27th SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer
• three days of hardware, software, and textbook exhibits,
• the ACM Student Programming Contest,
• a Student Poster Session, and
• the first ACM Chess Challenge, with World Chess
Champion, Garry Kasparov, and IBM’s Deep Blue.
As this listing suggests, Computing Week evolved from two
overlapping conferences in 1973 to a much larger program that
still included the Technical Symposium as a major component.
Following tradition, SIGCSE 1996 started with a reception on
Wednesday evening, February 14. Thursday and Friday included a full program with 78 papers, 16 panels, 9 seminars, 20
posters, and six birds-of-a-feather (BOF) sessions.
In addition to the regular Thursday-Friday program, attendees could expand their background by registering for workshops at the end of the regular sessions. Thus, four workshops
were held on Friday evening, eight on Saturday morning, seven
on Saturday afternoon, and three on Sunday morning. (In a few
cases, one topic spanned two sessions, and, overall, the workshops covered 16 distinct topics.) Altogether, workshops regularly enrolled 200+ people and served at least three purposes.
1. Attendees gained background, experience, and professional
development at only a modest cost.
The program of the first
shows that the areas of
concern then remain
areas of concern now.