SIGCSE: The Next Fifty Years
Lillian (Boots) Cassel, Villanova University
Sometimes looking ahead means looking back to see where the path began and then projecting that forward,
with thoughts about possible forks in the road.
My first SIGCSE symposium will always be a defining element in what SIGCSE is and has been to me. I was young, and
a brand new department chair of a brand new department. It
was 1981 and we did not have enough faculty to meet the demand for courses. I came to the symposium in hopes of finding help. I was shy
and quiet, planning to listen and learn.
There was a session about preparing
faculty, led by Larry Jehn. The discus-
sion seemed to focus on what kind of
credit people should receive for doing
training courses. I had not said a word
the whole time I was at the conference,
but I finally broke and spoke up— “I
don’t need credit,” I said. “I need help.
I have to teach all the standard courses
and I don’t know how to choose books
or build assignments or prepare class-
es.” Larry, whom I had not met, looked
at me, pointed to someone else in the
room, and said “You need to meet him.”
The someone else was Dick Austing,
then another stranger. As the session
ended, Dick introduced himself, told me about the SIGCSE re-
ception, and told me that I needed to be there. In those days,
the reception was a small, informal affair in the conference
chair’s hotel room. Yes, really. People learned about it by word
of mouth. I would never have known about it, and would have
been too shy to go if I had heard about it. Dick took me there
and introduced me to Charlie Shub, then disappeared. Charlie
asked what I needed. I said I needed, for example, to know a
good book to teach operating systems, and what assignments
would work with undergraduates, and where to find teaching
resources. Charlie started telling me about books and offered
to share his materials. Within a few moments, a crowd had
gathered around us, because a bunch of other people needed to
know similar things. And that is SIGCSE to me.
Dick Austing was Symposium chair in 1984 in Philadelphia,
and he asked me to be program co-chair with Joyce Currie Little. I said I had never done anything like that. He said “Neither
had I, the first time.” The three of us were the entire symposium
committee then. The Symposium was organized in conjunction
with the Computer Science Conference, which provided local arrangements. There was an immense career
fair for interviewing faculty candidates.
The ACM programming contest was
also co-located with the conferences.
The exhibits were nearly all publishers,
promoting the latest text books. Many
of the books were closely aligned with
the most recent Computer Science
Curriculum recommendation. That
was Curriculum 78—which gave us
the labels CS1 and CS2, still used now.
Papers were submitted on paper then,
with duplicate copies to be mailed to
reviewers. Joyce and I got the final pages for the accepted papers, and actually
printed a long list of numbers, cut them
out, and pasted them on the pages to
make the page numbers. There was a physical box of materials
that was passed from one program chair to the next to explain
what needed to be done, the schedule and the hard deadlines,
the special paper for final copies, etc.
From the beginning of my involvement in SIGCSE, this
group of people has been about sharing: sharing experiences,
sharing resources, sharing problems and sharing solutions. The
symposium was much smaller, about 350 people, and it was easy
to feel connected to everyone. Nell Dale once commented that
what intrigued her about SIGCSE was the number of people she
considered friends, whom she saw just once a year. She said it
Charlie started telling me
about books and
offered to share his
materials. Within a few
moments, a crowd had
gathered around us,
because a bunch of other
people needed to
know similar things.
And that is SIGCSE to me.