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February 2009 Face-to-Face Meeting

History Committee Face-to-Face Meeting, February 6, 2009, 8:30am-4:00 PM Eastern Time
Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California

: Mary Hall, Brent Hailpern, Carol Hutchins, Tom Misa, Len Shustek, Rick Snodgrass, and David S. Wise

Brent, Carol, Tom, Len, Rick and David had dinner the night before with
Alex Bochannek and Dag Spicer of the Computer History Museum, at the
Don Giovanni Ristorante.
  1. State of the committee

  2. Rick reprised the original PPT presentation prepared by him and David Wise and presented to David to Council in September 2003 that resulted in the formation of the History Committee. (This presentation is on the HC's web site.) It was interesting to see how the original objectives of the committee had evolved significantly.

    David then reviewed the accomplishments of the committee over the first five years of its existence.

    He noted that the creation of the HC was influenced by the deaths of four Turing Award winners in 2003.

    He organized the accomplishments around three goals.

    1. Collect ACM internal history and make it available
      • Add MemberNet to ACM DL. And its HQ Newsletter predecessor.
        • These were hard-copy pubs shrunk-wrapped with CACM.
        • Now delivered as email-only.
      • Archive of cumulative paper records.
        • Beth Kaplan visited HQ and reviewed, inventoried, identified material worthy of archiving. 2006
        • Designed and refined Request for Responses to host the ACM Archive
        • Staff sent request out for responses.
        • History committee ordered the responses for staff action.
        • Charles Babbage Institute selected and contracted (2008) and material transmitted.
        • CBI indexed the material for archive. (ACM paid.)
      • CACM May 2007 special section on ACM History. 1947 anniversary.
      • Web site
        • History Committee records
        • Data base of EC/Council policies.
        • SIG-local history depository and tools.
      • ACM volunteer leaders:
        • Presidents Alt, Carlson, Galler, Oettinger, Ralston, Sammet, Abrahams, McCracken, Brandin, Denning, with three others commissioned: Kocher, White, and Zweben
        • Leaders: Kelly Gottlieb with Peter Wegner commissioned
        • Staff: Irene Hollister, Myrtle Kellington, and Richard Hespos with Joseph S. DeBlasi commissioned

    2. Record the history of the Turing Award for the layman, the press, and future students.
      • Web site for each Turing Award Turning Award winner.
      • Curator to be recruited from SIGs (as we can identify a SIG related to a particular TA winner)
      • Edit and select *good* material, that is, worthy of DL quality.
      • Relax ACM restrictions on access to TA winners' papers *2008Oct Pubs Board allows five papers/winner to be open to all comers (as ACM owns rights.)
      • TA interviews: Bachman, Naur, Allen, Tarjan

    3. Outside
      • National Museum of American History (Smithsonian)
      • Supported the transcription of extant audio interviews. Alt, Grosch, Householder, Huskey, Mauchly, P. Armer. Supposed to be indexed withing ACM Portal pointing to NMAH open source.
      • AFIPS JCC conference proceedings received from CHM and indexed into ACM DL.
      • ALGOL Bulletin received from CHM and indexed into ACM DL.

  3. Website, Technology, Turing Award Website

  4. Rick reviewed the progress on the HC website, with webmaster Matt Cleveland joining by Skype through a speakerphone (he could hear) and instant messaging (Len read Matt's comments).

    The online, preliminary ACM Council Action Archive and Policy Archive were reviewed.

    Next to load: ACM EC action archive, which was felt to have more of the policies than the council actions.

    Three web toolkits were discussed: Composition: used now for HC composition, Action Items: used now for HC actions, both to do and done, and Minutes/Policy: used now for the Council Action Archive. Each will be first deployed to a sample SIG, Committee, or Board, and then released more generally to ACM units, to use if desired. Carol volunteered to suggest the Action Items for the Pubs Board.

    Brent mentioned that Donna through Wayne now has the capability to scrape a conference web site given its URL into the ACM Digital Archive.

    After that, the HC will suggest that the ACM web site in its entirety (except for the DL) be scraped periodically, also into the ACM Digital Archive.

    The ACM Turing Award web site is being developed initially by six curators. It was decided to broach the concept of a Curator-in-Chief with Paul McJones.

  5. Budget Status

  6. Mary reviewed our budget, which is very simple: $50K a year, with $34K spent in FY08.

    It was decided that the budget will have the same total amount for next year, with $5K reserved for possible use by the CiC, similar to EiC expenses in terms of support costs.

    The webmaster's stipend was increased to $15 per hour, retroactive to September 2008, given the complex programming involved.

    It is anticipated that the workload for the webmaster should decrease substantially in the next FY, after the current projects are completed.

  7. Brainstorming

  8. Given the strong and mutually-beneficial interactions with the Computer History Museum, and its need for access of the ACM DL,

    RESOLVED: That ACM provide a free DL institutional subscription to the ACM DL to the Computer History Museum.

    POLICY: Terms on the History Committee will be for three years, renewable (no term limits), on a staggered basis, preferably aligned to ACM's fiscal year or the calendar year.

    Mary listed the strategic emphases for the next calendar year: the Turing Award website and completing the Council and EC archives.

  9. Outreach

  10. CACM is considering doing a "this day in history" on its website, listing an historical event that happened that day. The HC was asked to provide some such events.

    The Computer History Museum has had such a feature for about the last 10 years ("This Day in History", related to but different from the "Timeline of Computer History" (

    There was the concern raised as to whether it is worth the effort in maintaining the ACM this day in history feature.

    On a related issue, Ron Boisvert had asked about an ACM timeline web project. It was felt that this abandoned project should be removed, as it would take too much effort to resurrect it and make it complete and comprehensive.

    CACM is one way to do outreach. The sixtieth anniversary issue of CACM was a success; perhaps the HC should do another one, though CACM has changed considerably since then.

    A possible History of Computing SIG was discussed, though it was felt that this should arise in a grassroots fashion, rather than the HC initiating it.

    Tom proposed an "ACM History Fellowship" with a web page listing resources and a call for proposals to use those resources. The goal would be to award one to two $2K fellowships in June or July, and following for several years.

    In a few years the HC may consider a paper award.

  11. Turing Award Website

  12. After much discussion among the committee and Paul McJones, who is curating Jim Gray's page, we came up with the following division of work.

    • Curator-in-Chief (CiC): ultimately responsible for all content
      • decides what material is appropriate
      • decides on overall structure
      • brings ACM Policy issues to the HC
      • interacts closely with CB
      • maintains the Turing Award administrative site (CB list, policies, FAQ)
      • three-year renewable term (no limit)
      • appointed by the Chair of the History Committee, in consultation with the Pubs Board and the Awards Committee

    • Managing Curator (MC): manages the project
      • interfaces with ACM pubs staff
      • deals with recalcitrant curators
      • works with CiC to determine timeline, resources
      • monitors infrastructure, progress, bottlenecks
      • three-year renewable term (no limit)
      • appointed by the Chair of the HC, in consultation with the CiC

    • Curatorial Board (CB): provides content
      • headed by the CiC
      • comprised of curators and MC
      • each curator maintains one Turing Awardee page
      • once site is back-filled, one per new awardee each year
      • expected to maintain uniformity with rest of the site, while ensuring that their page is compelling and appropriate to their awardee
      • three-year renewable term (no limit)
      • curator is appointed by the CiC, in consultation with relevant ACM body(ies) and the Curatorial Board

    • History Committee (HC)
      • finds curators, in consultation with relevant ACM bodies, CiC, and MC
      • resolves any policy issues that arise (example is free access to publications)
      • initially (first two years) provides funds to CiC, if needed, for secretarial support

    • ACM Pubs Staff
      • maintains (or oursources) web infrastructure, including support for multimedia (e.g., streaming audio and video, media conversion)
      • provides (or outsources) web design expertise (look-and-feel)
      • provides tools for curators to easily add content

    We need to discuss this division further and obtain approvals.

  13. SIG Interactions

  14. Brent will be attending the SGB meeting the end of March.
    • Will mention CHM effort of collecting software
    • Will request history activities for list on web site
    • Will organize a discussion of capturing the history of your SIG

    The ACM Digital Archive was discussed, in particular for storing conference web sites, including issues of copyright, workflow, and archiving of private conference organizer sites.

  15. Pubs Interactions

  16. The committee discussed details of ongoing projects with the Pubs Board.

  17. Interviews

  18. The committee discussed current status of the interviews.

    The committee then went to watch the cranking of the Babbage Difference Engine, arranged by Len.

Pictures from the Computer History Museum Visit

Computer History Museum docent Herb Kanner explaining the history of the Babbage Difference Engine No. 2 on temporary exhibit at the Computer History Museum A closeup of a portion of another construction of the Babbage Difference Engine, in Meccano (!) by Tim Robinson Tim Robinson explains a component of Babbage's Analytical Engine, implemented by Tim in Mecano The History Committee listens avidly to Herb Kanner's explanation of the Difference Engine, left to right: Len Shustek, Mary Hall, Tom Misa, David S. Wise, and Rick Snodgrass Tim Robinson explains his creation to (left to right) committee members Len Shustek, Rick Snodgrass, Brent Hailpern, and Tom Misa A view of the complex printer for the Difference Engine #2, with Babbage looking on