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CACM 60th Anniversary Issue Tracks Impact Of Computing Technology

Special Section Traces ACM Mission to Establish the Computer Science Profession

Virginia Gold

The Association for Computing Machinery



Special Section Traces ACM Mission to Establish the Computer Science Profession

New York, NY - May 17, 2007
- The May 2007 issue of Communications of the ACM (CACM) marks the 60th anniversary of ACM, the society founded in 1947 to provide better communication among the pioneers of the rapidly developing computing field. ACM's History Committee recruited historians, archivists, and early ACM pioneers and volunteers to contribute their memories, findings, and accounts to a special section of CACM commemorating this milestone anniversary. The issue surveys the growth of computing through the Association's special interest groups, conferences, publications, digital library collections, and curriculum recommendations. In the process, the section reveals the impact of computing on the way the world lives and works, and the growth of a profession dedicated to improving the quality of life.

As documented in the magazine, the visionaries who founded ACM realized that computing was an emerging field with broad applications in war and peace. They sought to create an association that would keep abreast of the highly specialized research that emerged out of World War II.

The history of ACM reflects the role it has played in scientific computing, the use of computers in business, and the development of information technology occupations. "It's important to look back to see where you've been to know where we want to go," said Guest Editor David S. Wise, computer science professor at Indiana University. "By becoming cognizant of the history and impact of this critical technology, we are starting to understand how it has evolved and how we can determine the next new thing," said Professor Wise, who is a member-at-large of ACM's governing body, known as the Council.

The impetus for the 60th anniversary issue came from the ACM History Committee, co-chaired by Professor Wise and Richard Snodgrass, computer science professor at the University of Arizona. The committee recognized the importance of preserving the collective memory of the computing field's pioneers as many of them have passed on. The Committee's work focuses on the history of ACM and of its Turing Award, established in 1967 to honor the computer scientists and engineers who created the systems and underlying theoretical foundations that have propelled the information technology industry. Early products of the committee's efforts, which are expected to expand, may be found at The site includes edited interviews with Turing Award winners and ACM presidents.

ACM's Role in Influencing Computing as a Science and Profession

ACM came into being in August 1947, only a few months after ENIAC, the first large-scale digital electronic computer, was completed. The Association's original focus on the machinery of computing soon moved on to encompass systems, software, services, policy, education, and other topics related to information technology. Today, the bulk of activity in computing includes design, integration, deployment, and support of applications. ACM's continuing commitment is to advancing computing as a science that enables innovation, and a profession that adheres to the highest ethical standards of practice.

Over the years, ACM has functioned as a bridge to connect the interests of mathematicians, engineers, computer manufacturers, government officers, and anyone with an interest in computers. As a result, ACM has played an important role in shaping the evolution of computing - including its technology, professionals, disciplines, and applications. Two articles in this issue cover the early aspirations and structure of ACM as it set about establishing a process for better communication among people interested in this new field.

The early emphasis on the need to disseminate advances in the computing field resulted in an archival collection of ACM publications, which are currently stored in its Digital Library (DL). The DL also includes proceedings of the many international conferences designed for professionals to interact and share knowledge. They represent an important historical resource, including the full run of two key publications, Journal of the ACM, launched in January 1954, and Communications of the ACM, first published in January 1958. The DL's value for historical researchers is expected to increase as ACM continues to digitize the editorial and "non-article" parts of its publications.

ACM's contributions to the development of computer science have been aided by the efforts of its Special Interest Groups (SIGs). The CACM May issue discusses the trends and directions of one of ACM's biggest SIGs, SIGGRAPH, the organization for people who work with computer-generated images. Its focus, which has broadened to include arts, design and entertainment, includes chapters, education, awards, international activities, and the annual SIGGRAPH conference, a source of ideas and excitement for graphics and animation. Another article tracks the journey into networking's past through the ACM Special Interest Group on Communication (SIGCOMM) and the rewards of its innovative Tutorial initiative.

Since 1965, ACM has provided curricular recommendations and periodic revisions for undergraduate education in computer science. A consistent focus of these guidelines has been the role of mathematics and the importance of programming in the introductory courses. The latest revision was released in 2001. As the areas of computing broadened in scope, this edition incorporated educational requirements for Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Information Systems, Information Technology, and Software Engineering. An article on Guidelines for undergraduate CS education, developed by ACM and IEEE Computer Society, details the dynamic trends in this arena.

The May special section commemorating the 60th anniversary of ACM is freely available online. Click on to access all the articles in this issue.

About ACM
ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is an educational and scientific society uniting the world's computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field's challenges. ACM strengthens the profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

ACM/Press Release. Last updated May 17, 2007 by Steven Geringer