Steve Williams, Fred Jacobson, Nancy Frisberg, Tuomo Kujala
More than two decades ago, visionary SIGCHI members created a San Francisco Bay Area chapter to bring together scholars, practitioners, and users to exchange ideas about computer-human interaction. An entirely volunteer effort, BayCHI continues to serve the CHI community in the Bay Area and beyond.
The Bay Area is a global technology hot spot. Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, attract innovative researchers. Fairchild, Intel, and AMD were founded here, and many modern devices were invented at PARC and SRI. Long before the Internet, Lockheed, Rockwell, and Northrop employed thousands of engineers and contributed significant research.
From BayCHI’s perspective, the Internet revolution is a recent event. The Web and mobile devices have begun to dominate BayCHI discussions to a degree, but many presentations are still founded in cognitive psychology, human society, and information theory.
Longtime Membership Chair Don Patterson describes BayCHI’s start:
“At CHI+GI 1987, Kate Ehrlich of the Greater Boston SIGCHI sparked Sue Koopman’s imagination with her stories about the great things happening at the local Boston SIGCHI. With all the computer-related activity in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sue figured we should be able to establish a vital local CHI community.
“In the summer of 1989, Kathy Hemenway and I organized BayCHI. Having missed every SIGCHI conference since 1983, Kathy was eager to start up a local series of technical presentations. She figured that with the computer industry so heavily concentrated in Silicon Valley, a person really shouldn’t have to rely on the SIGCHI conference for CHI-related intellectual stimulation.”
BayCHI was chartered in November 1990. Longtime Program Chair Richard I. Anderson set the standard for the technical programs, recruiting speakers from local companies and institutions and conducting entertaining interviews with leaders in the field. By 1993 BayCHI had 500 members and by 1994, a website.
Birds of a Feather groups offer meetings at donated venues around the Bay Area, including Citrix, Google, Yahoo!, Adobe, and Intuit. Each meeting attracts newcomersaround a quarter of the audience of 50 to 250who are drawn in by the diverse topics presented.
BayCHI accepts job listings from employers, free of charge, and volunteers distribute them weekly to members. The Job Bank is a primary driver of memberships and renewals, with the constant high turnover typical of technology workers. Members Peter Nurkse and Jared Spool have charted the number of open positions each week. Their curve clearly shows recent boom and bust cycles.
BayCHI has always reflected the fiercely independent and generous nature of its founders. The chapter receives in-kind support from many local organizations, notably PARC, which provides its George E. Pake Auditorium in Palo Alto for BayCHI programs. However, BayCHI has never sought or accepted direct sponsorship, other than low-cost individual memberships. BayCHI promotes ACM and SIGCHI to members, but BayCHI membership is separate. BayCHI values inclusiveness, and most services are provided free to the CHI community, members and nonmembers alike.
Although BayCHI wants to hold on to its independence, SIGCHI is proud to have this vibrant local community with long traditions as one of its local chapters.
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