XIX.3 May + June 2012
Page: 95
Digital Citation


Gerrit van der Veer

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CHI 2012 in Austin, Texas (May 5–10), marks the 30th anniversary of our society. The first conference, on Human Factors in Computer Systems, took place in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on March 15–17, 1982. The second and third conferences were a year and a half apart, and from then on CHI, as the conference has been called since 1983, has been an annual event. In the official name, "computer systems" was replaced by "computing systems," indicating a shift in focus from hardware toward the total system. The same shift is visible on the covers of the proceedings: Whereas the first cover showed a template for drawing flow charts and the next two referenced online printer output, the human user has since then been represented, first by a fingerprint or an eye, followed by indications of the location of the conference (e.g., hotel meeting hall, Seattle totem pole), and then by more abstract references to people meeting and to balancing technology and user. The population evolved as well. In a SIGCHI Bulletin in 1986, Ben Shneiderman recorded the early years, when a purely North American group of volunteers (the Software Psychology Society) started the movement that soon found a home in ACM and a new name: SIGCHI. In this group Bill Curtis and Ben Shneiderman originated the idea for a conference (expecting 200 to 300 attendees), and Jean Nichols and Michael Schneider were the first conference chair and program chair, respectively—who then had to face the fact that the first conference actually drew more than 900 attendees!

CHI continued to grow and broaden its range of topics and contributing disciplines: the founding psychologists and software engineers began to meet new visions from ethnography, sociology, communication sciences and arts, among others. Relevant industries, as well as research institutes and academia, showed an increasing—and often long-lasting—interest and involvement (through volunteers and sponsorship for conference expenses).

Around 1990 European colleagues became actively involved, regularly hosting CHI on their side of the globe, and the number of participants stabilized at around 2,000 to 3,000. This, however, is not true for the number of submissions, which continues to grow every year. We manage to keep the quality of our reviewing rather stable, and while the average quality level of submissions has not dropped, the number of parallel sessions has increased, so we have reduced the length of the presentations.

Since our participants and volunteer leaders increasingly live in underserved parts of the CHI world, 2015 will bring another big step into new territory: Southeast Asia. A Latin American CHI community is developing too. These parts of the world have already seen specialized SIGCHI-sponsored conferences, of which there are currently 12 to 14 annually. These conferences showcase the broad range of topics and subdomains within HCI. Comparably, the local chapters highlight the global dispersion of HCI students and professionals who feel the need to meet regularly and collaborate closely. The new concept of Communities in SIGCHI ( has been developed by Dan Olsen to support both types of special groups within our society.

Growth comes with challenges. We are putting new effort into coordinating and fixing dates and deadline structures for our multiple events; we are also putting considerable effort into upgrading and streamlining the participation process, from submission to reviewing to publication; and we continue to discover new problems (who "owns" a review?), concerns (accessibility of publications from all our events), and diversifications (educational guidelines need specialization for different geographical contexts; public policy requires deep knowledge and involvement in local structures and cultures). We are far from done.

—Gerrit C. van der Veer
President ACM SIGCHI

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