[SIGCIS-Members] Computer History Museum Prize from SIGCIS

Thomas Haigh thaigh at computer.org
Tue Mar 31 22:59:33 PDT 2009

Hello everyone,


Today is the deadline for submissions to the Computer History Museum prize.
A good number of books have been received already by the prize committee,
but if you have one (published 2006-8) that hasn't been dispatched yet then
now would be a good time to run to the post office with copies for each of
our three inaugural judges: Tom Misa, Paul Ceruzzi, and Jen Light. The call
is on our website at http://www.sigcis.org/?q=node/56  and in various other
places around the Internet thanks to the promotion efforts of Jeffrey Tang,
the SIGCIS secretary. (And no, this isn't an April Fools' Day prank).


We talked about the prize a little bit at our lunch meeting in Lisbon back
in October, but now it's really happening I wanted to share a few thoughts
with the full SIGCIS membership. The prize is a small but significant step
in the maturation of our field. As sociologists of science would tell you,
the emergence of a new sub discipline relies on the creation of new
institutions and practices to support new identities. Some of these came
long ago to the field, such as Annals of the History of Computing and the
CBI's Tomash fellowship. Others will take a great deal of enthusiasm and
money to accomplish and remain projects for the distant future. But the CHM
prize is now a reality and fills one of the most important of the remaining
gaps.  We now have a  ceremony in which members of our SIG gather every year
to celebrate an outstanding work of scholarship, chosen by their peers
within that same community because it advances in some exciting way our
collective project. Over the years the growing list of its recipients will
document the future evolution of the field and showcase some of the best
work in the history of technology.


For this achievement there are some people who need to be acknowledged.
Thanks to the vision and generosity of a donor who wishes to remain
anonymous we have a pledge for indefinite support of the $1,000 a year cash
prize plus an endowment amount of at least $20,000 in the event of the
donor's death. That lets us launch the prize at a respectable level freeing
up our homespun fundraising for other projects such as graduate student
travel and workshop organization. SHOT seems to have taken the cash amounts
out of its prize descriptions online, but it is comparable financially with
many of our parent society's major awards. So thank you, Donor X. You've
made a real difference.


Things moved very quickly from tentative discussion at our 2007 lunch
meeting of the possibility of SIGCIS initiating a prize. By early 2008 we
had our funding pledge. SIGCIS does not have a significant fundraising
operation and does not plan to develop one. So we are dependent on formal
and informal collaboration with other organizations in the field. I am
enormously grateful to veteran curator Doron Swade, who attended out 2007
meeting and took the idea back with him to the Computer History Museum where
he was then working as a consultant. The museum's chairman, Len Shustek,
brought the prize idea to the attention of our donor and sealed the deal.
Without Len's willingness to use his charm and connections on our behalf the
prize would still just be a vague prospect for the future.


But it takes more than money to make a prize. We were determined to learn
from best practices in the area and to make the prize as credible as
possible. An ad-hoc steering committee consisting of Tom Misa (chair), Bill
Aspray, Mike Mahoney, and Paul Ceruzzi was recruited and charged with
setting up policies and procedures for the prize. Should it be for books or
articles? Awarded every year? Open to popular books? What to call the field
it recognizes? Drawing on a deep familiarity with the field and long service
on other prize committees the committee answered these, and many other
questions. This was Mike's last service to the SIG, and as always his advice
guided us well. Tom and Paul also agreed to stay on as judges to give
continuity from the policies set by the ad-hoc committee into their
practical implementation.


As their mailboxes fill with hefty volumes the judges have a good deal of
reading ahead of them, and also deserve our thanks for the time this will
require away from their own research and other commitments. I hope that as
many of you as possible will be able to join us in Pittsburgh this autumn
for the presentation of the first prize.


Best wishes,


Tom Haigh


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