Interview: Tom Appolloni, SIGGRAPH 2002 Conference Chair
What first drew you to computer graphics?
I was always interested in geometric shapes and my first real geometry
course in high school presented me with all the relationships which
further fueled my interests. However, like most people back then (we're
talking late 60s, early 70s), computers were not available to the
ordinary person. However with the advent of personal computers, the
drudgery of hand computations were eliminated and exploring the display
of the myriad of shapes was available. I was hooked and though I've
popped in and out of the field, it has always been an area I enjoy
exploring even if it is as a hobby vs a career. The more you learn, the
more you realize there is so much more you need to learn. That's a good
Do you have any favorite CG mentors?
I can't say that I have any favorite mentor. Since my entry into
computer graphics as a career path was fairly late in my Air Force
career (I first served 12 years as a pilot), and am now a software
engineer, a vast majority of my computer graphics experience has been
via hands-on development with a lot of personal research into published
papers. So, while I don't have a favorite CG mentor, I have many
favorite algorithms and techniques I've learned from many of our
What was the first time you contributed to SIGGRAPH?
My first contribution to SIGGRAPH was when I served as the Exhibits
Chair on the SIGGRAPH 96 committee. This was the first SIGGRAPH
conference in New Orleans.
What year/city was your first SIGGRAPH? Which was most intense? Why?
My first SIGGRAPH was in 87 but I was only there with an exhibits pass
to scout out the latest in hardware and software as I had a budget to
start up a computer graphics lab while I was stationed at Eglin AFB in
FL. My first real conference was SIGGRAPH 93 in Anaheim, CA.
Probably the most intense was SIGGRAPH 2000 because I had two roles to
play. I was the SIGGRAPH 2000 Sketches & Applications Chair but 7 months
prior to the conference I had been chosen as the SIGGRAPH 2002
conference chair. So at SIGGRAPH 2000, I had the Sketches & Application
program to produce but at the same time I was interviewing potential
program chairs for SIGGRAPH 2002. It was a busy week.
What contributions to SIGGRAPH are you most proud of?
Without a doubt, being the conference chair for SIGGRAPH 2002 is the
experience that will never be topped. Getting that wonderful conference
committee together and seeing a conference come together from start to
finish is something about which I will always be proud.
What's your favorite thing at this year or last year's SIGGRAPH?
The conference attendees arrive at SIGGRAPH every year and get to
experience one of the most diverse and highly technical conferences in
the world and it seems to happen every year like it is no big deal. To
me, being involved with its creations as many times as I have, seeing it
all come off so well each year has to be one of my favorite things. To
those who have not been involved in creating a SIGGRAPH conference, I
would urge you to do so, it will give you a whole new appreciation of
every conference for the rest of your life. The dedication of everyone
who does this is absolutely remarkable.
What near/intermediate developments in CG do you look forward to?
I continue to look forward to the advances that we're seeing in machine
power and the graphic APIs. For each advancement we see marked
improvements in the way we can do more and more graphically. For every
step forward I take creating new designs and displays based on the
latest improvements, the customer wants even more and I take it as a
challenge to see what I can do to make more happen. That means I need to
learn more. So you see, even 30 years after high school, there is even
more to experiment and explore than we even thought possible way back