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SIGGRAPH 98 History Project

Vol.32 No.3 August 1998
ACM SIGGRAPH

The Annual SIGGRAPH Conference

25 Years of Leadership in Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques

Steve Cunningham
ACM SIGGRAPH Chair

SIGGRAPH 98 is my 17th SIGGRAPH annual conference and the 16th at which I have worked for the organization. For about half of these I have also worked on conference committees. I have seen the impact of the annual SIGGRAPH conference on the field of computer graphics and interactive techniques, and on everything that SIGGRAPH has done.

Let’s look generally at what has happened in computer graphics over the last 25 years. Many fundamental principles of computer graphics were established by the early 1970s, but the technology was difficult to use and almost every breakthrough was a completely custom piece of work. In this environment, everything new was exciting and revolutionary, and creative pioneers created impressive early works in spite of the primitive tools. Standards were eagerly anticipated and a lot of hard work went into them, but all the early standards were left behind by rapidly developing practice.

More recently, the conference has reflected the more mature and advanced nature of computer graphics and interactive techniques. Computer graphics is a mature enabling technology, and we now see very sophisticated graphical presentation and communication, with most advances seeming to be incremental rather than revolutionary. There are solid de facto standards that are widely useful, and there are many tools that can be used to create exciting work. As always, strongly creative people continue to show us new ways to see what our technologies can do, and there are still surprises that show us that the technology continues to grow in unanticipated ways.

Of course, this progress parallels the progress in computing generally. But a significant part of the progress is due to the remarkably diverse group that the SIGGRAPH conference has deliberately chosen to serve, and the way the conference has focused efforts in the field and made it easy for the diverse groups to interact. It is also due to the conference’s hard work to remain independent of any particular part of the field so that everyone has equal access to the conference to showcase their progress.

It has been very exciting to see the conference grow in size and diversity. This shows how computer graphics has permeated the worlds of computing, communication and life. Graphics has moved from being exciting because of its novelty but being the cure to no known disease, to being exciting because of its many roles in every part of life and being the cure for every known disease. Networks have raised completely new challenges for graphics and people now want interactive, 3D, high-quality graphics through standard net tools. So creative people are still pushing the technology to get tools that provide the most natural and powerful support for creative and informational communication.

Many of the ways the conference furthers the field are well known to those of us who have had the opportunity to work on it. The most obvious effect of the conference is to further the technology in computer graphics. It provides energy for those developing the technology and is a source of ideas for the next year’s work. The conference proceedings become the textbook for graduate seminars, and the course notes become a main source for instruction and books. The panels present issues and controversies from the community to be considered. Developers see the work of applications in science and engineering, and of creative people in art and animation programs, and see new things that can be done with the tools they produce. The market sees the progress shown in the exhibition to understand where the technology and applications are going. The art exhibition and animation festival showcase the remarkable results of creative work. The interactive technologies programs showcase new technologies and spur development efforts. The educators program provides a forum for sharing developments in education in computer graphics and in the ways computer graphics serves other educational work. All these programs provide fuel and focus for the field and are in many ways, the primary benefit of the conference for the technology.

On the other hand, the conference also provides energy for the computer graphics community. The conference is the gathering place for everyone in the field where people from all segments of the community can meet. It’s the one time in the year when you can meet anyone you want in the field, and everyone believes the conference is uniquely “theirs.” This allows the remarkable diversity of people and disciplines represented at the conference to share their ideas and viewpoints and learn what graphics means to others. Educators can meet to discuss questions in their instructional work. Chapter members from all over the world can meet and share their environments and experiences. Persons from the international community can share information about how their business, government and educational environments support graphics. And SIGGRAPH hosts a plethora of user and SIG groups who can share their focus to further their specialized projects, making their own version of the “open deck” early SIGGRAPH conferences. This “people energy” of conference attendees complements the “technology energy” of the conference programs.

Much of the task of the SIGGRAPH organization is to support and further the energy and work of our technology and our community between conferences. The conference itself supports much of this task. While SIGGRAPH’s membership fees cover the cost of member services and a small amount more, the conference’s financial returns cover all the extra things SIGGRAPH does, such as our work in education and in professional chapters. Among the more important of these is that SIGGRAPH is able to sponsor several other conferences throughout the year that only need to break even.

We are extraordinarily lucky to have had people with great vision in the conference that have also contributed to the development of the SIGGRAPH organization. Many of them have applied their creativity to broadening the work of the organization through creating the equivalent of conference programs within SIGGRAPH. So we now have groups, not just individuals, working on education, special projects, membership, professional chapters, publications and public policy. This enables SIGGRAPH to serve a broader audience throughout the year and around the world, and brings in a great deal of new talent to contribute to the community. The SIGGRAPH organization has learned a great deal from the conference, and this is illustrated in our Purpose and Values statements published in the SIGGRAPH ACTIVITIES section.

So while SIGGRAPH is more than just the annual conference, the conference is the heart and energy of SIGGRAPH. We treasure that heart and look forward to it continuing to be strong and healthy. And we challenge those of you reading this note to volunteer to work with the SIGGRAPH conference and organization, and help to keep both going.

Steve Cunningham
Computer Science Department
California State University Stanislaus
801 W. Monte Vista
Turlock, CA 95382

Tel: +1-209-667-3176
Fax: +1-209-667-3333


The copyright of articles and images printed remains with the author unless otherwise indicated.

Many of the ways the conference furthers the field are well known to those of us who have had the opportunity to work on it. The most obvious effect of the conference is to further the technology in computer graphics. It provides energy for those developing the technology and is a source of ideas for the next year’s work. The conference proceedings become the textbook for graduate seminars, and the course notes become a main source for instruction and books. The panels present issues and controversies from the community to be considered. Developers see the work of applications in science and engineering, and of creative people in art and animation programs, and see new things that can be done with the tools they produce. The market sees the progress shown in the exhibition to understand where the technology and applications are going. The art exhibition and animation festival showcase the remarkable results of creative work. The interactive technologies programs showcase new technologies and spur development efforts. The educators program provides a forum for sharing developments in education in computer graphics and in the ways computer graphics serves other educational work. All these programs provide fuel and focus for the field and are in many ways, the primary benefit of the conference for the technology.

On the other hand, the conference also provides energy for the computer graphics community. The conference is the gathering place for everyone in the field where people from all segments of the community can meet. It’s the one time in the year when you can meet anyone you want in the field, and everyone believes the conference is uniquely “theirs.” This allows the remarkable diversity of people and disciplines represented at the conference to share their ideas and viewpoints and learn what graphics means to others. Educators can meet to discuss questions in their instructional work. Chapter members from all over the world can meet and share their environments and experiences. Persons from the international community can share information about how their business, government and educational environments support graphics. And SIGGRAPH hosts a plethora of user and SIG groups who can share their focus to further their specialized projects, making their own version of the “open deck” early SIGGRAPH conferences. This “people energy” of conference attendees complements the “technology energy” of the conference programs.

Much of the task of the SIGGRAPH organization is to support and further the energy and work of our technology and our community between conferences. The conference itself supports much of this task. While SIGGRAPH’s membership fees cover the cost of member services and a small amount more, the conference’s financial returns cover all the extra things SIGGRAPH does, such as our work in education and in professional chapters. Among the more important of these is that SIGGRAPH is able to sponsor several other conferences throughout the year that only need to break even.

We are extraordinarily lucky to have had people with great vision in the conference that have also contributed to the development of the SIGGRAPH organization. Many of them have applied their creativity to broadening the work of the organization through creating the equivalent of conference programs within SIGGRAPH. So we now have groups, not just individuals, working on education, special projects, membership, professional chapters, publications and public policy. This enables SIGGRAPH to serve a broader audience throughout the year and around the world, and brings in a great deal of new talent to contribute to the community. The SIGGRAPH organization has learned a great deal from the conference, and this is illustrated in our Purpose and Values statements published in the SIGGRAPH ACTIVITIES section.

So while SIGGRAPH is more than just the annual conference, the conference is the heart and energy of SIGGRAPH. We treasure that heart and look forward to it continuing to be strong and healthy. And we challenge those of you reading this note to volunteer to work with the SIGGRAPH conference and organization, and help to keep both going.