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  Reports from SIGGRAPH 2001

Interview: Bert Herzog, Outstanding Service Award recipient

By Ben Wyrick
24 July 2002

Today a man responsible for giving awards received one. Bertram Herzog was presented with the 2002 Outstanding Service Award to recognize his many contributions to ACM SIGGRAPH.

Herzog has been an active participant in both SIGGRAPH the conference and SIGGRAPH the organization for many years, contributing both technical and managerial talents. Herzog has also spent most of his life inspiring colleagues and students to pursue careers in computer graphics.

Herzog attended his first SIGGRAPH in 1976, which was the third year of the conference. Held in Philadelphia, the conference attracted 300 attendees and ten exhibitors. (The first color printers were unveiled at the conference.) 1976 marked the beginning of Herzog's commitment to SIGGRAPH--he has not missed a conference since.

Herzog was introduced to the computer graphics world in 1963 at an engineering conference hosted by MIT. He describes the event as being in the right place at the right time. At the conference he met Steven A. Coons who would become his friend and mentor in graphics. Coons played an important part in Herzog’s professional life and Herzog decided to honor the friendship by creating an award named after Coons.

The Steven A. Coons Award was first given at SIGGRAPH in 1983. The Coons Award recognizes outstanding technical achievement in the field of computer graphics. Herzog chaired the award committee for 14 years, recognizing graphics pioneers like Pierre Bezier and Edwin Catmull.

Today the Coons Award is considered by many to be the Nobel Prize in computer graphics. When reflecting on his contributions to the field, Herzog considers the Coons Award to be one of the most significant. Herzog also singles out the development of the Core Standards for computer graphics as being an important personal achievement.

The Core Standards grew from a workshop held in France in 1976. At that time wireframe images were high technology and shaded models were science fiction. In order for the fledgling graphics community to develop, a set of standards needed to be created. Herzog co-chaired a group of highly influential graphics professionals from around the world, who specified a command structure for graphics. The Core Standards became a framework upon which early computer graphics systems were built, directing the future course of computer graphics.

Looking ahead, Herzog hopes to see a graphics world with improved hardware, software and user interfaces. Herzog notes that current software is of very poor quality.

A lifetime of attending SIGGRAPH yields a unique perspective on the conference. Herzog recalls the early years of the conference and characterizes the attendees as “techies.” He points out that over the years, not only has SIGGRAPH grown, but it has also changed. What used to be a conference dominated by techies concerned mainly with computer aided design (CAD) has become a much more eclectic gathering spanning the gamut between techies and artists. Herzog has noticed a move toward the gaming and entertainment industries at SIGGRAPH and contrasts the exhibition and other shows with the technical academic papers.

Herzog recalls how far the field of computing has come during his lifetime. Herzog’s first graphics terminal cost $125,000 and featured 12K of memory. Upgrading an additional 4K cost $6,000. Jokingly, Herzog bemoans, “I spent $125,000 to have a rinky dinky toy.”

Graphics has come a long way since 1966.

The history of SIGGRAPH:

ACM SIGGRAPH Press Release about Bert
The Workshop in France was held at Seillac (sy ack). It not only started the GSPC Core in America, but also started the GKS process in Europe.

Bert Herzog agreed to guide a leaderless PEX effort in June of 1987 until it could develop its own process: PEX History

 Who else was on the ACM SIGGRAPH GSPC - Graphics Standards Planning Committee?


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Jan Hardenbergh
All photos you see in the 2002 reports are due to a generous loan of Cybershot digital cameras from SONY