The SIGGRAPH Pioneers

Since its beginnings in the early 1980s, the SIGGRAPH Pioneers have celebrated the experience of its members and their service in developing the computer graphics community through acts of service. ACM SIGGRAPH Members with outstanding lifetime contributions experience to the field of computer graphics and/or interactive techniques are welcome to join as a Pioneer.

The Pioneers have year round activities which are made available online. Examples of these from the past few years include panel discussions, interviews with luminaries in the field, interviews with SIGGRAPH Conference Chairs, talks from the annual Pioneers Reception at the SIGGRAPH Conference, and other events. The Pioneers Online Content page has links to all the content.

SIGGRAPH 1985: Art Show

Louvre Project by: I.M. Pei Associates

©1984, I.M. Pei Associates

Our Origin Story

Computer graphics has been a named computer science topic since 1960. While a number of graphics-oriented user groups existed, SIGGRAPH became the dominant professional organization in the early 1970s.

As SIGGRAPH matured, so did its members. Ken and BJ Anderson started the Pioneers around 1980. The criteria used then was the same as today: 20+ years in computer graphics and an ability to pay something to support the reception. Role has never make a difference, and the Pioneers continue to come from many diverse backgrounds, including engineering, education, research, and entertainment.

The group happened to get together at the annual SIGGRAPH conference. Many graphics Pioneers are SIGGRAPH “lifers” — and actually like one another! BJ organized the receptions until the early 2000s. She sat at the door and did her best to collect money prior to entry.

The Pioneers started becoming more active than a social group in the mid-to-late 1990s. Carl Machover published SIGGRAPH history articles in the Computer Graphics Quarterly and led the creation of the 25th anniversary film on the History of Computer Graphics.

Dave Kasik convinced members to fund a Pioneers ‘scholarship’ to bring under-represented high school students to the conference and be mentored by Pioneers. The SIGGRAPH Education Committee (thanks to Marc Barr) took the program over. Financing moved from a personal out-of-pocket adventure to corporate sponsorship to making the Pioneers part of the overall organization, with special thanks to Jeff Jortner.

Recent Pioneers Featured Speakers have included computer artist David Em, co-founder of Pixar Alvy Ray Smith, the Jet Propulsion Lab’s Jim Blinn, movie CGI pioneer Jeff Kleiser, the late visual effects luminary Douglas Trumbull, scientific visualization pioneer Donna J. Cox, CGI futurist Ken Perlin, and (in 2023) co-authors of Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice James Foley and Andries van Dam. 

Attendees know that Pioneers receptions are always a must-attend event: super informal, relaxed, and with wonderful food and drink. Best of all, it’s the place to see all your old friends and colleagues — while listening to some of the most amazing personal retrospectives about the history of computer graphics.

Written by Dave Kasik, edited by Ed Kramer

Become an ACM SIGGRAPH Pioneer Member

Membership as a Computer Graphics Pioneer has two basic requirements:

  1. Twenty years of experience in some aspect of computer graphics and/or interactive techniques. It’s not just for technical types; sales people, company presidents, artists and animators are also eligible and welcome.
  2. US $50.00 annual membership fee (includes membership to ACM SIGGRAPH), plus $10.00 to fund the annual Pioneers reception.

Benefits and Responsibilities

Membership supports the mentorship program, provides admission to the annual Computer Graphics Pioneers reception and awards a Pioneer ribbon for display during and after the conference. Members also agree to perform some service to the computer graphics community. This service may include conference or journal paper reviews, financial support of the mentoring program, serving as a mentor, or some other service as needs or opportunities arise.

Already a member?

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