Celebrating 50 Years of ACM SIGARCH: Building a Computer Architecture Community

Celebrating 50 Years of ACM SIGARCH Building a Computer Architecture | itkovian

Computer architecture news and conferences

In 1971, the ACM Special Interest Committee (SIC) in Computer Architecture was launched to « serve the genuine interest of computer designers and programmers with a genuine interest in the organization of computers ». Promoted to SIG in 1972, SIGARCH has been at the forefront of building the vibrant computer architecture community we know today. This blog post reflects on the myriad ways SIGARCH has helped build and grow this community.

A professional community is a collection of people with common professional interests. Like all social units, the information architecture community needs mechanisms for members to interact with one another. Computer Architecture News (CAN), SIGARCH’s originally quarterly newsletter archived in ACM’s digital library, was an effective pre-Internet platform for exchanging ideas. In addition to publishing unreported manuscripts on hot topics, the letters to the editor document lively discussions about the scope of computer architecture, the impact of the microprocessor revolution, and the interdependencies with operating systems, compilers, and implementation techniques. Although CAN ceased publication in 2017, it remains a rich historical reference from the early days of SIGARCH.

Professional communities also require venues for publication and direct personal interactions, predominantly conferences, symposiums and workshops. The ACM/IEEE International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) was created in collaboration with SIGARCH’s “sister organization,” the Technical Committee on Computer Architecture (TCCA) of the IEEE Computer Society. Known during its early decades simply as « the conference on architecture, » ISCA was the premier conference for the computer architecture community for 50 years.

SIGARCH has (co)sponsored more than a dozen conferences, symposiums and workshops. Most notably, in 1982 SIGARCH co-sponsored the creation of the International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages ​​and Operating Systems (ASPLOS), the primary venue for system problems in computer architecture. And in 1988 SIGARCH co-sponsored the creation of the Supercomputing Conference, now SC’XY, the flagship conference in High Performance Computing (SIGARCH transferred co-sponsorship to the newly formed SIGHPC in 2012).

Talent recognition and awards

SIGARCH has also enriched the information architecture community by recognizing individual members for excellence in research and/or service. In 1977, SIGARCH co-sponsored the creation of the ACM/IEEE Eckert-Mauchly Award to recognize « contributions to the architecture of computers and digital systems in which the field of computer architecture is currently being considered to encompass combined design of hardware and software and the analysis of computing and digital systems.” Named for ENIAC pioneers John Presper Eckert and John William Mauchly, this award continues to be regarded as the most prestigious award in computer architecture.

In 1998, SIGARCH created the ACM SIGARCH Maurice Wilkes Award to recognize « an outstanding contribution to computer architecture made by an individual whose professional career in the computer industry (graduate school or full-time employment, whichever is started earlier) started no earlier than January 1 of the year which is 20 years before the year of the award. This award has been carefully formulated to recognize early career researchers in computer architecture, even whether they transitioned into a computer-related career later in life.

SIGARCH, like most professional organizations, is run by volunteers. In 2008, SIGARCH created the ACM SIGARCH Distinguished Service Award to recognize individuals for outstanding service and leadership at SIGARCH and the broader information architecture community. Alan D. Berenbaum was the first recipient of this award for his many years of service to SIGARCH and the award was renamed in his honor following his untimely death in 2016.

In 2018, together with TCCA, SIGARCH created the ACM SIGARCH IEEE CS TCCA Outstanding Dissertation Award to identify outstanding dissertation research by PhD students in the field of information architecture and recognize both winner and honorable mentions. Dissertations are reviewed for technical depth and significance of research contribution, potential impact on computer architecture, and quality of presentation.

Diversity, inclusion and our students

For the past several decades, SIGARCH has placed diversity and inclusion at the heart of its community building initiatives. These initiatives began with childcare grants and fellow travellers’ support at computer architecture meetings. SIGARCH incorporated and funded WICArch as a joint subcommittee to build a community of women architects, celebrate their achievements, and promote talent development for women in architecture. SIGARCH established CARES in 2018 to serve as a resource and sounding board for people experiencing discrimination and harassment in computer architecture meetings. In response to Huixiang Chen’s tragic suicide, CARES’ mandate was extended in 2020 to cover violations of ACM’s code of ethics and professional conduct. CARES has been adopted by many SGIs, led to the formation of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council at ACM, and received the CRA’s 2020 Distinguished Service Award.

Using surpluses from the conference, SIGARCH has generously funded multiple student-focused initiatives, targeting people from diverse backgrounds and career stages. Initially, SIGARCH started out by providing travel grants to students attending conferences. Over time, their funding has expanded to include developing talent, enhancing well-being, and promoting diversity and inclusion for students and early-career researchers. Notable SIGARCH-sponsored events that have received support in recent years include Undergrad Architecture Mentoring Workshop (Uarch), Young Architect Workshop (Yarch), and the CRA Committee on Widening Participation in Computing Research (CRA-WP) graduate cohort.

In 2016, SIGARCH started the « Meet a Senior Architect » mentoring program, which quickly spread to other conferences such as ASPLOS and MICRO. In 2020, CASA (Computer Architecture Student Association) emerged as an independent student-led organization to cultivate a supportive and inclusive student community in computer architecture. With support from SIGARCH and the IEEE TCCA, CASA has expanded its mentoring efforts with initiatives such as « Meet a Senior Student » at conferences, an online platform called CALM for mentor-student connections outside of conferences, and mental well-being seminars for graduate students.

Creating online communities

SIGARCH offers more than just the dedicated service of elected members on the executive committee; it is fueled by the unwavering commitment of an outstanding group of volunteers. With a focus on our mission, SIGARCH established « Computer Architecture Today » aka « The SIGARCH Blog » in 2017, with a larger communications team, which has revitalized outreach and interaction within the community. Among the various channels available, the Computer Architecture Today blog has emerged as the preferred platform for community members and professionals in related fields to engage in discussions on a wide variety of engaging topics. To ensure that members stay well informed, SIGARCH regularly makes announcements across multiple mediums, including social media platforms, website, and regular email updates.

Also, during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, SIGARCH YouTube! The channel has played a vital role by hosting videos during the transition of online conferencing. It now stands as a treasured archive, preserving computer architecture conference talks for future reference. In 2019, SIGARCH introduced computer architecture podcasts, which have been instrumental in conducting in-depth interviews with leading figures in the architecture community. These podcasts delve into cutting-edge topics in architecture, giving listeners a unique perspective on their vision and professional experiences. The combined efforts of our volunteers, coupled with the broad range of communication platforms at our disposal, enable SIGARCH to effectively serve the community and advance the field of information architecture.

Let’s toast to another 50 years of SIGARCH!

As we celebrate 50 years of ACM SIGARCH, we recognize the organization’s remarkable journey in shaping the field of information architecture. From its early years as a special interest committee to becoming a major SIG, SIGARCH has played an integral role in advancing the discipline through conferences, awards and community building initiatives. Looking to the future, SIGARCH remains committed to promoting diversity, inclusion and recognition of talent while providing a platform for researchers and practitioners to continue to push the boundaries of information architecture. Here’s to another 50 years of innovation, collaboration and discovery!

About the authors: Babak Falsafi is a professor at EPFL’s School of Computer and Communication Sciences, in Lausanne, Switzerland, and has been president of ACM SIGARCH since 2019. David A. Wood is professor emeritus in the computer science department of the University of Wisconsin, Madison and served as president of ACM SIGARCH 2011-2015.

Disclaimer: These posts are written by individual contributors to share their thoughts on the Computer Architecture Today blog for the benefit of the community. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal, belong solely to the blog author, and do not represent those of ACM SIGARCH or its parent organization, ACM.

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