Essays & Articles


Encounters with HCI pioneers

From the very beginnings of time, Ben Shneiderman has been busy photographing all that he sees. Ben was active in the pre-history days of the folks who tried to understand the newly-developed computing machines, especially as they moved into people’s homes, offices, and schools. Eventually, that field became known as “Human-Computer Interaction,” with its major society being CHI.

How did HCI end up with its society named CHI? Blame others: I argued for HCI. The major argument, if I remember correctly, was that CHI could be pronounced but HCI could not be. A secondary argument was that CHI became part of the ACM, the professional society for computer scientists, so they wanted the C to come first. Bad idea: I have always wanted people to be first, or in this case, Humans. I lost that fight as well.  (But then again, computer scientists of those days were weird. In fact, their society is not even for them — it is for their machines: ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery.)

Ben’s photographs are neutral on the terminology. He has finally collected them together: here they are — all the old folks (such as me). Such old folks portrayed by photos from their youth, so I can barely recognize some of them: I can barely recognize me.