Computing's Next 50 Years

ACM97 Conference looks at the future

The annual conference of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) will be different from the usual computing convention in at least two respects. It's devoted to examining the next 50 years of computing rather than present or the short-range future. And since the sessions will be held consecutively and not overlap, it's possible for the attendee to hear every word of every session. The concurrent ACM97 Expo will include more than 100,000 square feet of futuristic technology exhibits.

ACM97, scheduled for Mar. 1-5 in the heart of Silicon Valley, the San Jose Convention Center, will also be a departure for ACM in that for the first time, the conference is open to all, not just members of ACM. For a registration fee of $750--$300 for ACM members and $100 for students--anyone may attend the 2 1/2 days of conference plenary sessions Mar. 3-5 and the concurrent conference exposition and special events planned for the weekend of Mar. 1-2.

A "Who's Who"
"You can attend everything--16 speakers in a row," says ACM97 chair Bob Metcalfe, vice president/technology for International Data Group, and better known as the inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com Corp. "I'm proud of this speaker list. We've worked on it hard and these are great people." The list includes Gordon Bell, known as father of the minicomputer; Vint Cerf, father of the Internet; outgoing Defense Secretary William Perry; and Bran Ferren, a specialist in movie special effects, among others. The conference emcee will be James Burke, science journalist seen on the "Connections" television series and other programs. Vice President Al Gore also has been invited to the Wednesday morning finale.

The complete speaker list highlights the impressive lineup:

ACM is also producing a book, edited by Metcalfe and Peter J. Denning, entitled Beyond Calculation: The Next 50 Years of Computing. The 500-page volume, written by some 30 experts each addressing a specific topic, is aimed to appeal to a widespread readership. The book is scheduled for publication before the conference and will be free to each ACM97 attendee. However, the book is not a set of conference proceedings and features a different set of forecasters. ACM expects the book to be one of the most provocative science books published in 1997.

Last February, celebrating the ACM's 50th anniversary, the group had its annual meeting in Philadelphia and reflected on the first 50 years of computing. "The choice of 50 is a bit of symmetry, looking out 50 years," Metcalfe says. "It's also a signal to participants and particularly the speakers that we're not interested in the short-term future. We are trying to get people to talk about the long-term future."

Registration is limited to about 2,000. For registration and information, call (800) 342-6626 or (212) 626-0500 or visit their Web site at

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