The Computer History Museum (CHM) announced today that its new Software History Center is sponsoring and hosting a two-day, multidisciplinary conference focused on software – “Command Lines: Software, Power, and Performance.” The conference is a meeting of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) Special Interest Group for Computers, Information and Society (SIGCIS), a leading group for researchers, academics and practitioners worldwide who are active in computing history and related fields.
On March 18-19, “Command Lines” will bring together nearly 100 scholars from a variety of disciplines, technologists and other independent practitioners invested in the critical analysis of software to explore how software relates to social and technical constructs of power and performance. Over 50 presenters, through individual talks and panel conversations, will examine how connections between the creation and uses of software are integral to understanding social and technical power in multiple senses.
The “Command Lines” presenters come from fields such as the history of computing; science and technology studies; software studies; code studies; game studies; media studies; the study of women, gender and sexuality; studies of race, ethnicity and postcoloniality; and computer science and engineering.
“‘Command Lines’ is tremendously exciting for the SIGCIS community,” says David C. Brock, director of CHM’s Software History Center, “and we are proud to be such an integral part of it. This is the first SIGCIS conference outside of the SHOT annual meeting and represents an effort to expand the community by bringing in people from many diverse disciplines. Of course the focus of ‘Command Lines’ – software and its transformative consequences – is also a topic we at CHM believe is of fundamental importance.”
“Command Lines” will include an opening keynote discussion “Why Software?” between Kavita Philip (University of California, Irvine) and Tom Mullaney (Stanford University); sessions of individual talks on themes ranging from “Marginalization, Opportunity, and Prestige in Tech Work” to “Visualization, Simulation, and Presentation”; and panels and interactive sessions on internet history, oral history, the practice of core memory weaving, and more.
After the conference, video of the events will be publicly available on CHM’s YouTube channel.
The purpose of the Software History Center is to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of software and its transformational effects on global society. Software is what a computer does. The existence of code reflects the story of the people who made it. The transformational effects of software are the consequences of peoples’ creation and use of code. In the stories of these people lie the technical, business, and cultural histories of software—from timesharing services to the Cloud, from custom code to packaged programs, from developers to entrepreneurs, from smartphones to supercomputers.
The center is exploring these people-centered stories, documenting software-in-action, and leveraging the Museum’s rich collections to tell the story of software, preserve this history, and put it to work today for gauging where we are, where we have been, and where we might be going. For details, see computerhistory.org/softwarehistory.
The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, is a nonprofit organization with a four-decade history as the world’s leading institution exploring the history of computing and its ongoing impact on society. The Museum is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of computer history and is home to the largest international collection of computing artifacts in the world, encompassing computer hardware, software, documentation, ephemera, photographs, and moving images.
The Museum brings computer history to life through large-scale exhibits, an acclaimed speaker series, a dynamic website, docent-led tours, and an award-winning education program. The Museum’s signature exhibition is “Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing,” described by USA Today as “the Valley’s answer to the Smithsonian.” “Make Software: Change the World,” opened in 2017, illustrates the impact of software on the world through the stories of seven iconic and widely used applications. Other current exhibits include the “Where To? A History of Autonomous Vehicles,” “Thinking Big: Ada, Countess of Lovelace,” “The Trillion-Dollar Startup,” and demonstration labs featuring fully restored and working models of the DEC PDP-1 and the IBM 1401 systems.