CPSR: The First Ten Years
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CPSR: The First Ten Years
o Computer researchers Dan Ingalls, Alan Borning, Laura Gould, and
Severo Ornstein meet over lunch to discuss the need for an
organization that will "help them integrate their work life with
their social concerns."
o Severo Ornstein establishes an electronic discussion group on the
Xerox internal electronic mail network concerned with the threat of
o Several participants in the e-mail distribution list initiate a
weekly discussion group to consider the merits of creating a national
organization to discuss these issues.
o The discussion group asks Xerox President David Kearns to sponsor a
television program on the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Xerox
does indeed sponsor such a program in June.
o The discussion group holds a public meeting at Stanford to define
issues and goals for the organization. The name Computer
Professionals for Social Responsibility is chosen at that meeting.
o CPSR files formal incorporation papers and becomes a non-profit
o Two weeks after our incorporation, President Reagan announces the
Strategic Defense Initiative, which is to become our principal focus
for several years.
o The CPSR Board of Directors holds its first meeting.
o The first issue of the CPSR Newsletter appears.
o CPSR opens a small office on Emerson Street in Palo Alto.
o CPSR opens its first five chapters in Palo Alto, Boston, Madison,
Seattle, and Los Angeles.
o Cliff Johnson of Palo Alto files suit against Defense Secretary
Caspar Weinberger arguing that a defense policy of launch-on-warning
is unconstitutional. CPSR supports Dr. Johnson in his legal battle,
which is still before the courts.
o CPSR hires its first staff member to manage the office.
o CPSR/Boston organizes a demonstration outside a local seminar on
"Battlefield/AI Robotics." The demonstration attracts national media
attention because of the inclusion among the marchers of a rented
R2-D2 robot with a sign reading "Don't worry -- nothing can possibly
go worng" (typo intentional, of course).
o CPSR Board members Severo Ornstein, Brian Smith, and Lucy Suchman
publish an assessment of the Strategic Computing Program in the
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
o The first CPSR Annual Meeting is held in San Francisco on October 7.
o Alan Borning attends the International Physicians for the Prevention
of Nuclear War meeting in Helsinki, Finland, as an invited
representative of CPSR.
o New chapters form in New York, Santa Cruz, and Pittsburgh, bringing
us to a total of eight.
o CPSR hires Gary Chapman as its first Executive Director.
o CPSR members James Horning, Anthony Ralston, and Stephen Zilles
participate in a committee of the Association of Computing Machinery
(ACM) to "study and prepare a report on the technical considerations
of computer systems reliability and risks to the public." The
committee report appears in the February Communications of the ACM.
o Greg Nelson and Dave Redell publish a CPSR paper on the computational
problems of the SDI.
o CPSR/Seattle member Jon Jacky publishes an article in the Atlantic
Monthly entitled "Star Wars Defense Won't Compute."
o David Parnas resigns from the Eastport panel convened by the
Department of Defense to evaluate the feasibility of the command and
control software for the SDI. Parnas claims the task is impossible.
o Following in the Trivial Pursuit craze, CPSR/Los Angeles publishes a
set of question-and-answer cards about computer risk and reliability
entitled "It's Not Trivial." CPSR members throughout the U.S.
provided the material.
o CPSR New England Director Steve Berlin and other members from
CPSR/Boston organize the first debate on SDI software before an
audience of over 1300 at MIT.
o Over 1500 people attend a panel on the appropriate applications of
AI, chaired by CPSR Board member Terry Winograd at the International
Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI).
o CPSR establishes its first National Advisory Board. Today, that
board includes four Turing Award winners and a Nobel Laureate.
o The addition of CPSR/Chicago and CPSR/Portland brings the number of
chapters to ten.
o Dave Redell of CPSR and Danny Cohen from the Eastport panel debate
the feasibility of SDI on Capitol Hill in a session limited to
members of Congress and their staffs.
o CBS Evening News interviews Gary Chapman on the SDI.
o Severo Ornstein appears on NPR's All Things Considered.
o CPSR/Boston produces Reliability and Risk, a slide show about the
dangers of overreliance on computing technology in national defense.
The presentation wins a Gold Medal at the New England Society for
o CPSR moves into a more spacious office on High Street.
o Program Director Mary-Karen Dahl and Director Marc Rotenberg initiate
the CPSR Civil Liberties Program.
o CPSR/Boston member Ronni Rosenberg publishes a three-part series on
"Computers and Privacy" in the CPSR Newsletter.
o CPSR/Palo Alto forms a working group on computers in the workplace.
This group later grew to have a national membership and was adopted
by the CPSR Board as a focus area for the organization.
o Chapters form in Austin and Philadelphia to bring the number up to
o Congressman Don Edwards asks CPSR to participate in an expert panel
on the civil-liberties implications of the FBI's National Crime
Information Center proposal.
o CPSR members Joel Yudken and Barbara Simons publish a report on
problems in federal funding of science research.
o CPSR holds its first research conference on "Directions and
Implications of Advanced Computing (DIAC)"; this conference is now a
biannual event, with support from the NSF as well as professional and
o David Parnas is named the recipient of CPSR's first Norbert Wiener
award for Social Responsibility in recognition of his courageous
actions to oppose the SDI.
o CPSR's first book, Computers in Battle, edited by CPSR/New York
member David Bellin and CPSR Executive Director Gary Chapman, is
o New Haven and Denver-Boulder chapters bring count to 14.
o CPSR publishes a critical appraisal of the National Test Bed.
o CPSR holds its second DIAC conference in Minneapolis. Two computer
scientists from the U.S.S.R. participate.
o CPSR members working for IBM, along with other IBM employees, sponsor
a shareholder resolution seeking to force IBM to cease its business
with South Africa.
o CPSR/Portland publishes a report on computerized vote counting and
the concomitant danger of inaccuracies or even fraud. CPSR/Portland
and CPSR/DC have since worked with the Federal Elections Commission
and Election Watch to improve standards and increase security for
o CPSR opens a new Washington office under the direction of Marc
Rotenberg to be the center for CPSR's work in privacy and civil
o CPSR/Denver-Boulder organizes a debate between David Parnas and Lt.
Col. Pete Worden of the SDIO.
o CPSR holds its 1988 Annual Meeting in Palo Alto shortly after the
release of the Internet Worm by Cornell graduate student Robert
Morris. CPSR's statement on the Internet Worm, developed at that
meeting, has been extensively reprinted in a wide variety of books
o Joe Weizenbaum, Professor emeritus at MIT and author of Computer
Power and Human Reason, receives the 1988 Norbert Wiener award.
o New chapters in San Diego, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C.,
raise the total number of chapters to 18.
o CPSR holds a conference on "Computers and Education" in Palo Alto.
o CPSR issues its report on the FBI's NCIC computer system, with two
members of CPSR appearing as witnesses before a Congressional
hearing. CPSR's report strongly opposed the FBI proposal to track
individuals who had not been charged with a crime. Just after the
release of CPSR's report, the FBI withdrew that proposal.
o CPSR submits a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI
regarding the monitoring of computer bulletin boards used by
political and advocacy organizations.
o CPSR Executive Director Gary Chapman visits the Soviet Union and
writes a detailed analysis on "Computers, Perestroika, and Glasnost."
o CPSR/New York develops the MEMBERS software package to help other
non-profit organizations automate their membership processing.
o The August issue of Communications of the ACM includes a special
section dedicated to social responsibility edited by CPSR members
Doug Schuler and Jon Jacky.
o CPSR/Palo Alto initiates a study group on women in computer science.
o Karen Nussbaum, executive director of 9to5, gives the keynote address
at the Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., on workplace computer
o Dan McCracken receives the 1989 Norbert Wiener award for his work in
the 1960s to organize computer scientists against the ABM deployment.
o Chapters form in Milwaukee and Berkeley, bringing the total to 20.
o The CPSR Workplace Project organizes the first Participatory Design
Conference in Seattle, attended by 180 people from nine countries.
o CPSR files suit against the FBI over its failure to respond to the
FOIA request for information about the monitoring of computer
o CPSR receives a two-year grant of $275,000 from the newly formed
Electronic Frontier Foundation to support its work in civil liberties
and the protection of constitutional rights in electronic media.
o CPSR Washington Director Marc Rotenberg testifies before Congress on
such issues as computer viruses, the need for a data protection
board, and access to information.
o CPSR hosts the third DIAC conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A
panel on "virtual reality" and its implications becomes the most
talked-about event of the day.
o CPSR members Batya Friedman and Terry Winograd publish a collection
of course syllabi on "Computing and Social Responsibility" from
various colleges and universities.
o CPSR Executive Director Gary Chapman initiates a new project to
assess how science and technology policies can be redirected away
from the military and toward human needs as we move into the next
century. This 21st Century Project has since been supported by
planning grants from the Rockefeller and Compton Foundations.
o CPSR President Eric Roberts visits 14 CPSR chapters and pre-chapter
member groups in a summer tour of the U.S.
o Kristin Nygaard of Norway receives the 1990 Norbert Wiener award for
his work in bringing workers into the design process for the systems
that they will use on the job.
o CPSR/Portland hosts the first conference on Computers and the
o Our 21st chapter, CPSR/Acadiana, forms in Lafayette, Louisiana.
o CPSR holds a "policy roundtable" in Washington to bring together
representatives from diverse constituencies to discuss free speech
and the conduct of criminal investigations in the digital domain.
o After intense media and grassroots pressure from CPSR, the Lotus
Corporation decides not to market its Marketplace:Households product,
which would have included personal data on 120 million Americans.
o CPSR sponsors the First Conference on Computers, Freedom, and
Privacy, organized by Jim Warren.
o Gary Chapman moves to Massachusetts and opens a new Cambridge office
to pursue the 21st Century Project.