David Alan Grier is currently the president for the Computer Society and has spent much of the past decade helping the Society develop new electronic products, editing its periodicals, and writing for its members. He has served as editor in chief of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, as chair of the Magazine Operations Committee and as an editorial board member of Computer. Grier formerly wrote the monthly column The Known World. He is an associate professor of science and technology policy at George Washington University in Washington, DC, with a particular interest in policy regarding digital technology and professional societies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The vice president for engineering gave me the usual response when I asked him how the IEEE Computer Society might be of help to his company. "Tell us where we should invest," he said, while making a big gesture with his arms. "Tell me which technology is going to be important so that we can make some money with it." I understood why he made this request, but felt that he really didn't understand what the Computer Society did or how it helped his engineers do their jobs better. Ultimately, they would be able to answer his question better than I ever could. Read more
On the Flight Home from Beijing
I learned that Beijing had a technology museum only as we were driving to the airport. We were catching a plane back to Washington, DC, after attending the annual banquet of the China Computer Federation. I hope to be able to see it on my next visit. I have a special love for technology museums because they claim to tell one kind of story but actually explain something quite different.
When my time came to be president of IEEE Computer Society, I didn't think I was quite ready for the job. I had risen very quickly through the leadership ranks and didn't know much about some parts of the society. I knew little about standards and less about our education board. I was worried that I might make a bad decision that would haunt my presidency. A mistake that I could not correct. However, as I got ready to take the position, a friend gave me a bit of friendly advice. "You don't need to get everything right," he said, "you need to keep the organization on the path of improvement." Read more
Koichi, a friend of mine, asked me to visit his office a few weeks ago to talk about the state of computing research. He has a lovely office, located near the center of Washington, DC, and enjoys a beautiful view of the region. Perhaps more importantly, he is an officer in one of the large government research organizations and near the center of the computing university. Read more
Computer scientists and computing engineers don't deal with obsolescence well. We quickly abandon old forms of technology as soon as new ones show their promise. We claim that old software is useless and call the people who still use old systems "dinosaurs" or some other term that suggests that they are no longer productive members of the community. Yet when we discard old technologies, we often fail to see how one technology builds upon another and how old ideas reappear in new solutions. Read more
Early in my career, I wrote a paper with a Chinese colleague on the technology transfer policies of Deng Xiaopeng. I had done no prior research in the field but was intrigued with the topic and enjoyed working with these colleagues. Read more
Towards the middle of May, Computer Society presidents start preparing for a major Board of Governors meeting in June. It's a large job and requires me to write the agenda and get the members ready for the meeting. Read more
Somehow time and place got lost. During the last month, I promised myself that I would write my next column for the China Computing Federation as I shuttled from one IEEE meeting to another. That plan got lost in the shuttle from one airport to another. I hope that I am forgiven for the lapse, as movement seems to be one of the themes of this season. Perhaps, in the process, I will learn what needs to be moved and what does not. Read more