Computer Architecture Today

Informing the broad computing community about current activities, advances and future directions in computer architecture.

Computer Architecture News & Conferences

In 1971, the ACM Special Interest Committee (SIC) in Computer Architecture was launched to “serve the genuine interest of computer designers and programmers with a genuine interest in computer organization.” Promoted to a SIG in 1972, SIGARCH has been at the forefront of creating the vibrant computer architecture community that we know today. This blog post reflects on the myriad ways that SIGARCH has helped build and grow this community.

A professional community is a body of people with common professional interests.  Like all social units, the computer architecture community needs mechanisms for members to interact with each other. Computer Architecture News (CAN), SIGARCH’s originally quarterly newsletter archived in ACM’s digital library, was an effective pre-Internet platform for exchanging ideas. In addition to publishing unrefereed manuscripts on hot topics, letters to the editor document lively discussions about the scope of computer architecture, the impact of the microprocessor revolution, and interdependencies with operating systems, compilers, and implementation techniques. While CAN ceased publication in 2017, it remains a rich historical reference of SIGARCH’s early days.

Professional communities also require venues for publication and direct personal interactions, predominantly conferences, symposia, and workshops.  The ACM/IEEE International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) was created in partnership with SIGARCH’s “sister organization” IEEE Computer Society’s Technical Committee on Computer Architecture (TCCA). Known through its first several decades simply as “the architecture conference,” ISCA has served as the flagship conference for the computer architecture community for 50 years.

SIGARCH has (co-)sponsored over a dozen conferences, symposia, and workshops. Notably, in 1982 SIGARCH co-sponsored creation of the International Conference on Architectural Support for Programing Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS), the leading venue for systems issues in computer architecture. And in 1988 SIGARCH co-sponsored the creation of the Supercomputing Conference, now SC’XY, the flagship conference in High Performance Computing (SIGARCH transferred co-sponsorship to the newly formed SIGHPC in 2012).

Talent Recognition & Awards

SIGARCH has also enriched the computer architecture community by recognizing individual members for excellence in research and/or service. In 1977, SIGARCH co-sponsored creation of the ACM/IEEE Eckert-Mauchly Award to recognize “contributions to computer and digital systems architecture where the field of computer architecture is considered at present to encompass the combined hardware-software design and analysis of computing and digital systems.” Named for ENIAC pioneers John Presper Eckert and John William Mauchly, this award continues to be considered the most prestigious award in computer architecture.

In 1998, SIGARCH created the ACM SIGARCH Maurice Wilkes Award to recognize “an outstanding contribution to computer architecture made by an individual whose computer-related professional career (graduate school or full-time employment, whichever began first) started no earlier than January 1st of the year that is 20 years prior to the year of the award.” This award was carefully worded to recognize researchers earlier in their computer architecture career, even if they changed into a computer-related career later in life.

SIGARCH, like most professional organizations, is run by volunteers. In 2008, SIGARCH created the ACM SIGARCH Distinguished Service Award to recognize individuals for outstanding service to and leadership in SIGARCH and the broader computer architecture community. Alan D. Berenbaum was the first recipient of this award for his many years of service to SIGARCH and the award was renamed in his honor after his untimely death in 2016.

In 2018, together with TCCA, SIGARCH created the ACM SIGARCH IEEE CS TCCA Outstanding Dissertation Award to identify excellent thesis research by doctoral candidates in the field of computer architecture and recognize both a winner and honorable mentions. Dissertations are reviewed for technical depth and significance of the research contribution, potential impact on computer architecture, and quality of presentation.

Diversity, Inclusion & Our Students

In recent decades, SIGARCH has placed diversity and inclusion at the center of their community building initiatives. These initiatives started with grants for child-care and travel companion support at computer architecture meetings. SIGARCH incorporated and funded WICArch as a joint subcommittee to build a community of female architects, celebrate their accomplishments, and boost talent development for women in architecture. SIGARCH established CARES in 2018 to serve as a resource and sounding board for people experiencing discrimination and harassment at computer architecture meetings. In response to Huixiang Chen’s tragic suicide, CARES’ mandate was extended in 2020 to cover violations of ACM’s code of ethics and professional conduct. CARES has been adopted by many SIGs, led to the formation of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council at ACM, and given the 2020 CRA distinguished service award.

Utilizing conference surpluses, SIGARCH has generously financed multiple student-focused initiatives, catering to individuals from diverse backgrounds and career stages. Initially, SIGARCH began by providing travel grants to students attending conferences. Over time, their funding expanded to encompass talent development, well-being improvement, and promoting diversity and inclusion for students and early-career researchers. Notable SIGARCH-sponsored events receiving support in recent years include the Undergrad Architecture Mentoring Workshop (Uarch), Young Architect Workshop (Yarch), and the graduate cohort of CRA Committee on Widening Participation in Computing Research (CRA-WP).

In 2016, SIGARCH initiated the “Meet a Senior Architect” mentoring program, which quickly spread to other conferences like ASPLOS and MICRO. In 2020, CASA (Computer Architecture Student Association) emerged as an independent student-led organization to cultivate a supportive and inclusive student community in computer architecture. With support from SIGARCH and IEEE TCCA, CASA has expanded its mentoring efforts with initiatives like “Meet a Senior Student” at conferences, an online platform called CALM for mentor-student connections outside conferences, and mental well-being seminars for graduate students.

Community Building Online

SIGARCH delivers more than just the dedicated service of elected members on the executive committee; it is fueled by the unwavering commitment of an exceptional group of volunteers. With a focus on our mission, SIGARCH established “Computer Architecture Today” a.k.a., “The SIGARCH Blog” in 2017, with a broader communication team, which has revitalized outreach and interaction within the community. Among the various channels available, the Computer Architecture Today blog has emerged as the preferred platform for community members and professionals in related fields to engage in discussions on a wide range of captivating subjects. To ensure that members stay well-informed, SIGARCH regularly makes announcements through multiple mediums, including social media platforms, the website, and periodic email updates.

Furthermore, during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SIGARCH YouTube! Channel played a pivotal role by hosting videos when conferences transitioned online. It now stands as a valuable repository, preserving computer architecture conference talks for future reference. In 2019, SIGARCH introduced Computer Architecture Podcasts, which have been instrumental in conducting insightful interviews with leading figures in the architecture community. These podcasts delve into cutting-edge topics in architecture, offering listeners a unique perspective on their vision and career experiences. The combined efforts of our volunteers, along with the diverse array of communication platforms at our disposal, enable SIGARCH to effectively serve the community and advance the field of computer architecture.

Here’s to another 50 years of SIGARCH!

As we celebrate 50 years of ACM SIGARCH, we acknowledge the organization’s remarkable journey in shaping the field of computer architecture. From its early years as a Special Interest Committee to becoming a prominent SIG, SIGARCH has played a critical role in advancing the discipline through conferences, awards, and community-building initiatives. Looking ahead, SIGARCH remains committed to fostering diversity, inclusion, and talent recognition while providing a platform for researchers and practitioners to continue pushing the boundaries of computer architecture. Here’s to another 50 years of innovation, collaboration, and breakthroughs!

About the authors: Babak Falsafi is a Professor in the School of Computer and Communication Sciences at EPFL, in Lausanne, Switzerland, and has served as ACM SIGARCH Chair since 2019. David A. Wood is Professor Emeritus in the Computer Sciences Department of the University of Wisconsin, Madison and served as ACM SIGARCH Chair 2011-2015.

Disclaimer: These posts are written by individual contributors to share their thoughts on the Computer Architecture Today blog for the benefit of the community. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal, belong solely to the blog author and do not represent those of ACM SIGARCH or its parent organization, ACM.