This article is published in the November 2014 issue.

That Was Then This is Now

25 Years Ago in CRN

A quarter of a century ago, Computing Research News: The Quarterly Newsjournal of The Computing Research Board published its first two issues, Volume 1, No. 1 in Summer 1989 and Volume 1, No. 2 in Fall 1989. A look through the back issues provides some interesting contrasts in what’s changed and what hasn’t. This is the first of a series of occasional articles looking back at the hot topics in CRN 25 years ago.

In Summer and Fall 1989, as reported in CRN:


The Computing Research Board (the predecessor organization of CRA) and ACM cosponsored a conference on Strategic Directions in Computing Research in October 1989. The objectives of the conference included building a consensus on computing research goals to legislators and funding agencies, setting priorities for research in various subfields, and publicizing the goals, importance, and impact of computing research. Attendees included academic computing researchers, industry and government lab managers, legislative staff, and government program managers. Research areas discussed were High Performance Architectures, Algorithms and Theory, Artificial Intelligence, Systems and Software, Neural Networks, and Technology to Support Computer-Based Collaboration. CRA continues to play this community building and leadership role. CRA’s Computing Community Consortium catalyzes the research community and enables the pursuit of innovative, high-impact research.

The Taulbee Survey reported that 744 PhDs were awarded in Computer Science and Computer Engineering in 1987-88, twice as many as five years previously. In 2012-13, the Taulbee Survey reported 1,991 PhDs in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Information.

Talent Development

Nancy Leveson provided input for an NSF advisory committee on women in computing research. She noted that the percentage of PhDs awarded to women had remained constant at about 10% since 1978. Two years later in 1991, along with Maria Klawe, Nancy helped establish CRA’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research, which continues to encourage and support women in computing research. In 2012-13, 18% of PhDs in the field were awarded to women.


There was concern about the NSF budget should the U.S. Senate concur with a recently-passed funding bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. CRN readers were encouraged to contact their senators about the importance of funding for scientific research by phone or telegram. This may sound familiar, except for the telegram part.

The Computing Research Board’s Government Affairs Committee held its first meeting, with more than 25 people in attendance. Topics included the recently-announced Federal High Performance Computing Program. CRA’s Government Affairs Committee is still extremely active in helping shape public policy relevant to computing research.

Our Organization

The Computing Research Board moved out of an office in the IEEE Computer Society building into its own space. This allowed room for the expansion of staff from 2 (the Executive Director and the Administrative Assistant) to 5 (adding a Newsletter Editor, a Government Affairs Director, and a Secretary/Receptionist). Apple Computer donated four Macintosh computers and several Laserwriters to the new office, to be used for correspondence, the maintenance of membership and accounting records, and desktop publishing for CRN. In fall 2014, CRA has expanded to a staff of 13, and the IT infrastructure is considerably more complex.