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CUMREC Short History
In the early 1950s Frank Martin and others at Michigan State University sponsored two workshops for personnel at other institutions interested in the use of punched cards for registration. In 1955, following these successful workshops, Frank Martin tested interest in attending a "machine records and computing conference for educational institutions" with a questionnaire. Responses indicated strong interest, so Mr. Martin asked his colleagues to aid in the development of a pilot conference that would provide the "opportunity to know each other." Sixty-four representatives of 37 institutions and two companies attended the first Machine Records Conference for Educational Institutions (MRC) in May of 1956.
The 2 1/2 day meeting in East Lansing was organized with presentations on applications related to student related topics the first day, business oriented subjects the second and research topics on Saturday morning. The conference photograph taken at the entrance to the Kellogg Center for Continuing Education on the MSU campus is reminiscent of a feature of IBM sponsored classes during that period. A bound 78 page directory of attendees was prepared and distributed.
Program speakers brought illustrative materials, some being quite elaborate and detailed, for distribution to session audiences.
Frank Martin asked his colleagues to aid in the development of a pilot conference that would provide the "opportunity to know each other."
Sixty-four representatives of 37 institutions and two companies attended the first Machine Records Conference for Educational Institutions (MRC) in May of 1956.
The participants felt that the Conference had been successful and that it should be held at least one more time. A committee determined that the Conference would attempt to service the three areas included in 1956; that there would be no formal organization; and that schools would be selected to host the Conference with every attempt to hold the meetings on a college or university campus.
During the period between 1957 and 1964, technological advances and sweeping social change altered the fabric of American life forever. Significant events of note: the inclusion of the transistor in many common items; color television; jet airliners; baby boomers coming to campus; the Interstate highway system; Civil Rights legislation and the beginning of the "New Society;" and a Presidential assassination that shocked the world.
The world of machine records processing was changing also. The punched card data processing method reached its zenith in the late 1950s and early 1960s. More institutions had installed systems or increased the scope of current applications. Equipment was improved primarily in operation speed and an electronic calculator was available that could complete any of the four basic math functions. In the 1950s, electronic computers with stored instructions or programs were being installed on campuses initially for scientific or research activities. The IBM 1401 series that was introduced in 1959 was configured with punched cards, tape, and disk storage. This unit, with its improved processing abilities and utility, soon made many card-oriented systems obsolete.
The Machine Records Conference took these changes in stride. One measure of the growth of the MRC is in terms of the steady increase in attendance which went from 143 in 1957 to 577 in 1965. This attendance increase began to strain campus meeting facilities, but the hosts always managed to accommodate all who registered. Program Chairs aided in the development of interesting and diverse offerings in the three initial areas and more users reported on other application solutions.
Some notable changes and innovations occurred during the next several years. The 1960 Conference held at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was for the first time held without using on-campus housing facilities and an annual Directory History was published. In 1961, the host school began to be designated more than one year in advance. That year's meeting featured a host sponsored "mixer" and papers related to research in a computing facility were no longer presented.
At the 1962 meeting, a special session was scheduled to explore the possibility of establishing a users' group for the development and the exchange of systems information. From this meeting CAUSE emerged with the approval of those attending. Beginning in 1963, sessions were available for both unit record and computer applications. Another significant step for the Conference was the establishment of a companion program. At the time it was referred to as a "wives program!"
The 1964 meeting in College Station, Texas, hosted by Texas A & M University, was the first in which a program theme was published: New Horizons Through Thought. This was also the first Conference at which the proceedings were published under one cover. Unlike today, the proceedings were published after the Conference and mailed to each attendee.
Although there was no formal organization for the MRC, Frank Martin was clearly the recognized leader. Committees were developed as needed for site selection and program aid. A small cadre of individuals, with subtle direction from Frank Martin, assisted the host schools in carrying out these annual events and provided limited stability from year to year, but each year a new group of volunteers recreated the Conference.
In ten years, attendance had grown by nine times and at the 1965 Tenth Anniversary meeting, Frank Martin, the Conference Chair, planned a special program. A "Founder's Day" dinner for all past General Chairs and other guests was held Sunday evening. A variety show was presented after the Monday evening dinner and tours of the MSU Data Processing facilities were scheduled. On registering, each attendee for the first time received a copy of the Conference Proceedings that included a copy of many of the papers to be presented. In July, each conference attendee received a copy of a newsletter, Machine Records Conference News volume I, number 1. The newsletter recapped the events of the meeting in a pictorial manner which vividly illustrated highlights of the Conference and provided a record that is not available from any Conference held before or since.
Although the equipment for the processing of data was changing rapidly during this period, the problems addressed in higher education were still related to student records, business applications and the management of services. The Machine Records Conference had become a viable annual event that was developed each year by a new host group. Local excitement and enthusiasm helped produce a completely new program each year with a new cast of participants. This relative lack of experience did not appear to have a negative effect since the Conference continued to grow due to the high quality of the programs.
Each Conference, following the example of the 11th in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in 1966, had a unique logo or graphic design that was included on most printed materials. Each registrant continued to receive a copy of the Conference Proceedings, a current directory and the latest Directory History. Another item of note for this year was that the last paper describing a punched card system was presented.
The 1969 meeting at the University of Michigan was the last that used campus housing and facilities. As attendance grew, the physical campus facilities were no longer adequate and off-campus facilities that had the capability to handle 600-800 attendees for meetings, food service and housing were selected. The format of the Conference remained essentially unchanged with 2 1/2 days of meetings scheduled Monday through Wednesday. The increase in attendance was not the only sign of success and acceptance. Notices of these annual meetings were being published in association newsletters, copies of papers were being widely distributed and the conference program was frequently cited at other meetings.
Growth also brought problems that made it apparent that a formal organization was needed. To accomplish this, a constitution was written in 1971 and was presented for acceptance to the attendees at the 1972 Conference. Thus the Conference was formally organized in 1972 with a constitution, by-laws, an elected Board of Directors and Officers. The name Machine Records Conference was expanded to the College and University Machine Records Conference: CUMREC. That same year saw the highest attendance of any meeting in CUMREC's history with 885 conferees.
The formal organization was not apparent to the membership during the initial years. The elected board and officers began to develop improved bidding procedures, budget management and program control and gave assistance to the host schools.
Each year's program was developed with local control for many years, but in 1973, though the format of the meeting remained the same, a Program Committee chaired by the CUMREC Vice-President began to solicit and select papers for presentation. This was expanded in 1975 when a call for papers was included with the preliminary announcement.
In 1973, in recognition of Frank Martin's leadership and support in the development of CUMREC, the Board of Directors in conjunction with the Special Projects Committee determined a way to honor those who contributed to the development or continuation of the organization: The Frank Martin Service Award was established by proclamation of the Board. Mr. Martin presented the first two awards to Leo M. Corbaci, University of Notre Dame and Ernest R. Zimmermann, University of Michigan.
The illness of Frank Martin in 1974 caused a disruption in the ongoing functions of CUMREC, but President Mack Usher assumed many of the immediate responsibilities with assistance from Valerie David of MSU. During the year, proposals were prepared to allow Mr. Martin to continue on the Board of Directors after his retirement from MSU to retain his knowledge and experience for the new organization.
Information processing during the third decade of CUMREC changed rapidly with endless equipment upgrades, improved software, an increased need for new services and altered user expectations. Papers were presented on new topics such as networks, database systems, security, mini-computers, office automation, on-line systems, touchtone technology and word processing.
During the years 1975-76, Board members articulated the goals and the position of CUMREC in the areas of membership, publications, finances and liaison with other groups. The proposals in the developed papers were not immediately adopted, but later most of the principles were incorporated into the Conference's operating procedures.
Though CUMREC had been held in many parts of the country, in 1978 the Conference was hosted outside the borders of the U.S. for the first time. The University of Western Ontario sponsored the Conference with the theme User / Management Information Systems in London, Ontario.
In 1982, Recognition of the quality of papers was introduced with the Best Paper Award.
Vendors began to play an increasing role in each Conference by sponsoring specific events and co-authoring papers. Today, the vendor area is one of the most popular features of the conference.
Also in 1982, the Board accepted a proposal for financial control of each annual Conference. The Board also increased the available treasury balance both to cover any losses and to enhance programs. Beginning in November of 1983, the Newsletter, initially edited by Ernest Jones, was regularly distributed to members.
The Board of Directors had recognized for some years that a regular office was needed to serve the Conference membership. On March 15, 1985, the CUMREC International Office was opened at the University of South Carolina.
After meetings were hosted by The University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 1988 and by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston in 1989, CUMREC attendees had traveled from north to south and from coast to coast. 1992 brought one more major change to CUMREC: due to changes in technology over the past three decades, the no longer appropriate name College and University Machine Records Conference was changed to the College and University Computer Users Association although the acronym CUMREC was retained.
Aging systems, higher user expectations, enhanced hardware and new communication channels have been some of the pressures of the last decade that have mandated change in the information technology area. Systems have been developed or revised to allow the use of information by multiple users. New terminology includes Local Area Network, Personal Computer, client-server, imaging, relational and object-oriented databases, connectivity and the Internet. Each of these has provided either new services or opportunities to enhance existing applications. More papers are now being devoted to operational techniques than to specific application solutions that were common in the early years.
CUMREC continues to be a vital force in helping users and providers of information technology grow and improve as a new century approaches. Frank Martin would be proud that his vision of 40 years ago has been so successfully realized.
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