Historical CHI Video Project

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Working with ACM SIGCHI, we are digitizing and archiving historical videos from the CHI Conference, the premier international conference for the field of Human-Computer Interaction.

Short url: ter.ps/chivideos


  • Long term: Digitize all the CHI videos and archive them in the ACM Digital Library – and possibly on a CHI YouTube Channel. We want to preserve the CHI Technical Video Programs, but also CHI special programs and recordings of keynotes.
  • Medium term: Process the Technical Video Programs, which were produced between 1983 to 2002.
  • First step: Process the CHI’92 video from beginning to end (digitization, collecting permission for each video – which is required by ACM, and submitting the files and metadata to the Digital Library.)
Photo of VHS tape
The VHS tape of the 1999 Video Program and Video Proceedings (i.e. papers’ video figures )
None of those videos was on the Digital Library at the start of the project


  • Catherine Plaisant, Senior Research Scientist at the University of Maryland, and INRIA International Chair.
  • Natalie Dementhon, a graduate student in the Human-Computer Interaction Master program.

Questions? Please contact Catherine Plaisant

You can help!

  1. If you have copies of old CHI videos let us know. We have some, but may need other copies if the copies we have have aged too much to be readable, or have sound issues etc.
  2. You may be able to help us find authors we cannot locate (see special section below)

Status Update

  • October 8, 2019: we now have 1992 to 2002 digitized. Some VHS tapes have age-related sound problems, so we will try again with other copies of the tape. Still gathering permissions. It is hard and slow to get 100’s of permission forms signed. The 1992 videos (our initial test videos) are still on hold at ACM because the digital library is being upgraded.
  • July 11, 2019: 11 tapes (starting from the 92 Special program to the CHI 2002 Technical Video) were picked up by George Blood LP for processing.
  • July 3, 2019: All the materials for the 1992 video have been submitted to ACM, and we hope they will be posted soon. Unfortunately, we have not been able to secure the permission for one of the segments (from Bellcore).
    The tapes of the 1993 to 2002 technical programs are awaiting a pickup by the digitization vendor, and we have started collecting permission forms from corresponding authors. The most challenging cases are the ones where a company holds the copyright, such as Xerox, Apple or IBM. Colleagues within the companies are helping us, but it might take a while before we obtain those permissions. Sometimes multiple companies are involved: for example, Ericsson acquired the assets of Telecordia which acquired the assets of Bellcore. So will Ericsson give permissions for the Bellcore videos?
  • June 11, 2019: We prepared several versions of two challenging clips using different vendors and methods, then asked colleagues and friends to compare the different versions. The difference between the versions was subtle, but one of the vendors stood out as being preferred by more people.
  • May 2, 2019: Received the files for our test (CHI’92), digitized by several preservation experts.
  • April 2019: we are searching for contact emails for ALL the authors of the technical videos, from 1983 to 2002. Our list of missing authors is dwindling after we solved many puzzles… We are guessing that for about one-third of the videos Catherine knew an author, for another one third a simple web search found one of the authors’ personal or work page fairly easily, but for the remaining third it was quite challenging. The ACM Digital Library or other scientific paper databases helped find what topic the authors worked on later in life, and where they worked when, but sometime we found no further publications at all. After that, LinkedIn became very useful. Catherine had many connections to CHI folks already helped her find more. In a few cases, we found people through Facebook, or because they posted their own video on YouTube or Vimeo. Finding authors who changed the name when they married was tricky. White Pages and other person-search tools may mention relatives’ names, which helped unlock a couple of those hard cases. Sometimes we sent postcards to a likely personal address to find an author with no identifiable web presence. We are now reaching out to current employees of companies where missing authors worked, to try to track them down – or get the company itself to sign. Many remaining puzzles…
    The saddest moments are when we learn that colleagues have passed away.
  • Sent our test tape (CHI ’92) for digitization to vendors with expertise in video preservation. It is taking a while for them to get to our small project but we hope that they can achieve better quality than your average tape conversion service.
  • March 2019: Completed the catalog of all the tapes and video segments we know about. We will start with 20 tapes or about 400 video segments – so 400 authors to locate! Quite daunting.
  • Obtained from ACM the permission forms we need to use.
  • Natalie Dementhon joins the team.
  • March 2019: Start of the project. Thanks, SIGCHI.

Do you know those missing people?

Authors will keep the copyright but ACM needs their permission to digitize and post the videos.
We are making good progress but there are some authors we are having difficulty getting in touch with.

Below are a few.
If you know them, tell them to get in touch with Catherine Plaisant.

  • Jan Walker, at Symbolics circa 1985 but also worked at DEC and BBN: sole author of the video “The Document Examiner” in CHI ’85.
  • Mayer Schwartz – at Tektronix circa 1985, sole author of the “Magpie” video in CHI ’85
  • John Kolojejchick, Joe Mattis, Mei C. Chuah – CMU students circa 1995, co-authors of “SageTools: an intelligent environment for sketching, browsing, and customizing data-graphics” in CHI ’95 (along with Steven F. Roth who passed away in 2005)
  • >>FOUND THEM (Thanks Abbe)<<: Carmen Egido, Gary Herman, Craig Reading at Bellcore circa 1987, authors of “Multimedia technology in collaborative writing” in CHI ’87
  • Beth M. Lange, Mark A. Jones, James L. Meyers, at Andersen Consulting circa 1998, authors of “Insight lab: an immersive team environment linking paper, displays, and data” in CHI ’98
  • Erik Rutten, David Ziedman, Doris Pelger, Bill McCarthy, Duncan Prior, with Technology Partners, Amsterdam circa 2001, “Building international web sites for the financial market” in CHI ‘2001
  • Diane Tacito, Easel, for “Graphic Design of an Executive Information System” in 92 Special Program
  • Sinead Bomba, at Henry Dreyfuss Associates circa 92, contact for “Computer Interface Design” in 92 Special Program
  • Lisa Dreger, Microsoft circa 1992, contact for “An Object-Oriented Evolution of Windows: Information at your Fingertips” in 92 Special Program – but we can contact Microsoft directly if needed…
  • for others we are still following leads, and we will post more names here as we run out of leads or ideas

What happened in 1986 ?

There is no 1986 Technical Video to be found… even though the Proceedings list a Video Chair. What happened? Unfortunately, we cannot find Janet (Jan) Walker who was the video chair. Here are some photos of Jan in Ben Shneiderman’s photo archive.

Existing sites that have CHI videos

  • The Open-Video Project: the 1st video digital library, a project of Gary Marchionini at the University of North Carolina. Like many old prototypes, the library is unmaintained and could stop working any day. The search is not working well, and there are no author names included. Best is to search for a specific year e.g. 1993, expand to see all the results – not just the top 10 – and you can search in the text of the results.
  • Collection of Nicolas Roussel (INRIA Bordeaux).  An extensive subset of the CHI videos is there.
  • A subset also lives at the Delft University of Technology
  • if you know of other places let us know… (besides specific videos being on YouTube and Vimeo)

A bit of history…

From the start, CHI had a Technical Video Program (i.e., the video was one of the submission categories of the technical program).

Things vary from year to year but here is the example of 1992:

  • Authors submitted their videos to the Video Chairs, who put together a committee to review and select videos for publication. The conference published a VHS tape with a series of 13 video segments.
  • At the conference, there was a room dedicated to the video program, which ran in a loop during the entire week.
  • In addition, the videos could be watched on TV in every room of the conference hotels. There was a special channel for our videos 🙂
  • A 2-page abstract was published in the Proceedings so the 1992 abstracts exist in the ACM Digital Library (but not the videos themselves).
  • Registrants could pre-order a VHS tape with all the videos.
  • ACM made the VHS tapes available for purchase after the conference, in NTSC format but also PAL and SECAM for international viewers.
  • The Copyright of the videos was retained by the authors.
photo of the box of a VHS tape
Example of VHS tape, here the Issue 76 and 77 of the SIGGRAPH Video Review, which contains the CHI ’92 Technical Video Program.

Some dates

  • From 1983 to 1993: VHS tapes were published as part of the SIGGRAPH Video Review Series, sometimes much after the conference.
  • 1983: Sara Bly is the first “Film and videotape Chair”. The issue #8 of the SIGGRAPH Video Review includes “Excerpts from CHI ’83” with two videos, about Xerox’s Smalltalk and Apple’s Lisa interface; then issue #12 and #13 include 15 peer-reviewed video segments from CHI ’83. Those SIGGRAPH issues were published in 1984 instead of 1983 which can be confusing.
  • 1984: no video because… no CHI ‘84! (CHI was originally planned to run every other year).
  • 1986: no video, we do not know why…
  • 1990: a list of video titles and authors finally appears in the Proceedings (p. 469) but the front and back materials of the proceedings are not in the ACM Digital Library.
  • 1991: each video now has a 2-page abstract, published in the proceedings, therefore the videos are represented in the ACM Digital Library.
  • 1991 is also the start of the World Wide Web.
  • 1994: Catherine is the video chair, and the VHS videotape is given to all attendees of the conference as part of the Proceedings. Video Figures are introduced (videos as supplementary materials to the printed papers).
  • 1994 (or 95? to check): CHI starts its own series of videos (i.e. it is not part of SIGGRAPH Video Review anymore.)
  • 1997: The ACM Digital Library is created (Date uncertain, retrieved from LOC). Slowly after that ACM will digitize all the papers of the past CHI conferences, but NOT the videos.
  • 1998: UNC starts working on the first ever video digital library
  • 2002: the Technical Video Program ends. Researchers start posting videos on the web or submitting them as supplementary materials to their paper.     
  • Recent past: Many researchers pressed ACM to digitize the videos but the masters of the videos were lost, ACM only had copies of a subset of the videos, and – more importantly – ACM did not hold the copyright of the videos.
  • 2017: A new video program reappears at CHI with the start of the CHI Video Showcase.
  • 2019: The videos from 1983 to 2002 are still NOT in the Digital Library. It is time to change that. In fact, it is urgent because many of the authors of the early videos are long retired or just cannot be located. The oldest VHS tapes are also reaching the end of their expected lifespan.

How the tapes were used

The early CHI videos were used extensively for teaching, and by researchers and practitioners to stay up-to-date. Many of the videos played a major role in patent litigations (see one example here).
The tapes required the use of VHS tape players but everyone had one at home then, and many classrooms too.
Catherine remembers giving talks with transparencies and a bag full of videotapes to show demonstrations.

Related history resources


We want to thank Loren Terveen and Helena Mentis for seeing the importance and timeliness of getting this project underway. At ACM, we thank Ashley Cozzi (Project Manager), Barbara Ryan (Intellectual Property Rights Manager), and Craig Rodkin (Publication Manager). Saul Greenberg’s help has been invaluable to help us get started with a solid catalog of the CHI conferences, and DVD copies of most tapes so we could review them. Brad Myers is providing access to his precious complete collection of CHI tapes, complementing what had at Maryland.
As the project progresses, there will be many more people to thank for their help and we will add their names here.