Canadian Association of Computer Science
Association informatique canadienne
Award for Lifetime Achievement
in Computer Science – 2014
Ronald M. Baecker
Emeritus Professor of Computer Science
Director, Technologies for Aging Gracefully Lab (TAGlab)
University of Toronto
Photo courtesy of the Department of Computer Science (DCS), University of Toronto
Ronald Baecker is one of the world’s leading experts in human-computer interaction and user interface design. His outstanding scholarship has impacted the field of computer science in profound and meaningful ways. An innovative and unconventional thinker, Dr. Baecker has been relentless in his quest to improve the nature of human interactions with computer technology, beginning with his groundbreaking computer animation research at MIT in the late 1960s. He directed pioneering work in software visualization and enhanced human-computer interaction with the University of Toronto’s Dynamic Graphics Project (DGP) during the 1970s and 1980s; later investigations into computer-supported cooperative work culminated in his founding the interdisciplinary Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI) in 1995. His newest effort, the Technologies for Aging Gracefully lab (TAGlab), was established in 2008.
The thread that connects Dr. Baecker’s cross-cutting contributions is foresight. As noted by the Canadian Human Computer Communications Society when awarding him its prestigious Achievement Award in 2005: “He has seen emerging issues well ahead of others, and provided leadership by initiating research activity in new areas that have set the agenda for those who followed.”
A prolific researcher with over 185 publications, he has actively disseminated the results of his work, influencing a generation of human-computer interaction specialists with his articles, books, and videos –complementing four decades of exceptional mentoring and teaching.
He has held an array of positions: within the University of Toronto he is Professor of Computer Science and Bell University Laboratories Chair Emeritus and, as noted above, founder/director of both KMDI and TAGlab. An Affiliate Scientist with the Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied Research Unit of Baycrest and Adjunct Scientist with Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, he has held previous positions at Xerox PARC, Apple Computer, and MIT Media Lab; in Management at the University of Toronto and UBC; and in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Dr. Baecker has been active as an author, educator, and lecturer since his arrival at the University of Toronto (1972). He has developed original courses in interactive computer graphics, human-computer interaction, user interface and computational media and knowledge media design, computer-supported cooperative work and software entrepreneurship, sharing his unique perspective with the next generation of computer scientists. His Business of Software Course has been running since 1986 and was decades ahead of its time, and has been taken by over 3000 budding Canadian software entrepreneurs, many of whom have achieved major success. In 1990, he developed the world’s first undergraduate human-computer interaction specialization within computer science. He has also supervised 50 Masters and/or PhD theses, and 100 undergraduate RAs, initially as Director and Co-Director of the University of Toronto’s renowned DGP – which he helped build into a world-class interactive computer graphics and human-computer interaction research lab in the 1970s and 1980s – and subsequently as founder of the KMDI (1995). Former students have become professors and/or researchers at notable institutions worldwide (e.g. the Universities of British Columbia and Alberta, the National Research Council, IBM Canada, Microsoft, and Google), and include Bill Buxton, Canada’s most published human-computer interaction scientist, who has already received 3 honorary doctorates; Bill Reeves, the first computer scientist ever to win an Academy Award; and Ian Small, a leading Silicon Valley entrepreneur.
For his distinguished contributions to computer science, Dr. Baecker has been recognized with numerous awards and distinctions. These include being named one of 60 Pioneers of Computer Graphics by (ACM SIGGRAPH, 1998); election to the elite Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) Academy (ACM SIGCHI, 2005); receipt of the Canadian Human Computer Communications Society Achievement Award (CHCCS, 2005); a Leadership Award of Merit from the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION, 2007); election as an ACM Fellow (ACM, 2011); and the honour of being given a Canadian Digital Media Pioneer Award (GRAND, 2013). Dr. Baecker’s research has been instrumental to establishing and maintaining Canada’s position as a world leader in the fields of computer graphics, human-computer interaction and computer-supported cooperative work.