It has been nearly 44 years since several Western Canadian computer professionals first got together and formed a society to discuss growing activity in IT - the Calgary Computer and Data Processing Society.
The new entity, with professor John Peck From the University of Alberta as its first president, met monthly. But it wasn't the first of its kind. A similarly named society had already been established in Eastern Canada, grouped in several major cities. When they learned of events Western Canada, the Eastern officials proposed the idea of becoming a national society, and asked Calgary to join forces.
With many thousand of kilometers separating them, the folks in Calgary initially didn't think that much could be gained from a national society. But two years later Western members finally agreed to merge. Terms included that the next national conference be held in the West, a decision skeptically received by members in the East, who feared a financial disaster. Conferences to this point had always been held in an Eastern university setting, usually averaging 225 participants.
Ken Marble of Imperial Oil was appointed conference chairman, and he received support from many other Alberta organizations. A non-university setting, the Banff Springs Hotel, was chosen, further increasing the Eastern concern.
It was decided that the conference's success hinged on the caliber of speakers, so organizers aimed high. They managed to snag Dr. Fano, who was pioneering time sharing research at MIT. NORAD was also asked to make a presentation. Others of equal caliber accepted. Fare reimbursement - but no fees, were offered to invitees. The rest of the program was organized by submission of papers.
Break even was 250. After conference announcement, registrations arrived by every post, reaching a total of 650, making it the largest Canadian conference of its kind to that date. It caught organizers off-guard; rock hen was set to be the main dish for the final banquet. Problem was, the hotel could not find 650 rock hens in the whole of Alberta, so it was agreed that the "deprived" unfortunates would have Alberta steaks instead. The conference was an overwhelming success, and it forever changed computing conferences in Canada, and established Western Canada as a major IT player.
Particularly memorable was the NORAD presentation, which outlined the threat posed to North America by the Soviet Union, and how our defense was organized. This led to a confrontation between the conference committee and the attending Soviet scientific attache, who said that a protest would be made to the Canadian government unless an apology was received.
As I had to give the apology, being program manager, I remember this only too well. NORAD talked about old technology - the Arrow fighter plane, Soviet bombers Bison and Badger, simulated attack patterns and the like. The protest itself was entirely political