CHCCS/SCDHM Achievement Award

William A. S. Buxton

1995 Achievement Award

The recipient of this year’s CHCCS Achievement Award is Bill Buxton. We wish to recognize and acknowledge the significant contribution over the many years that Bill has made to the field of human-computer interaction. Bill has demonstrated that he is a leader, a creative researcher and an excellent communicator who inspires enthusiasm among his students.

Bill Buxton was born in Edmonton, Alberta and completed his first university degree, a Bachelor of Music with specialty in tenor saxophone, at Queen’s University. Bill was drawn towards exploring the role of electronics and computers in composition and performance of music and hence studied electronics and technology. Bill’s experimentation with the interactive music system at the National Research Council helped sway him towards pursuing a serious career in computational music. Following advanced studies in experimental music at Utrecht State University in Netherlands, Bill completed the transition by earning an M.Sc. degree in Computer Science from the University of Toronto.

From this starting point, Bill launched an active and productive career in experimental research in human-computer interaction (HCI). The recurring scheme in the transition to HCI and computer science has been that the computer was becoming a powerful tool in many specialties, however a serious obstacle to success has been the poor quality of the user interface as well as a lack of ease-of-use for specialists in their own disciplines.

As a professor of Computer Science, together with Ron Baecker, Bill brought to eminence the interaction laboratory at the University of Toronto. Students who completed graduate studies at the University of Toronto have contributed to improved user interfaces in many companies. Some of the students Bill supervised (or co-supervised) were Brad Meyers and Eugene Fiume.

Bill recognized early in his career that papers, while important and a vital component of our archival history, are inadequate for conveying the new ideas in HCI. It is really through presentations, both live and on video tape, that the ideas and innovation in HCI technology are conveyed to a wider community of researchers. Bill Buxton is an excellent and enthusiastic communicator. In addition to presenting many formal papers, he has been a sought-after invited speaker — a fact that offered him an opportunity to raise, before a wider audience, the awareness that HCI is important and is worth doing it well. Communication with this wider audience has had an impact on many organizations where the CEO of, say a bank, having heard a talk by Bill, would bring the word to the staff, making an internal case for HCI an easier “sell”.

Bill’s other activity has been as a consultant and a researcher in industrial labs. In addition to working with several manufacturers of personal computers, Bill has had an ongoing relationship with Xerox, both with PARC and with EuroPARC. These innovative collaborations led to several key papers at SIGGRAPH. Bill’s activity for the last couple of years has been at Alias Research as Principal Scientist – User Interface Research. Bill’s ambition is to enhance the ease of use and productivity of the successful Alias tools for building 3D models and animation.

Through this award, members of the CHCCS/SCDHM Society wish to acknowledge the contribution by Bill Buxton to the research in human-computer interaction.