CHCCS/SCDHM Achievement Award

Scott MacKenzie

Achievement Award 2015

The recipient of this year’s CHCCS Achievement Award is Professor Scott MacKenzie. With this award we recognize and acknowledge the significant contribution made by Scott over many years to the field of human-computer interaction. His impact is felt worldwide in the ISO standard his research helped establish and in input systems people use daily, whether on a laptop, a game controller, a touch screen, or a smart phone.

Scott MacKenzie holds a professorship in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at York University which he joined after being on the faculty of Computer Science at University of Guelph. Scott began his education at Queen’s University, graduating with honours in Music. Matching the typical multidisciplinary training of many human-computer interaction researchers, he then studied Electronic Engineering at Durham College and completed his education with an M.A. and Ph.D. in Education from the University of Toronto.

Very few new Ph.D.s begin their careers as successfully as Scott. His highly cited thesis has become the standard for how Fitts’ Law is now used in HCI and lays the basis for much of the input device research undertaken in the field since 1991. In addition, and completely different from his HCI research, are his contributions to computer hardware. In 1992, Scott published his first book, The 8051 Microcontroller, which is now in its 4th edition. Four years later, he turned out his second book, The 68000 Microprocessor. Each book came with accompanying hardware and software to be used as teaching aides, a reflection of the type of care and consideration that Scott applies to all of his work.

Overall, Scott MacKenzie has over 160 refereed publications in top conferences and journals — three of them winning best paper awards and one an award for most cited paper in the last ten years. His research has focused on building general predictive models for how people use a variety of computer input devices: pointing devices such as the mouse, finger and stylus; scrolling devices, such as wheels and direction keys; character entry devices such as pens, virtual keyboards, one-handed keyboards; and gaze mechanisms such as eye-tracking. In all this work, he has attempted not just to run a single experiment investigating whether mechanism A works better than mechanism B, but to run a series of related studies that culminate in a general model for predicting and explaining what type of input arrangements should be designed to give the best performance for users of a given device, whether it be a game controller or a virtual keyboard. Just grab your touch pad or pull out a smart phone and start typing or pointing on it. Buried in that smooth and usable interaction you are experiencing Scott’s handiwork.

Scott MacKenzie’s research is responsible for the assessment methods in ISO Standard 9241-9 — Ergonomics of Human System Interaction. Beyond working on the ISO standards committee, Scott has made the standard accessible to all by developing and posting on his web site tools that implement the evaluation tests of ISO 9241-9. In addition to these tools, for anyone teaching Fitts’ Law as part of their HCI curriculum, Scott has made software available for students to perform such studies. This is reflected in Scott’s high teaching ratings and student praise, “. . . a hard course, but what a great teacher.”

Adding to his books on microprocessors, Scott is the author of two additional books, one summarizing input research, Text Entry Systems: Mobility, Accessibility, Universality, and a second that has just been published two years ago, Human-Computer Interaction: An Empirical Research Perspective. Again, accompanying his recent book is software on his website to help explain the models, perform user studies, and do the statistical tests discussed in the book.

Despite his impressive contributions, Scott Mackenzie is one of the most modest researchers in the field. He is the guru of input systems and has more recently focused on how to train others in designing user studies and performing the statistical procedures needed for HCI research. All his work is directed at service to users, to researchers, and to students. It is a pleasure to honor him with this well-deserved award.

Scott is also an avid runner (with a 2:42 marathon PB) and a dedicated family man. He has probably participated in more CHI conference fun-runs than any other researcher. He will be seen running along the Halifax shoreline before the morning sessions of Graphic Interface 2015.