Some Notes on ACL History
Karen Sparck Jones,
Compiled October 1994, latest version June 2002

[These notes are based on various sources, including the historical
data in Don Walker's 1982 panel contribution (see below).]

ACL was founded in 1962, but was then named AMTCL, standing for
Association for Machine Translation and Computational Linguistics.
It became the ACL in 1968. In the first year or two membership seems to
have been about 100.

There was a journal `Mechanical Translation and Computational Linguistics',
a renaming of the journal `MT: Mechanical Translation' which had been
founded in 1954 and was taken over by AMTCL in 1965. This journal was
succeeded by AJCL ('American Journal of Computational Linguistics') which
was published for ACL in microfiche form only from 1974-1978. This was in
turn succeeded by the paper version of AJCL, starting from 1980 with
initial volume 6, renamed `Computational Linguistics' in 1984. This was
first produced with George Heidorn as Editor through IBM and was
subsequently edited by James Allen and then Julia Hirschberg. It has been
been published by MIT Press since 1988.

The list of Presidents is as follows:

   1962 (no President within this first half year)
   1963   Vic Yngve
   1964  +David Hays
   1965   Winfred Lehmann
   1966  +Paul Garvin
   1967   Susumo Kuno
   1968  +Don Walker
   1969   Martin Kay
   1970   Warren Plath
   1971   Joyce Friedman
   1972  +Robert Simmons
   1973   Robert Barnes
   1974   Bill Woods
   1975   Aravind Joshi
   1976   Stan Petrick
   1977   Paul Chapin
   1978   Jonathan Allen
   1979   Ron Kaplan
   1980   Bonnie Webber
   1981   Norm Sondheimer
   1982   Jane Robinson
   1983   Ray Perrault
   1984   Martha Evens
   1985   Madeleine Bates
   1986   Ralph Weischedel
   1987   William Mann
   1988   Alan Biermann
   1989   Candy Sidner
   1990   Jerry Hobbs
   1991   Ralph Grishman
   1992   Kathy McKeown
   1993   Fernando Pereira
   1994   Karen Sparck Jones
   1995   Doug Appelt
   1996   Oliviero Stock
   1997   Mitch Marcus
   1998   Eva Hajicova
   1999   Phil Cohen
   2000   Wolfgang Wahlster
   2001   Eduard Hovy
   2002   John Nerbonne

The (Secretary)-Treasurer from 1963-1971 was Harry Josselson; from
1972-1976 it was Hood Roberts and from 1976-1993 Don Walker was
Secretary-Treasurer. Kathy McKeown became Secretary-Treasurer in 1994,
Kathy McCoy in 1998, and Sandra Carberry Secretary in 2001.

The AMTCL had its first meeting in 1963. Early meetings were relatively
modest, sometimes in conjunction with other organisations, with panels,
and with conference handbooks containing only abstracts. The annual
conference became more substantial during the 1970s, with proper
Proceedings including papers at least from 1979. The meeting became
well established during the 1980s, with rigorous refereeing and a high
standing in the field. The first meeting outside North America was in
Madrid in 1997. 

There was a 20th Anniversary Panel at the 1982 Meeting, as follows:


Reflections on 20 Years of the ACL: An Introduction
Donald E. Walker, Chair

Our Double Anniversary
Victor H. Yngve

2002: Another Score
David G. Hays

My Term
Winfred P. Lehmann

A Society in Transition
Donald E. Walker

Themes from 1972
Robert F. Simmons

Twenty Years of Reflections
Aravind Joshi

ACL in 1977
Paul G. Chapin

Reflections on Twenty Years of the ACL
Jonathan Allen

On the Present
Norman K. Sondheimer

(There is interesting material in the panel papers.)

The 30th Anniversary in 1992 was marked by a birthday cake at the Banquet,
and Don Walker's invited talk, `Reflections and Projections', at the 1992
meeting also included a lot of historical detail (the transparencies from
this may still exist in the files). There was also a Panel `After 25
years: Directions for Natural Language Processing' at the 1987 meeting,
with J Carbonell, B Grosz, M Marcus, J Pierrehumbert and R Weischedel.

There has been a European Chapter with its own officers since 1982, with
biennial conferences beginning in 1983. In 2000 a North American Chapter
was formed, also with its own officers and conferences (the first in
2000). ACL itself thus became a top-level organisation, reflecting its
increasingly international status and role.

ACL has at intervals held joint conferences with e.g. COLING, and has
sponsored Applied NLP Conferences. It has developed Special Interest
Groups and included Tutorials and hosted many sponsored Workshops at its
annual meetings.