First-Hand:Origins of the Winter Simulation Conference

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Submitted by Julian Reitman

The IEEE was the critical element initiating 50 years of Winter Simulation Conferences. 2017 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the WSC. Very few computer based meetings have survived so long. It is also very strange in how it was initiated with IEEE aid. There was no formal organization sponsoring it. There were many discrete event simulation programs in use in 1967including several versions of GPSS. Conferences had been sponsored by many different organizations and not been repeated. Users recognized the lack of a means to interact and communicate about simulation applications. SHARE, had a subcommittee on simulation, IBM promoted GPSS, and I represented an active group of GPSS users and was a member of the Adcomm trying to formally establish IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics. Three of us from SHARE, IBM and IEEE gathered in March of 1967 to conjecture a conference. SHARE could provide the startup funds, IBM the effort to arrange the facilities and only IEEE could provide the critical required avenue to encourage additional professional society support. With the experiences gained from IEEE Adcomm, IEEE support emerged and provided a path to others both within IEEE and elsewhere. The effort to quickly organize the conference needed: setting the date, securing the hotel, collecting the program, recruiting ACM and others and mailing invitations for the November 1967 New York conference “Applications of Simulation Using GPSS”. The wide ranging program evolved with 35 papers for the two days. Projected attendance was set low to minimize financial risk. Actual attendance was twice the estimate with happy positive financial results. The obvious outcome was to formulate the next conference. One year later the attendance again exceeded expectations. The GPSS theme was enlarged to include a wider variety of programs. In this manner the Winter Simulation Conference was established providing a path to 2017.