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What is the ACM?

One of the side effects of being a computer scientist at a small liberal arts college in the midwest is that I find the same acronym regularly gets used for two of my primary organizations, and I’m not always sure which one is intended. The letters ACM can stand for the Association of Computing Machinery, one of the main organizations of computing professionals [1]. It can also stand for Associated Colleges of the Midwest [4], a group of liberal arts colleges in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Colorado [5]. When I get email that says Cool ACM opportunity available, it usually takes me a minute or two to figure what kind of opportunity it is.

I find it strange that two organizations use the same TLA [10]. Who should own that TLA? Let’s look at the history. The Association for Computing Machinery history page says,

The Association for Computing Machinery was founded as the Eastern Association for Computing Machinery at a meeting at Columbia University in New York on September 15, 1947. […] In January 1948, the word Eastern was dropped from the name of the Association.

Okay, that gives us a date of January 1948. Now let’s look at the other ACM. Their history page notes that

The member colleges launched the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) in 1958, building on a long-established tradition of athletic competition dating back to the 1920s.

It appears that the computers win! Of course, we could also clarify things by adding a few letters. ACMach could be the Association for Computing Machinery. ACMid could be the Associated Colleges of the Midwest. But it is unlikely that I could convince anyone to make those changes.

I thought two ACMs was one too many. Then, today, an email message that read, The ACM Awards are Live tonight! I know that the Computing ACM gives awards, such as the Turing award. But that ACM’s awards banquet is in June. There are also awards from ACM suborganizations. For example, SIGCSE gives an outstanding computing educator award and a lifetime service award. Those are normally given at the suborganization conferences. The Midwest ACM might give awards, but I don’t recall it doing so in the past [11].

It turns out that these the Academy of Country Music gives the ACM awards described in today’s email message. Do they deserve to use the term ACM? Wikipedia tells me that The Academy of Country Music (ACM) was founded in 1964 in Los Angeles, California as the Country & Western Music Academy. When did they decide to call themselves the ACM? Let’s see … Their mission page indicates that During the early 1970s, the organization changed its name to the Academy of Country and Western Music and finally to the Academy of Country Music (ACM).

The Computing ACM started using the acronym in 1948. The Midwest ACM started using the acronym a decade later in 1958. The Country ACM started using the acronym about a decade-and-a-half later. I’m not sure that they should be permitted to do so.

Given that delay, it surprises me that the Country ACM claims to own registered trademarks relating to the ACM acronym, including ACM®, and ACM Awards®. That’s troubling. I realize that trademarks apply only within certain trades and that different companies can own the same trademarked word in different trades [12]. Still, it seems strange to see them registered. I guess that means that neither the Midwest ACM nor the Computing ACM should be able to use their names when working with music. But I do wonder how long the Computing ACM has included work on computer-generated or computer-analyzed music.

If there three are ACMs, there may be more. I know! Let’s look at their domains. The Computer ACM owns That makes sense; it’s a professional organization. The Midwest ACM owns It is an educational consortium. Does it get to use an .edu [14] address? Wikipedia tells me that

The .edu TLD [15] is limited to specific higher educational institutions such as, but not limited to, trade schools and universities. In the U.S., its use was restricted in 2001 to post-secondary institutions accredited by an agency on the list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies. This domain is therefore almost exclusively used by American colleges and universities. Some institutions, such as the Exploratorium, that do not meet the current registration criteria have grandfathered domain names.

I guess Midwest ACM has been around long enough to be a grandfather. What about the Country ACM? It owns I appreciate that they are gracious enough to add a specifier [16]. Who owns Adams Capital Management. They were established in 1994. Newbies!

I bet there’s a Wikipedia disambiguation page for ACM. Yes, there is. Hmmm … there are about thirty ACMs. And the Adams Newbies aren’t even listed! For the organizations, it looks like A.C. Milan may be the oldest users of ACM; they were founded in 1899.

It may be time to rename my site as Amazingly Confounding Musings, so that I can also be an ACM. Or I could found Aardvark Collectors of the Midwest or even Acronym Categorizers and Manipulators. The possibilities are endless [17]!

[1] While computing machinery does associate with other computing machinery, it tends to rely on other kinds of connections, such as the Internet protocol or Bluetooth [2].

[2] The tubes are called the Internet because they are a network of networks. Why is the wireless communication called Bluetooth? The Interweb tells me that it’s named after King Harald Gormsson [3], a former king of Denmark. King Gormsson united Scandinavia. Bluetooth united various tech companies. I’m not sure which was the more difficult task.

[3] It feels to me that there should be various umlauts and other diacritics in his name. But the Interweb does not show any to me.

[4] ACM also allows helps faculty and students at these colleges associate with each other.

[5] Did I get all the states? Let’s see. Beloit is in Wisconsin. Carleton is in Minnesota. Coe is in Iowa. Colorado College, surprisingly, is in Colorado. Cornell College [6] is in Iowa. Grinnell is in Iowa. Knox is in Illinois. Lake Forest is in Illinois. Lawrence is in Wisconsin. Luther [7] is in Iowa. Macalester is in Minnesota. Monmouth is in Illinois. Ripon is Wisconsin. St. Olaf is in Minnesota [8]. That’s four Iowa colleges, three Wisconsin colleges, three Illinois colleges, three Minnesota colleges, and one Colorado college [9].

[6] Not to be confused with Cornell University, Grinnell College, or Cornhell College.

[7] The College, not its namesake.

[8] The College, not its namesake. And, even though there is an Olaf in the St. Olaf CS department, and he’s a very nice person, it is unlikely that he’s a saint.

[9] Appropriately named.

[10] Three Letter Acronym, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention.

[11] A quick Web search suggests that the awards that the Midwest ACM gives are grants.

[12] One of the famous examples is Apple Records and Apple Computers.

[14] Should it be an .edu or a .edu. I suppose it’s how you pronounce it. If you say ed you or ee dee you, we should use an. If you you say dot ed you or dot ee dee you, you should use a. If I were a more sensible writer, I’d ask Does it get to use .edu? But then I wouldn’t get to have this endnote.

[15] TLD is top-level domain.

[16] Do they own a trademark on ACMcountry? Nope; it’s not on their list. Still, someone else would have difficulty trademarking that term, given that the Country ACM do use it.

[17] The possibilities are not quite endless. The possibilities are likely limited by the trademarks that the Country ACM has managed to acquire, so that ACMs that relate to music or Las Vegas may be infringing.

Version 1.0.1 of 2017-04-02.