Some friends and I were discussing a certain conference that has a "rebuttal" phase, in which the authors can see the reviews and reply to them. We realized that this rebuttal phase probably couldn't happen before e-mail was common, which lead us to think on the question
How did conferences "work" before everybody had e-mails?
I don't know about other fields, but in computer-science, some of the conferences are dated to early 60's. Back then there was no email and internet (were fax machines common enough?).
I have plenty of questions about how the process worked back then:
- How did one submit a paper? (I assume one had to print the paper and mail it? Was the "deadline" determined by the post-date, or maybe there was no deadline?)
- How did one get the reviews back, if at all?
- Where did one send his paper? To the program chair? How did the reviewers get a copy of the paper (I assume the chair would first need to look at the abstracts and then assign to other PC members/reviewers? or maybe the entire committee would get copies of all the papers, and there was no sub-reviewing?)
- How much time did the entire process take (seems like the overhead of mail adds quite a lot to the already-long process)
(maybe I'm taking it all wrong, and conferences back then were not peer-reviewed, and anyone that came could give a talk??)
Some things that I (think that I) know, and might help to complete the atmosphere of 'making science without the supporting technology':
- How would the program committee make the decision? - they'd meet in some place together, and decide.. Which means that one had to travel quite a lot to be on a committee.
- Proceedings were sent to print months after the conference, so they actually described what had happened during the conference.
- Presentations were done using a projector and transparent slides (it's funny to think about it..)