7th Floor Media was formed in 1987 as EXCITE – the Exemplary Centre for Interactive Technologies in Education. The Centre was established by Dr. Gerri Sinclair with a mandate to engage in research of interactive technologies for education, and the prototyping and development of educational applications for interactive technologies. The Centre reported to the Faculty of Education, but its funding came from external sources such as Apple, IBM, and the CRB Foundation. Consequently, from the very beginning, the Centre worked to develop a client base outside the University.
By January 1988, EXCITE, with Dr. Gerri Sinclair as its first Director, was fully established as a research and demonstration centre investigating the current and potential uses of interactive multimedia in the classroom, the home, and the workplace. As Canada’s first new media lab, EXCITE focused on the intersections between education and technology, people and content.
Initially, EXCITE consisted of Gerri Sinclair and one graduate assistant. By 1990, in addition to Gerri Sinclair, the members of EXCITE consisted of two former humanities teachers; a philosopher of communications theory; a poet; and a former lawyer with experience in performing arts, English literature, economics, software development, and educational theory.
Apple Canada was one of the first major organizations to support EXCITE. From 1988 to 1991, EXCITE was an Apple Centre for Innovation (“ACI”). Gerri Sinclair was also an IBM Consulting Scholar from 1989 to 1994. EXCITE worked with both Apple and IBM to develop applications in multimedia computing. Throughout these early years, EXCITE focused on work in the field of interactive technologies, researching and developing software applications including diskette-based software programs, the first “talking books” on CD-ROM, software integrating videodisc-based content, authoring tools such as audio and video clipmakers, and the electronic magic marker.
In 1993, with the release of Mosaic, the first Web browser, much of EXCITE’s focus shifted to Web-based activities, converting existing applications and content, and developing new applications and content specifically for the Web. These activities led to the development of a new Web browser called NCompass, which allowed Microsoft’s Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) technology to be embedded on a Web page. The development of the NCompass technology led to the formation of a spin-off company that, in February of 1996, became a separate entity from EXCITE – NCompass Labs Inc. – with Gerri Sinclair as the President and CEO. Julie Zilber and Noni Maté took over the direction of EXCITE, becoming its two Co-Directors. Gerri Sinclair retained a half-time advisory position as Founding Director until December 15, 2003. NCompass Labs Inc. remained physically co-located with EXCITE at SFU until April of 1996, at which time NCompass moved into its own office space. As part of the terms under which NCompass was spun out of EXCITE, Simon Fraser University was granted equity non-voting shares in NCompass Labs Inc.
While EXCITE was engaged in Web-based projects, another stream of its activities was focused on the design and development of high-end, rich multimedia content applications. This included the creation of on-site interactive displays for museums, science centres, discovery centres, and historic sites; as well as the development of educational CD-ROMs.
On December 8, 1999, EXCITE moved to the seventh floor of Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre (Vancouver) Campus and changed its name to 7th Floor Media (7FM).
An agreement dated July 20, 2006 between the Vice-President, Academic, John Waterhouse, Dean of Education, Paul Shaker, and Dean of Continuing Studies, John LaBrie, transferred 7th Floor Media from the Faculty of Education to Continuing Studies. This change in reporting relationships took effect on September 1, 2006. The rationale for the transfer was the belief that there was a strategic fit between the mission of Continuing Studies and the capabilities of 7th Floor Media, and that the group could become financially self-sustaining at a reduced staffing level if it became integrated into Continuing Studies. As part of this new agreement, 7th Floor Media became a self-funding, non-profit research and development unit within Continuing Studies, and significantly downsized its staff. Current staff are professionals with backgrounds in education, photography, videography, animation, software engineering, design, requirements gathering, user experience, and usability analysis. 7th Floor Media’s staff are employees of Simon Fraser University, but the majority of the Department’s revenue comes from external contract work.
7th Floor Media’s current mandate is new media development and prototyping for education and culture. All of 7th Floor Media’s activities explore how people interact with content, and how technology supports that process. 7th Floor Media creates and develops Websites, mobile applications, and interactive public installations; does traditional classroom and curriculum educational work; researches, analyzes, and forecasts new media trends and futures; and provides human factors analysis, interface design reviews, and consulting services. Its clients and partners range from governments to museums and science centres, public broadcasters, non-profit organizations, private foundations, and corporations.