SJSU's CADRE Laboratory for New Media began in 1984 as an art and technology conference hosted at the school. Shortly after this conference, faculty from the Art Department recognized the need to create a fine arts program at SJSU that would take advantage of the school's position in the heart of tech-heavy Silicon Valley. CADRE became a formal fine arts program at SJSU in 1985 and now offers B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees. Students and faculty involved with CADRE have been at the forefront of new media and technology for over thirty years. The program is heavily focused on experimentation, exploring different facets of art and technology. Students in this unique program have the school's state-of-the-art facilities at their disposal, including fabrication and machine shops, computer labs, and studio space.

CADRE is dedicated to research and experimentation in a multitude of areas. It has branched out from the Art Department to become a truly interdisciplinary program that has included courses from Engineering, Computer Science, Theatre Arts, and Library Science. Topics of study include surveillance, digital media aesthetics, artificial life, robotics, mobile computing, and databases as art. Students in the program are encouraged to become active in the research community by participating in conferences and symposia, and to become involved in publishing.

The '90s were a time of great development for San José, and the Santa Clara Valley became flooded with technological corporations such as IBM, Sun Microsystems, Xerox, and Cisco. It was only natural that San José State, located in the heart of what became known as Silicon Valley, would follow suit and become more computer-centric as well. The already successful CADRE Institute became more of a focus for the university under the leadership of Joel Slayton, who began teaching at SJSU in 1988. A unique program, the CADRE Institute offered an M.F.A. in computers and electronic arts, an M.A. in multimedia computing, and a B.A. in computer arts.

Joel Slayton was instrumental in soliciting and obtaining multiple donations from a variety of external sources: Over the years CADRE has been supported by such computer and software companies as Apple, Intel, Panasonic, Pioneer, MadMapper, NeuroSky, Unix Surplus, Xicato Leds, Knight Foundation, Microsoft Civic Engagement, Phillips Lumileds Division, SRI International, and Sony. Early multimedia research at the CADRE Institute was also supported by donations of $150,000 from IBM and $35,000 from Pacific Bell. In addition, Silicon Graphics contributed four workstations and an animation software program, a donation worth over a quarter of a million dollars. The donation from Silicon Graphics inspired Softimage, a division of Microsoft that created the special effects for the film Terminator 2, to make a contribution of $260,000 in equipment and software. This competition between rival companies was positive for SJSU students, because it provided them with state-of-the-art equipment, gave them experience with multiple platforms, and prepared them for many employment opportunities. The CADRE Institute also founded an online art journal in 1995, Switch. Dedicated to the analysis of developing art and technology, Switch was created to foster an environment where new technologies could emerge and gain visibility.

In 2006 CADRE, in collaboration with six other San José-based organizations including the San José Museum of Art and The Tech Museum of Innovation, hosted the 13th International Symposium of Electronic Arts (ISEA), giving students the opportunity to work with artists and researchers from around the world. More recent projects include site specific performance art using rocket technology, video games, and data visualization experiments. CADRE also publishes SWITCH, a journal that explores the many intersections of art and technology.

(Edited from the publication SJSU Art Department 100 year Catalogue)