At the occasion of the termination of the Dr. Ir. H.C. Molster foundation a pdf was produced with a retrospect of the foundation and a list of stipend winners. The file is in Dutch, but it contains also interesting photographs.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
BPN 1692: The first Dutch cybernauts met again
On October 28, 1977 the Dutch Association of Users of Online Information Systems officially was granted its charter. On October 29, 1977 the first meeting was held. Looking back VOGIN members were the first official cybernauts in the Netherlands. Recently some of these Dutch cybernauts met.
The battle of Arnhem Bridge has its veterans and online Netherlands has its cybernauts. This first brigade was active more than 20 years before internet was launched in the Netherlands. Recently this brigade met at a rare meeting, held in Amsterdam. They got together for a dinner and shared memories on the early days of online searching. The occasion was the termination of a foundation, awarding a stipend for publications on online retrieval. The foundation was affiliated with the VOGIN, the Dutch Association of Users of Online Information Systems. In 1984 the foundation was launched in memory of the online pioneer, Rik Molster, who died young, and was one of the founders of VOGIN.
Upon entry of the dining hall, the entrants skittishly looked around, while people who had already arrived, showed a glance of recognition. Some people had not seen each other for a long time. Yes, Charles Citroen, the godfather of online in the Netherlands, was there as well as Jan van den Burg , the information science emeritus professor John MacKenzie Owen and Peter Evers. The real eminent grise of the brigade, Guus Mathijsen, arrived late. Also the younger generation with Hans van Harteveld, former library head of the Royal Tropical Institute, Ruud Kuipers, former president of VOGIN and ex Kluwer, as well as the director of TU Delft Library Maria Heijne was present. Hans van Nieuwkerk, former CID TNO and now an entrepreneur in Hungary, just happened to be in the country. Altogether some 30 cybernauts were present.
The group of the founding fathers was made up of people working as online intermediaries in academic institutions and libraries as well as in companies like DSM, Shell, Unilever and AKZO. Way before Google these searchers knew how to solicit relevant publications from host computing companiesin the shortest time possible as connect time to the host and connect time to the telecom network was very pricy. To search files, one needed to have knowledge of a number of query languages. Online services such as the American Dialog, SDC and BRS and European organizations ESA-IRS and DIMDI had their own search language. IBM used the language Stairs, while the French company Bull had Mistral and Kluwer Law bought the retrieval package status.
VOGIN originated in the seventies, when there already was a close-knit group of scientists and librarians using online for research. There were no courses yet and there were a lot of rookie mistakes, misunderstandings and incomprehension. Besides problems with the hosts, there were problems with the Dutch PTT on data communication matters. The cybernauts had to find out a lot themselves and be inventive. In order to share experience and to form a group against the hosts and PTT, the association VOGIN was established on October 28, 1977. One of its first activities was to start courses for searching databases. In 1980, the first manual Introduction to online literature research, was published with the support of the VOGIN members Lieuwien Koster and Jan van den Burg. Even in the Google era these courses are held. The association has turned into a foundation in 1995 and is now part of the Royal Dutch Association of Information Professionals (KNVI).