Wednesday, September 10, 2008

BPN 1216 Pre-internet (2): USA commercial online information services

In 1964 Lockheed set up Information Sciences Laboratory under the direction of Roger Summit and purchased one of the first IBM 360/30 third-generation computers. By 1966 NASA gave Lockheed the assignment to mount the NASA RECON, a 30.000 item database on the internal information system of Lockheed. Bunker-Ramo company got at the same time the assignment to develop a dial-up service for this database. By 1967 Lockheed was awarded the contract to run the database on behalf of NASA and was granted the ownership of the information retrieval program (search engine one would say these days).

But Lockeed was not the only company working on an information retrieval service. System Development Corporation (SDC), a subsidiary of the think-tank RAND and run by Carlos Cuadra, developed in 1968 a retrieval system and demonstrated the principle of it with the ERIC, a database consisting of abstracts of educational articles. By 1969 SDC officially presented the retrieval program ELHILL using a 15.000 abstracts on Parkinson disease.

Telecommunication was changing by 1970. The packet switching was introduced and new telecom companies were set up for this, while old companies like Teletype tried for low-cost, low-speed information delivery. Low speed was 110 baud (roughly 110Kb). So remote companies would be able to link to a central hosting organisation and pick up the information needed. SDC got ready for the market seriously with the information retrieval program ORBIT. It went after a contract to back-up the internal NLM’s installation of ORBIT, but also negotiated the external exploitation of the earliest medical database MEDLINE.

National (Netherlands) network for measurement of air pollution

van Egmond N.D.
INTERMEDIAIR (NETHERLANDS) 1978, 14/4 (40-45), Coden: INTDB
Languages: DUTCH
Since a few years measurement of polluting substances has been carried out outside the urban and industrial areas. The national network for pollution measurement, which became operative in 1975, as well as additional mobile measurements have generated data from which it can be concluded that in rural areas lying at a great distance from the urban and industrial centers, relativelv high pollution levels occur. In large parts of the Southern Netherlands in particular, concentration which equal those in the Northern and Western industrial parts of Holland have been registered. This is caused by pollution transport from large industrial areas; particularly the source areas in the GFR and Belgium appear to he responsible for the high concentrations of SOsub 2 which were measured under favourable weather conditions in the South.
Descriptors: *air monitoring(0061833); *sulfur dioxide(0046727); netherlands(0032705)
Identifiers: national network;
Section Headings:

A secundary information record of an article on pollution retrieved from Dialog

But SDC and Lockheed were battling out fights with their retrieval systems as internal and back-up systems. The fights were also between two strong-willed pioneers in information retrieval: Roger Summit (photograh left) of Dialog and Carlos Cuadra (photograph right) of SDC. Faced with a potential loss of the NLM database Carlos Cuadra wanted to escape this situation and started a survey to market to see whether there was a commercial market for online services. He sent out 7000 forms, but only 72 forms were returned. The message looked to be clear: forget about a commercial market for online information. But on the other hand he saw his competitor Lockheed’s Roger Summit making a commercial offering of government’s databases like NASA RECON, Nuclear Science Abstracts and ERIC; he even had picked up Pandex, the first commercial, non-governmental database. Charles Cuadra could not see this and went commercially online.

In fact online had become a race as Mead Data Central, a subsidiary of a paper mill company, went online with hr legal database Lexis; the company had picked up experience in the field by digitising the full texts of the legal verdicts for the Ohio Bar Association. Later on the service Nexis was added to digitise and commercially exploit the full text of newspapers like the Boston Globe en de Philadelphia; Nexis acquired the database of the renown New York Times in 1979.

But the competition did not stay reduced to three major players in the US market. In 1977 BRS (Bibliographic Retrieval Services), a privatised online medical service of the state New York, came on the market and was bought in 1980 by Indian Head, the media unit of Thyssen Bornemisza Corporation.

The information industry was oriented to information retrieval. The e-mail business was a separate business handled mostly by computing companies like General Electric, which ran the e-mail network GEISCO. In the eighties combinations of e-mail servers and online databases started to appear on the market. One system was developed by Westinghouse, which produced a system that was used in the information service NewsNet in the US and the office service Telecom Gold in the UK. VNU BPG (London) used both systems in 1984 to deliver a newsletter edition by e-mail and offer retrieval facilities on the database end.

Blog Posting Number: 1216


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