A History of Online Information Services, 1963‐1976

Ina Fourie (University of Pretoria)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 1 August 2004




Fourie, I. (2004), "A History of Online Information Services, 1963‐1976", Online Information Review, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 314-314. https://doi.org/10.1108/14684520410553840



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

An amazing work! Amazing in terms of the authors' time, effort and dedication, the daunting task attempted and the absolute wealth of information offered. Bourne and the Hahns can truly be commended on the quality and depth of their work. To be honest, I envy them such a wealth of knowledge – the personal contact with early pioneers, access to documents that have never even been published and their own share in contributing and living through these exiting early times (1963‐1976). The timeliness of a chronological review of early online services is stressed by their findings that some of the early pioneers are no longer around, personal memories are fading or are tainted by intervening events, and some of the original documentation has been destroyed. Through cross‐checking and verification they, however, strove to offer an accurate and complete picture of developments. A variety of research methods based on oral history techniques and extensive searches for written documentation, and an extensive and impressive list of expert reviewers, ensured quality and accuracy. The publisher explains this on the cover jacket:

Drawing on personal experience, extensive research, and interviews with many of the key participants, the book describes the individuals, projects, and institutions of the period. It also corrects many common errors and misconceptions and provides milestones for many of the significant developments in online systems and technology.

A History of Online Information Services is divided into 11 chapters. In the introduction the role of hardware, software, telecommunications and database developments in driving the progress of online systems, the characteristics of early online services, the role of government and private funding and the characteristics, behaviour and attitudes of online pioneers are considered. Chapter 2 covers the early research and development activities and sets the context for the first operational information services and systems.

The following two chapters deal with further experimentation and prototypes in universities and experimental systems developed in non‐academic laboratories. Chapters 5 and 6 respectively cover Lockheed DIALOG and related systems (1961‐1972) and SDC ORBIT and related systems (1963‐1972). The following chapters are on computer searching for the legal profession, the State University of New York Biomedical Communication Network (1965‐1976), a public view of the online industry and the work behind the scenes in building the online industry. Chapter 11 summarises the early days of the online industry. The book also includes notes, a summary of online milestones, a list of acronyms and abbreviations, a foreword, prologue and acknowledgements. It concludes with an extensive, detailed index and bibliography (49 pages of double column entries).

It was a privilege to review A History of Online Information Services. I am glad to add it to my bookshelves and think it belongs in every library and information service to remind us where we come from, and the valuable perspective that information science can offer to the current day electronic information arena.

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