Milestone-Proposal talk:The DIALOG Online Search System, 1966-1970

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DIALOG proposal brief review comments -- Jabbate (talk) 02:42, 20 March 2018 (UTC)

In my judgment, this proposal is historically accurate and is definitely a significant milestone worth commemorating. My main comment is that I would have liked to see more detail on the technical aspects of the DIALOG system. What were the major design decisions? What were the biggest constraints the designers had to contend with, and did those change over time? What trade-offs had to be made between optimzing different aspects of the system? This would also make it easier to compare DIALOG with other contemporary systems.

Re: DIALOG proposal brief review comments -- Bberg (talk) 21:46, 30 April 2018 (UTC)

Thank you for your comment.

Please note that that historical accuracy has been further enhanced with the entries in the "References to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement" section which support the 1966 date.

Regarding your comment about wanting to see more detail about the technical aspects, please see the new "Programming Challenges" section, which details in particular (1) the user commands (and references the Ref2-ACM Paper and a portion of the Ref6-AIIP Newsletter), and (2) the file structures (and references an additional paper Ref16-Large Databases which discusses these structures in the context of large databases). Re: (1), note the very important and then-unique ability to iteratively refine a search within a set of search hits, a capability which is analogous how modern internet searches are often performed. Re: (2), note the important support of recursive searches.

Advocate comments/questions -- Jason.k.hui (talk) 18:10, 7 April 2018 (UTC)

Although it may be redundant since it is mentioned earlier in the proposal, please enter a minimum of five references to establish dates, location, and importance of the achievement in the section that it is called out for. Also, please elaborate on Site 1 for the intended Milestone plaque. Is the secured facility inside a gated corporate campus that the public does not have access to or is it just the building interior that is inaccessible by the general public?

Re: Advocate comments/questions -- Bberg (talk) 21:49, 30 April 2018 (UTC)

Thank you for your comment.

I have filled in the "References to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement" section, which includes support for the 1966 date.

Re: Site 1, I have provided as much information as is currently known re: Site 1, which is "the plaque will be located either in an auditorium lobby where it will be visible to invited visitors, or in a secure area along with other Lockheed awards and mementos that is without public access)"

Re: Re: Advocate comments/questions -- Jason.k.hui (talk) 17:14, 4 May 2018 (UTC)

Thank you for providing additional information. Regarding the citation, two questions:

1) Should the first letter of "internet" be capitalized (i.e., Internet)?

2) In the last sentence, "DIALOG preceded the internet by over two decades," are you referencing 1966 as the year of origin for DIALOG? If so, two decades put the Internet at least in 1986 or later. ARPANET adopted TCP/IP on January 1, 1983, and from there researchers began to assemble the “network of networks” that became the modern Internet. Is this what you meant by the last sentence?

Re: Re: Re: Advocate comments/questions -- Bberg (talk) 17:50, 4 May 2018 (UTC)

Thank you for this comment.

I have redone the last sentence as "DIALOG preceded Internet search by over two decades." by capitalizing Internet and and adding "search." The basis for this statement is that the 1966 date is over 20 years before Internet search tools such as Archie, Veronica and Jughead, as well as the World Wide Web itself. I invite comments if it is felt that this statement requires more clarity.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Advocate comments/questions -- Jason.k.hui (talk) 13:16, 11 May 2018 (UTC)

I have reviewed the updated citation and am good with it. As Advocate, I approve the proposal and recommend it move forward for consideration.

DIALOG Proposal -- Cortada (talk) 12:13, 10 April 2018 (UTC)

I agree that this proposal warrants approval. The proposed recognition of DIALOG text is thorough, accurate, and recognizes a significant event in the history of computing.

Re: DIALOG Proposal -- Bberg (talk) 21:54, 30 April 2018 (UTC)

Thank you for your comment.

Please note that I have (1) added a new section on "Programming Challenges" which includes reference to the new Ref16 paper on large databases and file structures, and (2) filled in the "References to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement" section to best justify the 1966 date. The latter includes reference to the new Ref17 Cover Sheet of a 1965 Lockheed proposal to NASA.

-- Juan Carlos (talk) 17:22, 5 May 2018 (UTC)

Having read the proposal, browsed the references and understanding what DIALOG was, I have two concerns.

First concern: Name. What does “on line” mean ? In a broad, almost esoteric sense, it essentially says that a system is ON -and ready to function, but that’s not what the general public understands. To everyone, nowadays “on line” means connected to the Internet, with the possibility of accessing millions of servers and pages. This is not the case with DIALOG, an interactive service using a teletype remote-connected to ONE computer and searching ONE specific database residing in it; the term “on line” was used as a real, marketing advantage as opposed to a batch service. The proposed Name of the Milestone should be changed, dropping “on-line” and putting the emphasis in the interactive and remote-connection characteristics of DIALOG. In addition, in the Name, the year range 1966-1970 better reflects the development of the Program, and not just the year 1966.

Second concern. We should think hard and critically if this really deserves an IEEE Milestone. I don’t want to play the devil’s advocate, but how does this one stand after comparison with the existing milestones in Software Engineering? And after comparison with the 5 milestones in Santa Clara Valley which are awaiting dedication? How many programs/applications/systems/services have been truly significant and trailblazing, changing the world like SWIFT and SABRE, for example? Do we have one of those here?

Re: -- Bberg (talk) 20:20, 6 May 2018 (UTC)

Thank you for your comments.

Response to the first concern:
1. You are critical of our use of the term "online" in the title, but please consider the Oxford English Dictionary's preferred definition: "Controlled by or connected to a computer." Both the NASA database and the human searcher were connected to a computer, and the user controlled DIALOG's operation through interactive commands - thus confirming use of the word "online." As a side note, a DIALOG user in 1966 used an IBM 2260 display terminal with a typewriter terminal. Teletype terminals became popular for DIALOG users in 1972 for access to the multiple databases available at that time.
2. You are critical of DIALOG in 1966 using only "ONE specific database." Please note that this one database was a very large set of data that was collected by NASA from a wide range of sources, resulting in about 250,000 records, and this was done to allow testing the ability of DIALOG to search a data set that was much larger than any of the other datasets being used on an experimental basis at that time (as documented in the "DIALOG's Predecessors" and "Developed in parallel with DIALOG" sections of the proposal). However, even with one database, DIALOG was still performing its functionality online.
3. The proposal shows that the year 1966 was the conclusion of DIALOG's initial development, and that it was operational at that time. The year 1970 is inconsequential. Thus, 1966 is an appropriate year in the title.
4. Although your comments acknowledge DIALOG's interactive operation, DIALOG appears to also be characterized as a "batch" system. However, this criticism is puzzling since batch and interactive are nearly opposite terms. As noted throughout the proposal, including in DIALOG's command descriptions and design as detailed in the Ref2 ACM Paper, DIALOG bears no characteristics of a batch system.

Response to the second concern:
1. As the first online, interactive search system, DIALOG was the predecessor of the online search systems of today. Thus, as the first-of-its-kind system, it is felt to merit being awarded an IEEE Milestone.
2. We feel that comparisons to other approved and possible milestones should not be part of the consideration as to the merits of DIALOG for a milestone. We leave it to the IEEE History Committee to make that determination.

Thank you for your consideration of these responses.

Name and Citation -- JaninA (talk) 11:30, 1 October 2018 (UTC)

I agree with Juan Carlos: the meaning of "online" has changed since Internet came into use.

Re: Name and Citation -- Bberg (talk) 23:10, 12 October 2018 (UTC)

Thank you for your comment. While I agree that indeed the meaning of "online" has changed since the Internet became popular, it should also be understood that this term was used in 1966 to describe DIALOG's capabilities. One of the books that I considered using as a reference for this Milestone is "A History of Online Information Services, 1963–1976" by Charles P. Bourne and Trudi Bellardo Hahn, and published by MIT Press in 2003. See

This book's title includes the word "online," and its description includes this word 4 times: "A detailed chronology of the early, pre-Internet years of online information systems and services: Every field of history has a basic need for a detailed chronology of what happened: who did what when. In the absence of such a resource, fanciful accounts flourish. This book provides a rich narrative of the early development of online information retrieval systems and services, from 1963 to 1976—a period important to anyone who uses a search engine, online catalog, or large database. 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."

Examples of how the term "online" is used throughout this book's 496 pages can be seen if you use Google Books and search for "DIALOG online" whereby you will find 8 pages of hits with these two terms in close proximity (see, and the hits on the first of these 8 pages is the first page of the chapter titled "Lockheed DIALOG and Related Systems, 1961-1972." At the end of this page is this sentence excerpt: "The most influential individual in the DIALOG story was Roger Summit." Roger provided me with valuable guidance on crafting this proposal, and this use of "online" agrees with what he has described to me.

In addition, if you search for the word "online" in the proposal itself (use Control F to easily do this), you will see this term used within many quoted excerpts from books and papers. Thus, while online is now commonly associated with use of the Internet, its use in 1966 is consistent with DIALOG's functionality at that time. Hence, I request that this term be used in both the Milestone title and citation.

Thank you for your consideration of the above response.

Re: Re: Name and Citation -- Bberg (talk) 00:48, 13 October 2018 (UTC)

I also now realize that an existing IEEE Milestone that I worked on shows that "online" was a very important term in 1968. This is the "Demonstration of Online Systems" Milestone which honored Doug Engelbart's famous "Mother of All Demos," which took place on 9 Dec. 1968 ( Doug demonstrated his "oNLine System (NLS)" live in San Francisco while he was collaborating online with his team, who were in the same room as a computer down the peninsula in Menlo Park, CA. This Milestone was dedicated last year at the Computer History Museum.

Citation -- JaninA (talk) 02:00, 13 October 2018 (UTC)


I fully agree that the word “online” describes adequately properties of DIALOG as used in 1968 and even in 2003. The question is should we use the old meaning of words when awarding Milestones in 2018?

The fact that this was done in 2017 in the Citation for the 1968 system is a bit of a problem…. May be the way out is to add “as meant then” after “online”?

Re: Citation -- Bberg (talk) 18:31, 13 October 2018 (UTC)

Thanks for your reply.

I feel that it is implicit that the wording of any citation should be understood in the timeframe of what is being honored. In addition, I would argue against adding any wording since "online" has multiple meanings beyond connected to the Internet, e.g., bringing a factory online has for many years meant to make it operational, and something being online can also simply mean to be powered on. Thus, adding any wording would be as if these other meanings did not exist.

Thank you.

Re: Re: Citation -- Jbart64 (talk) 13:48, 14 October 2018 (UTC)

As an old user of DIALOG and its reference materials, "online" as used in the citation is correct. We cannot redefine terms which themselves may yet evolve in the future. We need to stick with the original interpretation of the wording. DIALOG was considered online usage. Even though we might only think of it today as a limited networked solution, it was widely known as an online system and is the forerunner of today's broader interpretation of the word "online". I think we are OK as stated. Who knows what online may mean in the future. We cannot speculate. Dave Bart

Statement from Dr. Roger Summit -- Bberg (talk) 18:03, 14 October 2018 (UTC)

I'm Dr. Roger Summit, originator of DIALOG at the Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory, and as demonstrated in 1966. Since the time of its development, my career has been exclusively with DIALOG as it progressed from a project to a wholy-owned Lockheed corporation in 1981.

I provided most of the materials cited in the DIALOG Milestone proposal, and wrote many of them myself. I worked closely with Brian Berg on preparation of this proposal. I have read through the proposal in its entirety, and I vouch for the accuracy of the information as presented including the text of the citation. This is based on my personal experience with the initial development of DIALOG starting in the early 1960s.