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

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Docket #:

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

The DIALOG Online Search System, 1966-1970

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

DIALOG was the first interactive online search system for accessing large databases that allowed iterative isolation of desired results. Initially developed in 1966-1970 for NASA at Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory for searching aerospace data, its functionality and content grew to attract a diversity of professions worldwide including scientists, attorneys, educators and librarians, and it preceded internet search technology by over two decades.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

Santa Clara Valley Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: Santa Clara Valley Section
Senior Officer Name: Joseph Wei

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: Santa Clara Valley Section
Senior Officer Name: Joseph Wei

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Santa Clara Valley Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Joseph Wei

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Brian Berg
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Site 1: Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center (formerly Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory, Bldg. 201), 3251 Hanover St., Bldg. 245, Palo Alto, CA 94304-1215 (secure facility - not publicly accessible) Site 2: Computer History Museum, 1401 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94043 (publicly accessible)

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. Site 1: DIALOG was developed and maintained at this Palo Alto corporate facility from 1966-1981. Site 2: the Computer History Museum is a very visible place in Silicon Valley that already houses two Milestone plaques and one Special Citation plaque on an exterior brick wall that is accessible 24/7.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

Site 1: TBD, but likely indoors and out of view of the public. Site 2: on an exterior brick wall that is accessible 24/7

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

Site 1: within a secure facility requiring a specific US security clearance to access Site 2: freely accessible to the public 24/7

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Site 1: Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Palo Alto, CA Site 2: Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

Until about 1969, most scientists, engineers, attorneys, educators, librarians and others who wanted to research what was known and published in a particular discipline were required to physically locate and then visually search materials published in books, journals and other printed materials. This was a time-consuming and imperfect process.

When DIALOG became available in 1966, it was able to automate research work for scientists and engineers at NASA, and later at other agencies. By 1972, its commercial introduction extended these capabilities to all professions by allowing online access to large collections of digitized materials by way of a command language that could iteratively isolate desired results.

Here is a historical overview of DIALOG: • Development of the DIALOG command language: “Roger K. Summit of Lockheed Missiles and Space Corporation first demonstrated the ability to search an in-house database of the Lockheed library catalogue file in 1961. Summit designed the DIALOG language in 1962 at the Lockheed Information Sciences Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, while ‘working on only the third IBM 360 produced,’ according to Marjorie Hlava in an article ‘The NASA Information System’ ” • Lockheed responds to NASA’s RFP: “In 1964, after some discussion with Mel Day of NASA, Summit prepared a proposal to NASA to use DIALOG for the automation of the NASA information system. NASA responded by issuing a Request for Proposal to develop a NASA/RECON prototype. Lockheed and several other companies bid the proposal.” • DIALOG’s NASA RECON System (1966-1970): “Although it lost the first bid, in July 1966, Lockheed won a contract to demonstrate an online system for searching and retrieving more than 300,000 bibliographic citations of NASA, an effort that utilized the DIALOG retrieval language. Lockheed began providing a regular online search service to the NASA Ames Laboratory in November 1966 and later to other NASA facilities. ‘By 1970,’ Bourne notes, ‘a version of the DIALOG system was being operated by NASA, the system serving 24 terminals in NASA facilities across the country from a file that had grown to 700,000 records.’ NASA’s Remote Console Information Retrieval Service (RECON) was installed at its Scientific and Technical Information Facility in Maryland to serve all major NASA research centers through a telephone communication network.” • DIALOG’s AEC, ESRO, USoE, NTIS, ERIC and ESA contractual systems: “Subsequent contracts resulted in application of the DIALOG language to bibliographic databases of the Atomic Energy Commission, the European Space and Research Organization, the U.S. Office of Education, and the National Technical Information Service. In March 1969, … the ERIC Clearinghouse at Stanford demonstrated the use of DIALOG [running from a Lockheed computer] with an ERIC database of 415,000 citations. In the same year, DIALOG was installed on the European Space Agency’s online system.”

DIALOG became commercially available in 1972. • “In 1971 Lockheed’s commercial business was launched, and soon thereafter it was serving Europe as well as the United States with its first online bibliographic retrieval system.” • “Because interactive access proved of value to many organizations, in early 1972 we arranged to offer the ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) and NTIS (National Technical Information Service) databases to any subscriber with a computer terminal. This is when the DIALOG Information Retrieval Service, named after its information retrieval language, became the world’s first commercial online service.” • “Lockheed’s information service became commercially available in 1972 under the name of its retrieval language, DIALOG Information Retrieval Service, with two bibliographic databases of scientific and technical information.”

DIALOG became the most comprehensive online information service in the world by 1985. • “By 1985 DIALOG had become the most comprehensive online information service in the world, with more than 200 separate databases in business and economics, chemical, patent and trademark information, science and technology, medicine and the biosciences, news and current events, education, directories, energy and the environment, law and government, computer science and microcomputers, books, the social sciences, and the humanities.” • “By 1985 DIALOG Information Services, Inc., with Summit as president, offered more than 100 million records on many subjects from more than 200 different databases to its many customers in several countries (Camp, 1985).”

DIALOG has changed ownership over the years, but it remains an important commercially available research tool: • “Over the years the company has undergone changes in ownership and name, and Knight-Ridder Information continues to expand its products and services. But my dream that this company would be the primary source of access to professional information throughout the world has remained constant throughout its twenty five-year history.” • ProQuest acquired DIALOG from Thomson Reuters in 2008, and the service has been marketed as ProQuest Dialog™ since that time. • ProQuest Dialog is available to patent examiners at the USPTO by way of the Patent Examiner's Toolkit.

DIALOG retained its usefulness even with the widespread availability of free internet search engines such as Lycos, Infoseek, AltaVista, Yahoo! and Google starting in 1993: • “With the rapid growth of the Web, some have been predicting the demise of traditional online services. I don’t agree. Recently, I was doing some research in preparation for a speech I presented in Stockholm. I determined that DIALOG contains more than twenty times the total amount of information accessible through the Web. Furthermore, the two have grown at roughly the same rate over the past year, based on AltaVista statistics.” • “In addition to comparing the quantity of information on DIALOG and the Web, I compared the quality of search results for several topics using DIALOG and the AltaVista search engine. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that the DIALOG results were highly relevant, while the AltaVista results were, to be generous, somewhat encyclopedic in nature. I found that it was difficult and often impossible to do a comprehensive and in-depth review of a particular topic on the Web.” • “It’s somewhat ironic that with the phenomenal growth of the Web and concomitant advances in interface design, Web search engines lack even the most rudimentary features that were basic in the first online retrieval system we designed thirty years ago—such features as field specification, display of index terms, or options to allow one to refine a search.”

DIALOG had a huge impact on libraries of all types. As its popularity grew, the world's significant libraries (including the National Library of Medicine, or NLM) were among the first to integrate DIALOG into their research and reference offerings: • “West Coast research centers such as the Rand Corporation, the System Development Corporation, and Lockheed Missiles and Space Corporation, as well as some universities, entered the mainstream of online retrieval through their research projects and by providing leadership to the national establishments such as NASA and the NLM. Two of our featured specialists come to mind: Roger K. Summit of Lockheed’s DIALOG, who was instrumental in applying Lockheed’s techniques to the NASA-RECON online bibliographic retrieval system; and Carlos A. Cuadra of the SDC, who administered the ORBIT II in the NLM’s AIM/TWX experiment.”

Virtually all business segments and companies added DIALOG searching, including investment banks, consumer companies, chemical companies, and aerospace organizations ; all major academic and government organizations, and much much more added online searching of DIALOG. Not only did this dramatically expand the research capabilities of the libraries, it changed the outlook, careers, and perspective of the library and information professionals who used the service and provided expert searches to their constituents. Researchers, executives and professionals of all types were exposed to the speed, precision, and depth of Dialog searching.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

An early obstacle was the usual reluctance of scientists, engineers, attorneys, educators, librarians and others to trust the results of DIALOG searches. That reluctance faded quickly with time and experience. Other obstacles included difficulty in obtaining necessary administrative support as well as obtaining necessary fixed asset in the form of computer hardware and data storage facilities within a government entity.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

DIALOG was the pioneer in on-line database literature searching and retrieval. It provided the first valuable tool and experience for scientists, engineers, attorneys and all research librarians around the world to examine all the literature available in databases quickly and at minimal cost. DIALOG contributed to the key technical structure and feature aspects of online information retrieval. These including Boolean, proximity, field structure and search, specialized inverted and linear indexes, large scale telecommunication front-ends, multiple state-of-the-art processors and massive storage.

Through content licensing from the extensive network of database providers, DIALOG helped develop the online approaches of the most important subject disciplines including medicine, engineering, biology, chemistry, intellectual property (patents and trademarks), business, social sciences and humanities, and more. This led to unique database formatting to accommodate bibliographic, directory, and specialized intellectual property searching. As many of these database producers organized their tools via sophisticated controlled vocabularies, DIALOG was a pioneer in creating a value-added online approach to controlled vocabularies (metadata/taxonomies/ontologies). Some of the most important vocabulary schemes were loaded on the DIALOG system, including the CAS Registry, the Medical Subject Headings (MESH) of the National Library of Medicine, plus the controlled vocabularies of tools varying from education (Educational Resources Information Clearing House or ERIC) to technology (the INSPEC database) to mention a few.

DIALOG was preceded by several earlier small experimental systems, the most important of which were as follows (and none of these ever became commercially available): • 1951-1954: “Charles Bourne observed that ‘an investigation of online bibliographic searching was first made by Bagley in 1951’ with the development of a program for a computer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ‘to search encoded abstracts.’ Bourne noted that ‘application of the computer to bibliographic searching was first demonstrated in 1954 in the form of batch searching.’ “ • 1954-1964: “Over the next 10 years, many research and development efforts culminated in the development of ‘batch’ searches of bibliographic databases offered by a limited number of special libraries. Search analysts coded requests sent to them for literature searches. Several searches were then batched, or run consecutively, to make the most efficient use of the computer’s time. Several weeks generally passed before the requestor received any result. One batch retrospective search service, the Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (MEDLARS) of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), was made available to the general public in 1964.” • 1960: “Systems Development Corporation (SDC) demonstrated the first interactive online system, Protosynthex, developed by Robert Simons and John Olney, in 1960. Using a terminal wired directly to the computer, Protosynthex allowed access to the full text of the Golden Book Encyclopedia with the ability to search for the occurrence of terms in proximity with each other and to search for truncated forms of words, but not to combine terms with the use of Boolean logic.” • 1964: “Another online retrieval system was developed at SDC in late 1964 by Harold Borko, H. P. Burnaugh, and W. H. Moore. The system, Bibliographic Organization for Library Display (BOLD), was developed for browsing literature citations on magnetic tapes. It was first publicly demonstrated about a year later and was one of the first systems capable of displaying an online thesaurus. In November 1964 SDC first demonstrated an online system that nearly achieved the interactive capability today’s users enjoy, Language Used to Communicate Information System Design (LUCID), developed for SDC by E. Franks and P. A. DeSimone.” • 1965: “ ‘The first demonstration of an online retrieval network, on a national scale,’ according to Bourne, ‘was probably made in 1965 by SDC in an experiment ... to provide 13 organizations with access to some 200,000 bibliographic records on foreign technology.’ This work was done by SDC-Dayton for the Foreign Technology Division of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.”

Developed in parallel with DIALOG were the following non-commercial services: • 1967-1972: “SDC was instrumental in the development of NLM’s online information service, MEDLINE (MEDLARS ON-LINE). In late 1967 NLM experimented with SDC’s Online Retrieval of Bibliographic Information Timeshared (ORBIT) retrieval language to search NLM’s database of 10,000 citations on neurology. In May 1970 SDC began operating the Abridged Index Medicus (AIM)/TWX online information system on behalf of NLM. In October 1970 NLM introduced MEDLINE as a free service on its own computer facilities with a database of more than 400,000 citations while allowing the AIM/TWX service to continue with SDC. In February 1972 NLM utilized TYMNET, the first public telecommunication network, for access to MEDLINE.”

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

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