World's First Electronically (Computer)

Published Scientific Journal


 Dale B. Baker

"Both science and history are theories drawn from actual
events; presenting both successfully is difficult."
Mary Jo Nye, Berkeley

     CAS research and development took off rapidly in 1959 when G. Malcolm Dyson from England became Director.  In April 1959, at Dyson's invitation Hans Peter Luhn, Director of IBM Systems Development Division visited CAS.  Luhn had recently developed software, called key-word-in context (KWIC), and an automated indexing technique, which he had reported at an ACS Chemical Literature Division meeting in Atlantic City.  Dyson and I, at lunch with Luhn that April, decided immediately to test the KWIC technique as Chemical Abstracts users had been clamoring for a "fast" abstracting and indexing service "of the top ten percent of the worlds most important chemical research literates".  (How can one determine or measure what is the most important reported research?)
     But, CAS had no computer!  We immediately ordered an IBM 1401 on a lease basis.  As the demand for computers was great, it took 21 months for IBM to deliver this first computer in February 1961.
     Until 1959, the ACS Board of Directors had an unwritten policy NOT to seek or accept government grants or contracts (in fear of government influence or control), except as in the ACS Bylaws & Regulations when called upon by the U.S. Department of War.  Thus, we had to obtain ACS Board approval for the needed funding to support R&D projects from the newly established Office of Scientific Information of the National Science Foundation.  A proposal to NSF for $112,000 was submitted for establishing a pilot plant operation and publishing in 1959-60 four-test copies of this new concept periodical, including the market research.  Thankfully, the NSF grant was promptly approved.
    Punched cards were hand carried via plane to Poughkeepsie, NY to run on the IBM software and computers.  Two test issues in 1959 and one in 1960 were electronically produced, sent out and were favorably accepted of this "quick and dirty", Chemical Titles.  The fourth test copy was judged not to be needed so the project came in under budget.  Potential subscribers were asked if they would subscribe at $25, $30 or $35.00 per annum.  The majority opted for $25 as the subscription price.  All new ACS publications and their subscription prices have to be "fixed" by the ACS Board.  The Board in its infinite wisdom did not accept staff's recommendation of $25 but fixed it at $30.00.  Dejectedly, this was my first experience of not getting Board acceptance of staff developed recommendations.  While $5.00 difference today is not much, all chemists know that 20% is considered as significant in any analysis.  Fortunately, CT started regular weekly publication on January 1961, and was a success.  It continues yet in 1999.  But, the base subscription price is $610.00 per year now or $240.00 for ACS members.
    Also, in 1961, information scientists at the Purdue University and Olin Corp. requested CT tapes for experimenting off-line searching for the subject profiles of their research scientists.  These experiments were to run for 18 months and the results were to be reported back to CAS for needed enhancements of the tapes and for research purposes.  By the end of 1964, there were some 116 leases of CT tapes being sent out on a regular basis.  The information experts met at CAS semi-annually for two days starting in 1964 in workshops and seminar-type meetings.  These same specialists founded the Association of Information Centers (ASIDIC) in 1968.
     Thus, was born the worlds first periodical to be organized, indexed and composed by computer.  Also, this was the beginning of the computerizations of all operations and information services at CAS.

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