Most Memorable Career Highlight

Herbert Ohlman

    It all came together for me in 1958 at the International Conference on Scientific Information (ICSI). A paper* I had submitted for ICSI, "Subject-word letter frequencies with applications to superimposed coding," was accepted by the chairman of Section 5, H. P. Luhn. Later, I received a set of preprints of all the conference papers.
    Meanwhile, working with colleagues at the System Development Corporation (SDC), I had developed a system of mechanical indexing for SDC and Lincoln Laboratory documents. As a public demonstration of the capabilities of Permutation Indexing, I persuaded SDC to support an all-out effort to index the ICSI preprints in time for distribution at the Conference.
     We distributed "A Permutation Index to the preprints of the International Conference on Scientific Information" on the first day of the conference. At the same time, Luhn of IBM and colleagues from their Service Bureau Corporation distributed a "Bibliography and index: Literature on information retrieval and machine translation" which contained "titles indexed by Key Words-in-Context system" - subsequently known better by its acronym, KWIC.

    We produced our index entirely with IBM tabulating (punched-card) machines, but Luhn used punched cards only for input, converted the data to punched-paper tape, and used a computer to produce the final index. However, the appearance of the printed indexes was practically identical.
   Similar systems were developed during or just after World War II, but this must have been the right moment for mechanical/computerized indexing to go public.

* The work leading to this paper had been done while I was employed by Carrier Corporation.

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Biographical Information on Herbert Ohlman

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