QUARTERLY REPORT L. Burnard January 1st - April 1st 1978


The quarter began promisingly with me commuting to Bracknell in a suit to get some hands-on experience of using FISS (the Fortran interface to IDMS) and indeed of 5x27 on a 2980 which worked more often than not as well. The swan schema was successfully implemented there and one test program run before pressure of other work recalled me to Oxford. At the end of the quarter I gave a talk to the Zoology Dept. on database techniques and the use of IDMS which seemed to arouse considerable enthusiasm.

2980 Initial Service

I did my best to make a lot of noise about the Initial User Service, drafting a User Notice, rewriting much of the Initial Use documentation and delivering a well-received if inaccurate present­ation to the User Group Meeting. I wrote various macros to make life a little easier for package-users (and others), viz OXCAF, OX-CARD-INPUT, SNOBOL and FAMULUS. Documentation on Snobol and on Famulus was written and delivered to User Liaison last week. Initial testing of SNOBOL indicates considerable scope for improvement particularly as regards the I/O. A disturbing number of bugs in the first release of Famulus also surfaced and were reported to Edinburgh: a new release is due shortly.


This quarter the number of words in the Archive passed the 3 million mark, largely as a result of our acquiring a large corpus from Warwick, containing a most extraordinary mischmasch of newspaper articles, committee reports, recipes, instruction leaflets etc. I also received from the University of Manchester a partial transcript of the A.L.D. and another of written speech. Negotiations with the firm L. Urdang Inc. are progressing; if successful they should lead to our acquiring not only a complete transcript of a new English dictionary but also of various other reference works. Texts of Keats and Hopkins are expected to arrive by September, when the Coleridge corpus should also be completed.

1900 Software

Much time was spent on VERA, a new program for analysing variant states in texts which interfaces to the cluster analysis routines of GENSTAT. This was finished and tested in time for Susan to advertise it at an International Meeting on Textual Criticism in Paris, just. Much time was also spent on programs for analysing the movements of giant tortoises on the Isle of Aldabra. Apart from this, and routine software maintenance, the 1906 did not see much of me this quarter. I tested the new version of CLOC, and found a few restrictions and one bug, which were duly reported to Birmingham. I have also just obtained a copy of the Bradford 1900 LISP system.

Any Other Business

I continued to write superb minutes for the Programmers Meeting, and also designed a somewhat less superb form for logging the activities of Advisory Service. I was involved (together with Susan and the Professor of General Linguistics) in the organisation of a series of seminars on Computational Linguistics to take place next Michaelmas term. My main extramural activity was attending the ALLC International Symposium at Aston at the beginning of April, which (despite the highly uncongenial surroundings) proved to be one of the more successful of the series to date. I was invited to write a series of articles on Spitbol programming, recommended to produce a machine-independent Oxeye, engaged in a full and frank exchange of views on the organisation of machine-readable archives with both American and Norwegian experts in the field, and I also picked up some interesting new techniques in collocation analysis.