(a) International Word Processing Exhibition, Wembley (b) SSRC Workshop on 1851 Census


28 May 1982

The International Word Processing Exhibition (sponsored by IT - i.e. you and me and Mrs Thatcher) suggested several excellent ways of spending £40,000 and quite a few fairly rotten ones. I have acquired a reasonable quantity of glossy literature about the products which took my eye and only given my name and address to a small number of salesmen. Advent Data Products (who provided my free ticket) were busy demonstrating their amazing printer to someone else but I watched anyway: it certainly will print just about anything, but only very slowly. It is still possible to buy acceptable matrix printers for £600 or less. The most visually attractive standalone system is undoubtedly Data Recall's Diamond, which has a screen about the size of an LP record in tasteful (EEC-recommended) amber-on-brown. Undoubtedly the best from the communications point of view is ICL's DRS-based Wordskil 8800; inevitably this suffers from the usual ICL disadvantage of not quite existing yet. Wang systems also look very good, but only support IBM protocols. My feet were starting to hurt by the time I found Wordplex and Philips which may be why they seemed comparatively lacklustre. An aggressive Burroughs person demonstrated a large box they call a 'content-addressable file store' and got quite cross when I quibbled that this should imply rather more than a large ISAM file. The best gadget on display (not available yet though) was undoubtedly Sony's typecorder. This fits into the average hard-pressed executive's briefcase and enables him to dictate messages and wordprocess documents on the same minute cassette while flying by Concorde, or presumably waiting for the bus.

After lunch I arrived at the 1851 Census workshop in time to hear Prof. Michael Anderson explain how he had encoded his sample of the 1851 returns for analysis by SPSS. This was one of a series of workshops sponsored by the SSRC Survey Archive in which historians (economic and otherwise) are exposed to the possibilities of using the computer for secondary analysis of large existing data sets. I thought I should attend not only in order to preach the gospel of proper data analysis and recoding by Spitbol, but also to keep in touch with the SSRC Survey Archive, which performs similar functions for social science data as the Oxford Archive does for textual data, only rather better.

With this in mind, I came away with a number of documents which will be reworded to act as publicity material for our own Archive.