The eight talks at this workshop covered a range of topics in non-numeric computing. Of particular interest to me was Rod Johnson's (UMIST) lecture which consisted of a history and overview of machine translation from which I picked up a lot of useful material for my lectures. Talks by S. G. Pulman (East Anglia) on Programming Requirements for Computational Linguistics and C. S. Mellish (Sussex) on PROLOG also showed what would happen to database query systems in the future.
The more immediate future was covered by Lou's entertaining exposition on the new FAMULUS and to a lesser extent by Dave Lindsey's (Aberdeen) survey of text retrieval systems. It looks as though we should wait for SIFT from Norway, which, it is claimed, is still going to be free.
The talk by B. Lowndes (Liverpool) on RAPPORT told me enough of what I wanted to know about the package and rather slowly. Two of her examples were computer centre applications - it would have been nice to hear more about some real applications including the Egyptian archaeology one which she obviously regarded as a very unusual use of computers.
The remaining session, which I chaired, was on word processing/typesetting. Adrian Hock (Leeds) described his mainframe WP program called LEWPS which was geared very much to Leeds' documentation format. Its only virtue was that the output from one run can be used as the input to the next, rather than using separate input and output files as in ROFF etc.
Heather Brown's long-awaited talk on 'Typesetting - the systems and the output devices' turned out to be more of a sales pitch for laser printers of which she showed many pictures. The resume of her paper which had been set by TROFF contained some very peculiar hyphenation.
She has TEX running on a PERQ at KENT and the PERQ and their laser printer a Canon LBP-10 are both on the Cambridge ring. There was very little mention of the Lasercomp, which I tried to rectify by handing out our brochures.