Online Before the Internet, Part 6:
Mead Data Central and the Genesis of Nexis
by Susanne Bjørner • Bjørner &
& Stephanie C. Ardito • Ardito Information &
In the January 2004 Searcher, Richard (Dick)
Giering spoke about his early military and Data Corporation
experiences in developing full-text retrieval technology.
We pick up Mr. Giering's story in 1968, when Data Corporation
was acquired by Mead Corporation.
with Richard Giering Continues
The Mead Merger
Giering: A major event occurred in late 1968.
The story goes that Lysle Cahill, who was president
and partner with Bill Gorog of Data Corporation, was
also a friend and neighbor of Jim McSweeney, the CEO
of Mead Corporation. They got to talking one day about
acquisitions and new business. Those were the days
when everybody wanted to be a conglomerate. Among a
lot of other entities that Mead thought about acquiring
was Data Central. They realized, "Oh, there's a think
tank out there. They've got equipment and cameras,
and they're doing work on printers (ink jet printers),
and some computer work, and some highfalutin' target
stuff. Maybe we ought to acquire them." So Mead bought
out Data Corporation.
I remember getting called in with all the rest of
the employees. We were told that Data Corporation was
now a subsidiary of Mead.
Bjørner: You were told after the fact.
It wasn't that Data Corporation went looking for
Giering: No. By this time, Data Corporation
was already hot. The Air Force funding for Data Central
had been cut off, and Bill Gorog had gone out and put
Data Corp in debt and obtained money. We had demonstrated
at ASIS and built a center in Washington and gotten
some business. We had done all this, but only in our
small niche, and there were a lot of other divisions
in Data Corporation.
Shortly thereafter, we were invaded I use
that term deliberately by a group of people
from the Mead Corporation. Basically, they said, "We
got you. Now what did we get?" They started looking
at the various parts of Data Corporation.
They said, "We know nothing about ink jet printers;
we know nothing about computers." Mead Corporation
was a forest-products, paper-processing, pulp-making
company. What did they know about what they were looking
They didn't know what they had; they didn't know
how to evaluate it. One of the things they did was
to zero in on the Information Systems Division (our
division). They decided, "You've got all these government
contracts. You've got this Union Carbide installation.
You've got OBAR spending money to convert data. You've
got these computers running. You've got terminals scattered
around. Maybe you've got a business. We don't know,
but how do we find out? Let's get Arthur D. Little
Focusing on Legal
Giering: They contacted Arthur D. Little,
and ADL brought in a study team. The study team was
headed up by H. Donald Wilson; second in command was
Before I go further, I'd like to tell an anecdote
about Arthur D. Little and its studies. Don Wilson
told me the story after the fact. Years earlier,
there was an Arthur D. Little study conducted for IBM
on something called xerography. Battelle had this new
process and offered it to IBM. IBM called in Arthur
D. Little to do market research. ADL went back to IBM
and said, "Don't touch it. We feel that the market
for xerographic copy machines is something like 200
units over the next 5 years." Basically, they looked
at the wet copiers and the rest of the copiers available
at the time and they said it would take 190 machines
to reach the break-even point. They figured 200 machines
were the most they could sell. So they said it was
not a good business to get into. IBM killed off the
product, as Arthur D. Little advised them to do. We
all know what happened to xerography.
The problem was that ADL did not take into account
the changes in office processes that would take place
as a result of this new technology. They did not think
outside the box. Remember this story.
Arthur D. Little was called in to look at this whole
thing called Data Central. Both the men were lawyers. "Government
contracts? You're not making any money on government
contracts. Union Carbide? Piddling. OBAR? Well, that
probably could make some money." They came back and
said, "We think that if we study the legal research
market, we can probably give you a better business." All
of a sudden, the scope of the study changed. Now the
study takes off, but it was going to be limited to
the legal marketplace.
By this time, Mead had decided they were going to
have a business. In February 1970, they took the Information
Systems Division (my division, the one of which I was
a co-director) and spun it off as Mead Data Central.
The rest of Data Corporation continued as a wholly
owned subsidiary of the Mead Corporation. Don Wilson
of Arthur D. Little became president of Mead Data Central;
Jerry Rubin became one of the vice presidents. Peter
Vann and I, the two co-directors of the Information
Systems Division, became two vice presidents, and a
man named Ralph Welch, who was the contract administrator
for Data Corporation, became another vice president.
That was the nucleus of what was Mead Data Central.
The initial charter for Mead Data Central, Inc. was
to take the total Data Central business all
of it and to start running. Use the Mead financial
wherewithal and make a big business out of it...although
the study, not yet 100 percent complete, was aiming
toward the legal research marketplace.
Giering: From my standpoint, we were still
in the throes of enhancements. One of the major enhancements
that we did was Keyword in Context (KWIC). We had enhanced
one of the terminal capabilities to color terminals.
The Keyword in Context became Keyword in Color. Keyword
in Color was the following (you could use any color,
but we chose the following): the keyword, meaning the
word used by the searcher at the terminal in the search
process, was in red; the surrounding context was in
yellow; the normal text was in blue. The way it worked
was if the keyword was going to occur on the top of
a screen, the bottom of the preceding screen would
turn yellow to warn the reader that he was in the context
of the word used in his search. And vice versa. If
the keyword was on the bottom of a screen, the top
of the succeeding screen would be yellow to remind
him that he was still in the context of the word he
had used. The number of words was specified by the
database administrator. Normally, we used something
Bjørner: This was brand new. Nobody had
done this before.
Giering: Not only that, when we demonstrated
it at the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery)
convention in the fall of 1970, in New York, we were
a laughing stock. Nobody would give us the time of
day. Everyone said that no one would ever use color
terminals. Color was too expensive, was no good nobody
would ever use a color PC. We had a big booth with
a color terminal and operator at each of four corners,
and we brought people off the floor to operate them.
Key Word in Color. People, literally, looked at it,
laughed, and said, "That's nice, but nobody will ever
buy it." It was too early. Today, do you ever see a
black and white PC?
Highlighting. In the noncolor world, we were highlighting
by underlining, by the use of italics, etc. we
used all kinds of techniques to highlight. But we found
that color was the most eye-appealing.
Bjørner: I wonder whether that came about
because of the history the rest of the company had
Giering: No. We were completely independent
Bjørner: Why did you pick color?
Giering: I don't really know. It was just
a natural.... We used terminals from Computer Communication,
Inc. of America CCI. They contracted mainly
with the stock market. Their progression of terminals
went from black and white to color, so I got a color
terminal. Remember the 5-inch Sony Trinitron TVs? I
built a desk set around one and had it on my desk.
It was a color terminal, and I had a keyboard. It was
only good for a short distance. If you were further
away from the terminal than my arm, you couldn't read
Bjørner: This is a very different development
from the bibliographic systems, and I can see that
it was driven by the fact that you were dealing with
Giering: Not only full text. We were driven
toward the end user. Not toward a librarian. We were
interested in the lawyer, the doctor, or whoever the
end user was going to be. We did not want anyone interposed
between the person needing the information and the
person having the information. That was our goal.
Bjørner: There's where you are forward-thinking
precursors to the Internet, because the whole thing
with the Internet is that anyone who wants information
can find it himself.
Early Telecommunications Challenges
Giering: Let me comment on something about
communication before the Internet. In 1969 or '70,
I remember that I would put a terminal in the trunk
of a car with an acoustic coupler, drive around central
and western Ohio and northern Virginia, and go to a
hotel lobby or a gas station. I'd put a quarter in
a pay phone, get an operator, use a credit card to
call the computer, and go back to the trunk of the
car to communicate through my acoustic coupler to find
out about the dial central. At that time, there were
three types of telephone systems dial centrals available.
I don't remember all three. One was electronic, one
was step by step. We knew that if the dial central
in a particular town was electronic, we had no problem;
we would be able to support any user in that town.
If it was the third one, forget it. There was no way
we could ever support a user in that town. If it was
a step-by-step network, we could get the Bell system
in that town to put in a special line that we called "conditioned" for
that user's modem and support it.
The only way we could find that out was to go around
and test a particular dial central that is,
the three-digit telephone number prefix to actually
call and see whether it would work. If it worked, we'd
write down that three-digit prefix and go on to find
another three-digit prefix and try that one. That's
the only way we could say when we went to OBAR, "This
law office in this town, forget it; we can't support
it. Not because we don't want to, but because, technically,
communication-wise, we can't do it. On the other hand,
that law office in the other town, no problem."
We were covering the state of Ohio for OBAR and northern
Virginia for our Washington service center area.
Bjørner: Were they adding statutes from
other states at that point?
Giering: No. We were still using Ohio Bar
money; it wasn't until after the 1971 split that things
Giering: In 1971, we had three businesses
running. But there was a very distinct difference of
opinion and that's putting it mildly between
Jerry Rubin on one hand and me on the other. Jerry
Rubin felt very strongly that the only way this business whatever
that meant was going to succeed was to concentrate
completely, 100 percent, on legal research. I believed
very strongly that the only way the business was going
to succeed was to move adroitly into all three business/market
areas, including the law. The three areas included:
1) the selling of data, all data, wherever we could
find it, including the law; 2) the servicing of data
in a service bureau; and 3) installations.
Bjørner: Tell me more about the servicing
Giering: The people who have data but don't
have a computer. ... bring their data to us and we
put it up on our computer. We give or rent them a terminal,
and they use their private data to which only they
have access. In today's Internet environment, the service
bureaus of that time would have been called Internet
Service Providers (ISPs).
In today's world, installations would be not unlike
Computer Associates, where they install their software
on a computer system, furnish documentation, train
users, and leave. Billing includes maintenance and
But Jerry Rubin felt that we needed to concentrate.
Throw away those other businesses and concentrate only
on the selling of legal research data. Period.
Bjørner: It's a different way of thinking,
a different philosophy. I am reminded of a story
from Roger Summit. Dialog was starting to sign up
databases in different subject areas. Bill Knox,
the head of NTIS, said to Roger, "If you don't know
what business you're in, Roger, you're not going
to be in business." Of course, Dialog continued to
add databases in different subjects and they stayed
in business.... So, you had this difference of opinion.
Giering: That's right. It manifested itself
in a very significant area, the man-machine interface,
the communication. With a diverse customer community,
it was clear to me that we had to have a generalized
interface, but Jerry Rubin felt strongly that we had
to have a very stylized interface for the legal community.
That was the very significant factor. That was
the essence of our disagreement.
Bjørner: I remember Jerry Rubin was quoted
as saying that lawyers don't know how to type or
spell, so he wanted to have a terminal that essentially
typed for them. This, of course, became the stylized
UBIQ red terminal.
Giering: We started a series of meetings at
Mead corporate headquarters on the subject of "Where
do we go?" And to make a long story short, Rubin won
and I lost.
At that instant, the Data Central software was copied.
One copy went back to Data Corporation with me and
the Information Systems division was reconstituted
in Data Corporation. We took what was euphemistically
called the "non-legal business" some referred
to it as the "illegal business" we took all
that non-legal business back to Data Corporation. Jerry
Rubin became head of Mead Data Central and revised
everything into what became Lexis.
I want to make sure that something goes on record
here. Jerry Rubin has been adamant in saying that I
had nothing to do with what the Lexis user saw and
had access to at that time and since. He's absolutely
100 percent correct, in that the communication interface,
the man-machine messages, the search engine, etc.,
were all redesigned to be oriented to the legal research
marketplace. That's what they did. That's what became
Lexis. However, and this is where I differ, a lot of
the back office work, all the internal file structures,
remained constant. So the technology that backs up
how they did what they did remained the same. But what
Jerry Rubin says about what Lexis was and what Lexis
is that Dick Giering did not have anything to
do with Lexis he is correct. The part that he's
talking about, he's absolutely correct, and I don't
want to take any credit for what he's talking about.
The man-machine interface and the specific search
engine that used the technology were his [Rubin's],
but the underlying basic technology was mine.
Bjørner: So we have the split. One copy
stayed with Mead Data Central...
Giering: ...and the front end communication
and search engine were revised into Lexis...
Bjørner: ...and you took the other copy
and went back to Data Corp. This was in 1971?
After the Split
Giering: Yes, and now we move into a new stage.
During this split, some words were spoken that should
not have been spoken, by some of the people who worked
for me, and by me, because I support my people. As
a result, Bill Gorog, again my mentor, had to "hide
me" for awhile. I spent a few months writing documentation.
Here we had a system by this time, it was a
real system; but there was a lot of stuff in the back
end, in the back office, that was still pretty flaky.
We had done a lot of work, especially on the database
administration functionality, to make it easy to add
new databases, to add new capabilities. We did it all
in a hurry. We had customers coming in the door, so
we had to get it done fast. There was very little documentation.
So, while I was "hiding," I used the time to write
documentation. I don't remember whether it was 6 months,
4 months, 8 months. The Washington service center had
been closed and Washington contracts moved to the Dayton
service center. By use of modems, it really didn't
matter where the service center was a telephone
call is a telephone call, especially with toll-free
800 numbers. At one point, a couple of the customers
in Washington were having problems and Bill Gorog called
to ask if I could go to Washington to calm some troubled
waters. I did, and as a result, I was "surfaced" and
given a new charter.
The charter was to find some new business. I didn't
have to make any money, but I couldn't lose any. I
could take any profit that I made and pour it back
into the business. I didn't have to show any profit
in Data Corporation, but I couldn't show a loss. Part
of the deal was that if I found a new business, I could
have it this time. This was to be my business. If it
was spun off, I could have it. This was the middle
of '72. Unfortunately, none of this was put in writing.
We went out and looked for additional installations.
We had a lot of work to do. We got some contracts.
Some made it, some didn't make it. We had the Recon
Central contract, by this time called Avionics Central,
because the Recon Lab changed its name to the Avionics
Laboratory. We had a little bit of profit. Between
that and some of the Washington contracts and service
bureau, we were able to eke out some profits and do
some advertising and get some additional business.
We didn't show a loss. We didn't make a profit we
poured it all back in.
The Boston Globe
Giering: Then in late 1975, I heard about
a man at The Boston Globe who wanted to do something
with his library. George Collins. I went up to see
him. I carried a terminal with me a color terminal.
(Parenthetically, by this time, Lexis had done away
with color terminals; they'd done away with sort; they
had done away with arithmetic capability; they had
killed a lot of the capabilities that Data Central
had, because in the legal world, they weren't necessary.)
Anyway, we still had those capabilities. I took a color
terminal to The Boston Globe and demonstrated
what we had.
George Collins said, "I think this is what we've
been looking for." They had just a couple months
earlier converted their daily process to computerized
typesetting. This was the first of many visits. About
the third or fourth time I was there, I convinced him
to give me a purchase order for a test. I said I could
take a daily tape in which his people would select
the stories and send me the tape from their typesetting
system, with only the stories he wanted on the Data
Central system our service bureau.
By this time, I had a specification of their capability.
I said, "I can program our front end. Give me a purchase
order, $5,000 to program our front end to read a magnetic
tape off your daily take. We will read one day's tape
and pour your data in and show you your data online."
He said "I don't believe you." I said, "For $5,000,
what do you have to lose?"
I walked out with a purchase order one piece
of paper (8-1/2 by 11 inches). The purchase order read
something like "Test of conversion of Boston Globe typesetting
material, per discussion, George Collins, Dick Giering.
$5,000." Period. Signed. In an envelope that I had
in my briefcase. I walked in the next morning to our
contracts department, handed it to the contracts administrator,
and he said, "What's that?" I said, "A purchase order."
This contract administrator was used to government
contracts, packets that were inches thick. He said, "That's
all?" I answered, "That's it." He said, "That can't
be it." I said, "That's it. $5,000 right there." He
said, "I don't believe it." I said, "That's it. I want
a project number right now." He said, "I've never heard
of such a thing."
He went down the hall to the finance people. The
head bookkeeper (Mrs. Honeycutt) and I had been working
together to make sure about my accounting numbers.
Because every year, I would be saving up my profits,
so that at the end of the year, I would be able to
put them into advertising. So, she and I worked very
closely. He took this piece of paper down I
went with him and showed it to her. He said, "What
do I do with this?" She said, "Give him a project number!"
A week later, we had programmed the front end. I
called George and said, "Make arrangements to send
me a tape." A couple days later, he called back, and
said, "When do you want a tape?" I said, "When do you
think you can FedEx it?" He said, "How about tomorrow
night?" The following morning, we got a tape. We sent
it down to the computer center. I don't remember whether
it was that night or the following night, it came up
online. We saw it; we checked it out; it looked pretty
good. I made arrangements to take a terminal; I went
back to Boston. This was 2 days after they had sent
us the tape. I walked in, and said, "George, ready?" He
said, "Already?" And I said, "Yes."
So, we went to a conference room, and I set up a
terminal. I said, "George, sit down," and gave him
a keyboard. I told him what to type, and out came one
of his documents a Boston Globe story.
He asked, "Can I send some more data?" I said, "Yes,
if you send us some more money."
They started sending data and gave us more purchase
orders I guess this was 1976. About June or
July of '76, they started running dual, where they
were still clipping the newspaper for the morgue and
also sending tapes. In July of '77, they stopped clipping
and ran completely electronic. They were the first
electronic library. This was our newspaper service
More Newspaper Developments
Giering: At the same time, we found another
newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, that wanted
to do something similar, but they wanted it on their
computer. We started negotiating to install the
second type of business, an installation on
their computer, to do exactly the same kind of thing
with their data. We set up the system to read from
their typesetting system; they would take their tape
onto the Data Central system on their computer into
By the way, George Collins at the Globe would
bring in his editors. We set up four terminals in his
library, on swivels. The editors would come in, and
sometimes they would ask the librarians to do the searches,
and sometimes they'd swivel the terminals around and
they'd do their own searches.
The Inquirer set it up so that they would
do exactly the same thing, except they wanted the terminals
in the editorial department to be split screen. The
editorial department was going to be able to edit and,
with a split screen, simultaneously search the library.
This was in late 1977. Then we got into the next donnybrook.
Bjørner: I have to ask you one question
first. You had two different newspaper libraries.
Did you create a database structure that matched
for each of those systems?
Giering: Similar but not the same.
Bjørner: Were the customers the people
that determined the structure?
Giering: Yes. Something we did back in the
pre-Lexis days was we had the database definition.
After the split, I wrote a lot of documentation. One
of the reasons we know that a lot of the internal structure
and a lot of the back office operation were still being
run at Lexis was because we had the documentation,
and we would get telephone calls from the people at
Lexis asking for information. They had no documentation.
We had the documentation. They would ask us questions,
especially in the area of the database definitioning
and data update.
When it comes to your question about the newspaper,
with the database definitioning capability, we were
able to set up separate yet similar-looking Electronic
Newspaper Libraries. Let me give you an example noise
words (i.e., stop words). At the time we set up The
Boston Globe, we sat down and established a set
of noise words if, a, but, for, an, the, what,
of, nor, who, etc. for the actual text of the
George Collins called me on the phone one day and
said, "I've got a problem. My editors came to me and
can't find something." I said, "What is it they can't
find?" "We have a rock group that played here, 'The
We already had the capability for setting up different
sets of stop words by field, by group. We had index
terms, where the librarians could say that this story,
although it didn't use these terms, had to do with
this subject. In this instance, although the main text
said "The Who" (both words of which were noise words),
we specified "No stop words search every word" in
the subject area. The solution was for the librarian
to put "The Who" in the index terms group. So now,
a search for "The Who" found that document.
Subtle things like that came as a result of the database
definition subsystem that we had set up a couple years
earlier. This is what I meant by saying "similar but
not the same."
Another anecdotal sidelight. One day I was playing
around with some Boston Globe material on my
desk. I don't remember how, but I came across a misspelling.
S-U-R-B-U-R-B. I searched on it and found quite a number
of stories using the word "surburb" in the Boston
Globe. Some would say this is not unusual for New
England! But I thought to myself, "Why is that there?" I
picked up the phone and called George and told him
to get online. I said, "Run a search on 'surburb.'" He
found something like 300 hits. "What in the hell is
this?" he asked. I said, "I don't know that's
what I'm asking you."
One of the things they had in their database definition
was a Source field, a place for backgrounder information
(not normally seen by the average viewers), where they
kept data about where the material came from the
editor, the typesetter, etc. George said, "I'm going
to check this out. I'll let you know." He started checking,
and it turned out that when one of the editors sent
down the word correctly spelled, the typesetter "knew" that
it was misspelled, and the typesetter would change
it. The editor ran a couple of tests, followed it,
and found the typesetter doing this. Only through the
online system did they find that error. "Surburb" has
now been corrected.
Bjørner: You talk about the next donnybrook.
The NewsLib Business
Giering: I now had a new business and I was
trying to find other business opportunities, including
additional newspapers. I thought we could probably
find medical, education, other markets. But I needed
money. I needed to bring in some profits to be able
to do more. I talked to New York Newsday (Long
Island), Time magazine (Peg Fischer) I
had lots of conversations with Peg Fischer at Time and
also with people at Newsday in Garden City.
Went out to The LA Times and talked to people
in Milwaukee. I spoke with a lot of people. Some of
them were indecisive about this new technology, and
some of them looked as though they might do something.
Things were starting to jell. Realize that the newspaper
activities were a subset of two of the basic businesses
that I had postulated just before the split from Mead
Data Central in 1971 service bureau and installations.
At some point before, the Data Corporation subsidiary
had its name changed to Mead Technology Laboratories.
They had new management. Lexis was running beautifully;
it was a very significant success, sitting off on the
side. The management of Mead Tech Labs was looking
at us, and I wasn't showing a profit, though I wasn't
showing a loss. There was significant income that I
was pouring back into the business. The rest of their
divisions were showing losses. They didn't like that.
They wanted to take the money that I was generating
and do things with it. They got an idea: Why don't
we take this newspaper business and maybe we can make
another Lexis called NewsLib and sell newspaper data?
Like Lexis is selling legal, maybe we can go to The
Boston Globe and convince them to let us sell their
data, and go to the Philadelphia Inquirer and
sell their data. Maybe we ought to build a business
plan and present to Mead something called NewsLib.
They hit me with this, and I said, "Wait a minute.
You're killing the golden goose. The minute you do
that, Mead is going to ask, 'Why should we have two
businesses selling data in the same corporation using
the same technology?' They're going to steal this thing
right out from under you. Don't do that!" Their response
was, "Oh, you're full of it. They're not going to do
that. This is yours, this is ours."
They went ahead anyway. And that's exactly what happened.
They built a business plan called NewsLib. I had nothing
to do with it. It was against my better judgment. They
presented the NewsLib business plan to Robert O'Hara,
the group vice president, who was also group vice-president
of Lexis. He said exactly what I told them he was going
to say. He said, "We're going to take this newspaper
business and turn it over to Lexis."
I said, "Wait a minute. Bill Gorog promised me that
if I find a business, it's mine." O'Hara said, "Show
it to me in writing." I didn't have it in writing.
The upshot of the whole thing is, I resigned. I said, "Have
me once, shame on you; have me twice, shame on me." I
knew I was persona non grata in that organization
(Mead Data Central). Jerry Rubin was never going to
put up with me.
A man named Paul Beck had come back from Mead Data
Central with me when we split. He was with me the whole
time while we looked for all these other businesses,
helped me with the development, then operated The
Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer.
When they took the newspaper business away, he went
with the business to Lexis but didn't stay very long
at Mead Data Central. He might be able to tell more
about that transition.
When the newspaper business was transferred from
Mead Technical Laboratories to Lexis, it became the
basis of what was introduced by Mead Data Central in
1980 as Nexis.
Bjørner: You left Mead Tech Labs, but you
continued in newspapers.
Giering: Luckily, in the interim, I had been
approached by another organization to form a partnership,
with a company named Atex. They built newspaper typesetting
systems. We formed a partnership to build library systems
for newspapers. We built on the PDP-11, which was too
small a system, and installed the first one at The
Boston Globe, believe it or not! We were up and
running. Then we got the Chicago Sun-Times.
InfoTex was a partnership and became an incorporated
entity later. We realized the PDP-11 was too weak a
machine, so we started reprogramming it for the VAX.
When I left Mead, I had to sign a non-compete agreement,
and I could leave only with what was in my head. Basically,
we designed for the PDP-11 everything we had already
done, with one exception. I added the arithmetic extraction
from text with unit of measure capability. We were
able to extract arithmetic information together with
unit of measure from the text.
Let me give you just two examples: A searcher could
ask the question, "Give me all information that contains
the word fire or conflagration within five words of
five persons dying...five persons killed." Another
example: "Give me all articles/material about airplanes
or aircraft or spacecraft within 10 words of speeds
greater than 500 knots." And regardless of whether
that speed is in miles per hour, kilometers per hour,
knots or whatever the unit of measure it is, the system
would find it.
Bjørner: You added that in the late 1970s?
That's quite a capability.
Giering: Yes, we added that to the PDP-11
system. But now, it's all dead and gone.
Bjørner: But you did a lot. Can you tell
Searcher's readers what you think your particular
Giering: In my view, my contribution to this
industry was moving the technology from bibliographic
access to full-text access. At the time, nobody believed
it was financially or technically feasible. What I
did was prove that full text could be commercialized.
That is what I believe I did. u
[Mr. Giering was interviewed on September 10,
2003, in Libertyville, Illinois. Lysle Cahill and
Paul Beck contributed comments by e-mail and telephone
in January 2004.]
The next story in this series will focus on Bibliographic
Retrieval Services (BRS), with an in-depth interview
with Jan Egeland, one of the company's founders.
Lysle Cahill on Working at Data Corporation
Data Corp. was issued a contract by the Foreign
Technology Division of WPAFB [Wright-Patterson
Air Force Base]. The statement of work was to
write a series of classified programs that would
encompass all research being done by all military
forces of the U.S. The contract was broad in
that a number of in-house programs already underway
were included in the statement of work. Our entire
facility carried a Top Secret rating. There were
additional coded ratings that included special
assignments, particularly with SAMSO [Space and
Missile Systems Organization] on the West Coast.
We had an ingenious systems programmer, Dave
Behane, who wrote all of the guidance and tracking
programs for the satellite tracking systems.
His programs were unique and always undocumented!
We accordingly assigned a group of programmers
whose only work was to document Dave's programs.
I was given an approved storage file holder
that required a crane when it was moved into
my office. It was a four drawer file cabinet
with a double combination lock. All of our classified
contracts were kept in this cabinet, which was
actually a safe. Strict orders were issued that
the safe was to be unlocked any time I was in
my office. A drop-in Open sign was always placed
in the file drawer handle when open. One of the
work statements was that we were to write a classified
database that would permit all of the government
military offices to have easy access to the classified
work being done by various military agencies;
thus was born the classified storage and retrieval
system. I had orders to destroy all of the classified
documents after 10 years. As a consequence, when
I moved, the safe moved with me.
Al Fluery was our designated contact man for
the Air Force, and he had an access terminal
that only he could touch. This was the reason
Dick mentioned [in Part 5, January 2004] that "Pappy" Al
Fluery would disappear into the basement when
certain information was requested by our military
customers. I did dutifully destroy all of the
classified material after 10 years and breathed
a sigh of relief to be shed of the burden.
I can indeed verify that Mac [Jim McSweeney]
was our next-door neighbor at the time the Mead
purchase of Data Corp. was initiated. I invited
him to see our facility and we started negotiations
about a week later. v
Paul Beck on Data Corporation and the Newspaper
I agree with Dick Giering's comments about
Bill Gorog an insightful businessman.
I think of Dick as a technical genius and even
a hard working sales person. He was a "driven" man and
very difficult to manage! In comparison, I am
a detail-oriented person rather than the visionaries
that Dick and Bill Gorog were. For example, I
could still tell you the make, model, and speed
of the acoustic coupler and terminals we used.
I started at Data Corporation about September
1966, but worked on other reconnaissance-oriented
projects until maybe September 1968, when they
needed a Recon Central program manager. I knew
almost nothing about computers, but I
did know the Air Force Recon Central funding
source, Mr. Bob Roalef, who had been my boss
when I started in 1956 as an Air Force second
lieutenant. Bob did not know computers well,
but he wanted to do recon research better, and
if the Recon Central system would help him do
that, he was willing to spend some USAF dollars.
I acted as a "translator" between Bob Roalef
and Dick Giering and the programming staff, trying
to tell them what Bob wanted. I consider myself
very "visual," so I could comment on what the
programmers were producing vs. what I thought
the USAF and Bob Roalef wanted.
Later, I was on the team that developed the
custom terminal for Lexis. Function keys, as
we know them today (F1, F2, etc.), mean nothing
to an ordinary human being, so developing each
key engraved with its specific function in the
Lexis world (i.e., Page Forward, Page Backward,
Case Forward, Modify Search, etc.) was so much
fun. I have detested Function keys for about
30 years now; they are a "nonhuman interface."
When Mead decided to pull the NewsLib business
back into its court, we at Mead Tech Labs were
three-quarters of the way toward installing a
system at the Philadelphia Inquirer. I
believe that Mead paid the Inquirer to
get out of the contract, because Mead Data Central
didn't want to be in the installation business.
I stayed for awhile servicing the closeout of The
Boston Globe service bureau contract, but
I was tainted by my earlier association with
Dick Giering, and I was soon invited to find
a new job for myself.
Who's Who: Key People Mentioned in This
Collins, George M., Jr. 1939-1988:
member of The Boston Globe staff. 1973-1980:
newspaper's librarian. Died in 1998.
Gorog, William F. Executive Vice
President, Data Corporation, 1956-1963. Chairman,
Chief Executive Officer, Data Corporation, 1963-1975.
Vice President, Mead Corporation, 1972-1975.
Advisor to Gerald Ford, 1975-1976. Died in 2002.
Rubin, Jerome S. (Jerry) 1970-1971:
Executive Vice President, Mead Data Central,
Inc. 1973-1981: President, Mead Data Central,
Inc. 1983-1990: Group Vice President, Times Mirror.
1990-1992: Group Chairman, Times Mirror Co. Introduced
LEXIS and the National Automated Accounting Research
Service (NAARS), a tax database from the American
Institute of Certified Public Accountants. 1985:
Information Industry Association's "Hall of Fame" Award
for creating LEXIS and recognizing his "pioneering
efforts, inspiration, and determination to create,
develop, and bring to fruition a major trend
setting business servicing professional information
Wilson, H. Donald February 1970:
First president, Mead Data Central, Inc., which
was created as a subsidiary of Mead Corp.
Preston, James Ohio State Bar
Association President, 1965. With William
Harrington, developed OBAR.
"ACM Fact Sheet," http://www.acm.org/announcements/fact_sheet.html.
"Ballistic Missile Organization," http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/agency/bmo.htm.
Bourne, Charles P. and Trudi Bellardo Hahn, "Computer
Searching for the Legal Profession: Data Corporation,
OBAR, Mead Data Central, 1964-1972," in A
History of Online Information Services, 1963-1976, Cambridge,
MA: The MIT Press, 2003, pages 229-257, 300-304.
"Historical Sketch of Los Angeles AFB and Fort
"LexisNexis: Celebrating Innovation, 1973 2003," http://www.lexisnexis.com/anniversary/.
"The LexisNexis Timeline," http://www.lexisnexis.com/anniversary/30th_timeline_fulltxt.pdf.
Marquis Who's Who (Dialog File 234):
Giering, Richard Herbert; Rubin, Jerome Sanford.
Long, Tom. "Obituary: George Collins, Jr.,
Newsman Who Served Globe in Many Roles; At 75," The
Boston Globe, March 2, 1998, p. A7.
"PDP-11: Dedicated to Preserving the History
and Legacy of the PDP-11 Series of 16-Bit Minicomputers
Produced by Digital Equipment Corporation from
1970 to 1990, and by Mentec from 1994 onwards," http://www.pdp11.org/.
Provenzano, Dominic. "Where Are They Now?," ONLINE (Special
10th Anniversary Issue), vol. 11, no. 1, January
1987, pp. 41-42.
"The Story of Xerography," http://www.xerox.com/innovation/Storyofxerography.pdf.
"WhatIs.com," http://whatis.techtarget.com/ (dictionary of information technology words).
Susanne Bjørner is an independent consultant
to publishers, authors, and librarians and writes about
the information professions and industry. Contact her
Stephanie C. Ardito is the principal of Ardito
Information & Research, Inc., a full-service information
firm based in Wilmington, Delaware. Her e-mail address