Monday Mar 17, 2008

My Dad can build a better indexer than your Dad!

An interesting (I think) thing about me is that I'm a second generation search guy. My father (searchdad?) worked at the Computation Center of the National Research Council of Canada, where he designed and helped build CAN/OLE (Canadian On-Line Enquiry) for the Canadian Institute of Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI). CAN/OLE offered access to a number of databases like Inspec.

I'm giving a talk in a couple of weeks that includes a couple of slides on the history of IR and I send dad email asking what the properties of the CAN/OLE collections were like. They were (I'd say) big for the time: between 5 and 15 million records (although the records were only a few hundred bytes --- this wasn't full text!) and somewhere between 3 and 6 GB of storage (on IBM 3330 disks, mind you, so we're talking a lot of floor space here!).

Dad mentioned that a google search for cisti +ole would yield some hits, and look what I found, Dad's even mentioned by name as the designer and one of the implementers. Cool!

The picture is my father and me circa 1976, about two years after CAN/OLE launched. I picked the picture out of a collection of family pictures that he sent me last year. As I was clipping us out, I realized that he's about 3 years younger in that picture than I am now. Yikes. Up until my father, the family profession was carpenter. I guess that now it's Information Retrieval. I'd better get cracking with my son!

About

This is Stephen Green's blog. It's about the theory and practice of text search engines, with occasional forays into recommendation and other technologies that can use a good text search engine. Steve is the PI of the Information Retrieval and Machine Learning project in Oracle Labs.

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