Developing Computer Technology

In the twenty-three years since the LGPN began there have been considerable changes in computer technology. Although several generations of computer have come and gone, the use of computer technology to facilitate the data collation process and the eventual publication was an obvious choice, even as far back as 1975. The project began by using the Oxford University Computing Service (OUCS) ICL 1906 and the data manipulation package Famulus which was a general-purpose suite of programs that allowed research staff to create files of information and sort them by various criteria. Four fields of information were entered: the Name, Location, Date and Reference, although the latter also included a "Final Bracket" which held additional information. The information was stored by region and such was the limitation on the storage capacity of the computer, data files had to be held on tape, with only the immediately relevant portions being accessible at any given time.

In 1984 a decision was made to use the network database management system (DBMS) IDMS and this database was used as the basis for producing the first volume (as outlined in Matthews and Rahtz 1984; see also Burnard 1987 for a description of the IDMS database structure). The year 1987 proved to be a hectic year for not only did the project produce the first volume in camera-ready form for Oxford University Press to publish, but OUCS de-commissioned the ICL mainframe and replaced it with a DEC Vax Cluster. Although a Vax system had been available for a number of years this decision to replace the 2988 meant that a new database system had to be used. Unfortunately, since the database system on the Vax was to be the relational DBMS Ingres, a great deal of program re-writing was necessary, and in a very short time. It was necessary to check that all the data in the original database had been successfully transferred to the new one. Fortunately, the Project was able to complete the production of the camera-ready bromides before the ICL system was finally switched off and was able to verify that the transferred data was in fact complete.Note 1

At the end of 1992, OUCS replaced the Lasercomp service with one based on a postscript printer, with the recommendation to users that the text formatting system TEX should be used to produce camera-ready output. This also required further alterations to the output programs, inserting different formatting instructions into the printer files. The transformation of LGPN data described in these pages is that used in the production of Volume 2.

By 1996 OUCS had established a date for the demise of the VAX (late 1997). With the growing emphasis on distributed computing the decision was made to investigate whether it would be possible to transfer the whole system to a PC, with the data checking programs being modified and re-compiled for a PC environment and Ingres replaced by Access. At the time of writing, the decision is still open.

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