The Future - Whither the LGPN?

With two of the six volumes published and a third in its final stages of preparation, the project will continue to run for a number of years yet. Major hurdles in the smooth production of the remaining volumes are only likely if OUCS again changes mainframe technology from the VAX and the DBMS Ingres to some other system. This would required a major re-design of the database and re-writing the database programs. It is also possible that some other form of typesetting system could be used, which would also require modifications in the programs, but these would not be as drastic. Nonetheless it is hoped that all the programs will require little in the way of modification if such an eventuality comes about. In fact such has been the advance in technology it is conceivable that one or more of the remaining volumes could be produced entirely on an in-LGPN Personal Computer.Note 8

An interesting possibility is publishing the LGPN on CD-ROM, or some other computer readable publishing medium. The database system could be set up as a self-contained unit which would allow scholars access to the LGPN data, but in an interactive and varied form. There are a large range of simple and complex queries that could be performed on the database (see Matthews 1993). The basis for some of these already exist, for instance a program exists to list the number of times a particular name is used. A simple addition to the program could give totals across regions or over certain time ranges. The construction of family trees is a further possibility, but since none of these avenues of research are within the remit of the current project, they will have to wait future funding.

A conclusion and an end note

The computer can manipulate and massage very complex forms of data if told what to expect. Although the data used in the LGPN are well organised, the whole process of checking and re-checking, manually and electronically, have thrown up many interesting problems, most of which were solved by adapting the computer programs or circumventing them in some way. As long as there is some consistency, converting data from one format to another is really a problem of time and expense - someone has to study the data and know it well enough to be capable of resolving small but potentially complex problems. Few problems are insurmountable, only time-consuming.

Finally, an important feature of this database is that new editions of the LGPN can be published much more easily than with a non-electronic version. Additions, corrections and re-assignments can be incorporated directly into the database. However, much depends on what happens to the database after the final volume is published. Ideally, the project will continue, perhaps on a smaller scale, updating the information and publishing addenda and eventually new editions. It is also feasible to suggest that the LGPN could be published in electronic form, e.g. as a CD-ROM, or made available on-line over international communications networks. The "worst-case-scenario" is for it to be left to fade, unused and forgotten in a computer tape library somewhere. Unfortunately, it would not be the first to succumb to such a fate but, hopefully, this will not be the case.

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