AEC Information Retrieval Experiment

AEC Information Retrieval Experiment

One of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) News Releases for the week ending August 5, 1970, was about a successful worldwide information retrieval experiment. The AEC experiment demonstrated that a terminal in Paris could search a computer in California and display the resulting bibliographic citations on a screen in Paris.

The below is an edited excerpt from AEC News Releases, Volume 1, Number 5.

Atomic Energy Commission


973-3335 (Info.)
973-5371 (Copies)


The feasibility of a worldwide information retrieval system which would tie a computer base of information to terminals on the other side of the world was demonstrated for the Atomic Energy Commission in Paris recently.

Using a terminal consisting essentially of an electric typewriter and a television tube at the Paris Headquarters of the European Space Research Organization, Mr. N.E.C. Isotta, head of ESRO's Documentation Service, probed a computer in Palo Alto, California, containing over 100,000 abstracts of research in nuclear science.

The link was accomplished by means of the new TAC #5 transatlantic telephone cable which became operative in March.  Similar results are believed obtainable using communications satellites.

The computer was asked to identify sources of information on topics ranging from the potential use of nuclear engines in spacecraft to desalinization of sea water.  After conversation-like exchanges to refine the questions asked, the computer in California caused to be displayed on the TV screen in Paris bibliographic descriptions of reports and journal articles on the various topics.  One observer commented, "It's like having a complete library at your fingertips."

The experiment was conducted using a special information retrieval language known as RECON, which was developed for NASA at the Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory.  The AEC over the last year has support Lockheed in adapting the system to the literature of nuclear science.  This experiment was the first attempt to obtain instantaneous access to a large literature store over very long communication lines.  Dr. R.K. Summit, manager of RECON Development at Lockheed, commented, "This event has tremendous significance.  It demonstrates that time and distance no longer need to limit the availability of the world's information."  He went on to say, "It is now technically possible for anyone with a telephone to have access to information the world over."

August 1, 1970


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