ICPSR – Mary Vardigan and Peter Granda talk about the Consortium in the 1980’s

ICPSR – Mary Vardigan and Peter Granda talk about the Consortium in the 1980’s


Tape was now the major technology and we were running things on computer
programs based on an analytic package called Osiris, which was developed right
here at the Institute for Social Research. And one of the very interesting
things about that program, which was a way of managing data, processing data, and
analyzing it was that it had some very uniform aspects to it and it was almost
like the precursor of a marked up language because the documentation was in effect
marked up. And even though it wasn’t intended to be, this system was used by other data archives as well. So there’s such an emphasis on standards today and I think
people who are coming of age today think standards only developed in the last
five or ten years but even going back thirty or forty years ago there were standards process data and we shared a
lot of these standards with other archives. So we had these tapes in the nineteen eighties, we stored our data on tapes, we sent data
out on tapes. These were big magnetic reels, nine track tapes and then eventually
the technology moved into smaller types of tapes and then eventually the
nineties we’ve got everything online though he kept a lot of data also on CDs
as well at one point. I guess the greatest change is just in the computing equipment
though that worked with. When Mary and I first started we had what in effect were
just dumb terminals and we had no personal computers at that time at all and we
just type things into something that went into the University’s mainframe
system. Of course that changed dramatically over the course of the years. Well it was really a quite an amazing
transformation so once we had data online we were able to distribute them
first through FTP leading up to what we have now, which is web downloads. That just basically
transformed our whole business so that the web site became sort of synonymous with ICPSR
and people came to know our site basically as who we are. And so some interesting things happened along the way, some of our viewers may remember our big guide to resources and services. It was a gigantic
catalog or inventory of all of our data holdings. So when data started to
move online we also migrated those descriptions that were in print form to
machine-readable form and eventually to a gopher server which was sort of our
first web presence and led to where we are today so that was really
kind of an amazing transformation.

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