A few selected highlights from our newsletter over the past twenty years:
It all started in September 1977 when Diana Wilimovsky invited about fifteen librarians to form a users group to "share and learn and discuss experiences using machine readable databases". Some of the concerns at the first meeting were how to develop a search strategy, how to pressure vendors to provide useful training, how to overcome 'terminal fright'.
Diana and her group moved into action pressuring database vendors to provide free time for demos – their requests met with success except with one vendor, who responded:
"We are reluctant to offer free time for a variety of reasons: cost effectiveness, possible abuse, setting a precedent .... I propose that our territory manager attend (your) meetings and assist the demonstrators ....not only will we benefit but we will keep the demonstrations moving along in a business-like fashion"
In 1980 VOLUG moved ahead to an intriguing new technology, Videotex – does anyone remember the BC Tel wonder product, TELIDON? It was reputed to be a combined video and text product that would allow you to communicate electronically – pay invoices, exchange 'electronic mail' (first mention of that concept), reserve at your favourite hotel, all using a hand-held key pad. The demo. met with limited success, "The BC Tel Project manager attempted to demonstrate TELIDON. We are all accustomed to computers shutting down ...... however ... when the television screen was not glowing with graphics of mountains and butterflies the lecture lacked imagination to promote the system. The speaker referred to business applications such as stock market graphics, but it is difficult to imagine executives waiting for the visual presentation of information" (sounds like all those graphics-laden Web Pages).
Moving to 1981, VOLUG wrestled with the thorny issue of BC Tel's DATAPAC. DATAPAC had a monopoly on data telecommunications but offered abysmal service: line noise, dropped connections and SLOW! Our newsletter reported, "DATAPAC in online searching circles has the same impact as a mortgage loans officer – they are both always busy, give you nothing but static, and will ruthlessly drop you at a moment's notice". VOLUG members relentlessly pursued BC Tel for several years until they finally provided a functioning service and the terrifying messages, "datapac error, connection dropped" disappeared.
In 1982, we worked in the era of dumb terminals – remember the Texas Instruments Silent 700 with its acoustic coupler? You hooked a telephone into suction cups and data was transmitted at the shattering speed of 300 BAUD. Your results were printed on thermal paper (no downloading) the print disappeared after several days in daylight. Our newsletter reported a bargain firesale of a member's Silent 700 terminal for $1900 (no memory, no screen, no drives, nothing but a keyboard and suction cups).
Fast forward to 1989 and we find the first mention of 'hypertext' – VOLUG provided a 'demystification' of Hypertext and how it could be used to construct electronic thesauri and classification systems (a big hit with the cataloguing types).
In 1991 VOLUG invited online guru, Barbara Quint, to speak on negotiating with online vendors. The main points in her speech, "Online searching – how to get more for your money" are just as relevant today: "Nothing is non-negotiable" "Be vibrant, vicious and vocal" "Demand options"
1992 finds the first VOLUG meeting that confronted the new online wonder, Internet. Elizabeth Caskey and PAPRICAN Systems staff alerted us to the new world of computer networks, multiple hosts, client/server architecture and new concepts like listservs. We were pre-WWW but could see the first inklings of the coming revolution.
1994 saw the launch of the VOLUG listserv – it took seven years for electronic mail technology to evolve from ENVOY 100 to Internet email --- can you imagine where we will be seven years from tonight?
VOLUG has prospered for twenty years due to the strength of our coordinators and program committee. Here are some of our past executive that have moved us forward:
Diana Wilimovsky Barbara Douma Judy O'Mara Barbara Holder Jill Rowland Denise Bonin Marion Johnson Rita Penco Jim Henderson Linda Everett Tricia Daum Teri Tarita Maureen Matthews Claudia Chandler Diana Broome David Pepper Karen Lee Annette Lorek David Lambert Joanne Osborne Judy Growe Marjory Jardine Kathleen Nichol Joy Kirchner Frieda Schilling Chris Burns Elizabeth Caskey Arlene Higgs Grace Makarewicz Debra Flewelling Keith Low Carey LePage Susan Huber Our apologies to those we may have omitted ( send us e-mail for any names we may have missed ).