Today's paper brings an obituary for Henriette Avram, a pioneer in computing and informatics. She led the development of MARC, the standard electronic library card catalog system used in the US.

MARC is an amazing accomplishment, 35 years of being the primary repository of library catalog information. The main technologies are a simple tagged data format, an encoding, and a variety of communications channels. The social system is very effective, a Wikipedia-like collaborative network of people creating and sharing MARC entries for new materials.

By modern standards MARC is pretty clumsy. Three digit tags? Come on! And where are <all> the < pointy brackets/> </all>? But none of that matters; MARC is an information system that was basically designed right and continues to have longevity thanks to its social capital.

  2006-05-04 15:09 Z