CNI: Paul Evan Peters Lecture: "Computers, Plans, and Campfires"





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Published on Apr 30, 2014

Presentation of the 2014 Paul Evan Peters Award to

Donald A.B. Lindberg
Director, National Library of Medicine

Closing Plenary Session

Following the award presentation, Dr. Lindberg will present the Paul Evan Peters Lecture:
"Computers, Plans, and Campfires"

Thirty years ago, the modern digital computer was barely functional. With much huffing and puffing, NLM's Honeywell machines, with their 3/4 inch tapes, could create citation records of the published papers from the 100 best medical journals in 1971. Later IBM 370 computers expanded the scope. This was widely regarded as a notable and highly useful feat. Yet in 1984 the Library was still buying Wang typescript processing machines for its front office, and one our finest researchers in his university lab was (very cleverly) using fluid computing logic to analyze human cardiac blood flow.

The question for NLM, what to do henceforth was answered by a 25 year Long Range Plan that has guided us well. The plan was bottom-up and largely written by those we wished to serve.

1993 brought an opportunity to help medicine and healthcare join the concept of a national commitment to high performance computing and a vast and fast national communications network. I served as Director of the National Coordination Office for this sparkling new inter-agency White House project. The resultant working Internet, in its turn, radically changed many responsibilities and empowered many efforts at NLM and other medical entities.

Prominent among these were our efforts to provide medical and scientific information directly to patients, families, and the public. Under-served populations got special attention. Recently NLM has made an exhibition of more than 150 personal on site video interviews with American Indian, native Hawaiian and native Alaskans. These experiences have greatly enhanced our understanding of the worthiness of people and the limitations of computers and information alone.

Coalition for Networked Information (CNI)
Spring 2014 Membership Meeting
March 31 - April 1, 2014
St. Louis, Missouri


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