#x10 (16): AUTONOTE - a personal online retrieval system running on MTS (2003)

posted Jun 12, 2013, 7:14 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Jun 13, 2014, 12:28 PM ]
A History of Online Information Services: 1963 - 1976
Charles Percy Bourne, Trudi Bellardo Hahn
The MIT Press

Chapter 3: Further Experimentation and Prototypes in Universities, Mid-1960s to Early 1970s page 92:

Chapter 3, page 92

On Jun 12, 2013, at 3:26 PM, Donald Boettner wrote:

I have a file folder labeled "Autonote" in my archives that contains a preprint of a paper "to appear in the Proceedings of the 1969 ACM National Conference in San Francisco",  a copy of the same paper as it appeared (10 pages), instructions for running it (SB55:AUTONOTE), 40 page user manual, and some examples of my using it.  (I tried using it on my thesis project, it appears)

The paper is titled "AUTONOTE: A personal information storage and retrieval system".  Authors are Walter Reitman, R. Bruce Roberts, Richard W. Sauvain, Daniel D. Wheeler, and William Linn.

The preprint is headed "Mental Health Research Institute Communication #248" and "Information Processing Working Paper #12 (IP-12)"


"AUTONOTE: A personal information storage and retrieval system", by Walter Reitman, R. Bruce Roberts, Richard W. Sauvain, Daniel D. Wheeler, and William Linn, in ACM '69 Proceedings of the 1969 24th national conference, Association for Computing Machinery, 1969, pages 67-76.

Abstract: This paper describes AUTONOTE, a personal storage and retrieval system designed for use by individuals working with large bodies of information. The user may enter a variety of textual materials and assign descriptors and phrases by which these materials may be retrieved. He has available mechanisms for deleting, replacing, linking, and hierarchically organizing text items. The system is operating on-line in a time-sharing environment, and can be utilized from a variety of terminals. Both use and implementation are discussed in detail, with special attention to utilization of AUTONOTE through an alphanumeric CRT display. Also mentioned are potential artificial intelligence extensions and the use of the system in a study of scientific problem solving.

William E. Linn Jr., Walter Reitman

This paper is concerned with the mechanisms of human intelligence and natural language communication, and with the design of an interactive computer program that incorporates and utilizes analogous mechanisms to improve man-machine communication. AUTONOTE2 is an improved personal information retrieval system. It includes, in addition to AUTONOTE (a presently running system), (1) mechanisms allowing the user to employ certain kinds of noun phrases to describe the items he wishes to store and retrieve; and (2) mechanisms enabling the system to maintain a map of what the user is referring to. Though extremely limited by comparison with the analogous human capabilities, these mechanisms add significantly to the descriptive power available to the user, and to the ease and efficiency of communication with the system. Furthermore, because AUTONOTE is a file oriented system, these additions add little to the present low cost of using the system. AUTONOTE2 also suggests new directions for software development for man-machine interaction, and it provides a practical testing ground for ideas about intelligence derived from observation of natural intelligence.

Man-Machine Referential Communication in a Personal Information Retrieval System, William Erwin Linn, Jr., Doctoral Thesis, University of Michigan, July 1972, University Microfilms, Dissertation Customer Services, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106

The trend toward on-line utilization of computers in recent years has included the emergence of computer support systems to fill the information processing needs of individuals engaged in scientific research. In this study, a new approach to document description is applied to the design of a personal information storage and retrieval system, AUTONOTE2. The system enables the user to: (1) define the topical content of each text items with phrasal descriptions, and (2) specify structural associations among the defined topics. A detailed discussion of both the design and implementation of AUTONOTE2 is provided, together with a case study of system performance during the description of a realistically diverse document collection. The results of the analyses suggest that the referential mechanisms used in the system constitute a viable alternative to keyword indexing in personal information systems.

On Jun 12, 2013, at 12:49 AM, Mike Alexander wrote:

Yes, I remember it [AUTONOTE].  Karl Zinn's papers at the Bentley contain "Autonote User's Manual, July 20, 1971" in box 20.

I also found this in the User:Planning archives.  It only mentions Autonote in passing, but is interesting for other reasons:

Jan05/86 22:42
75:10) Karl Zinn: Confer has been used in dozens of different
classes in the last ten years.  The important difference this fall,
as pointed out by Maya (#9), was initiative of students along with
commitment of resources for undergraduate classes.
   Finally CRLT can recommend and support practical and widespread
use of this tool in which we have made (relatively) major
investments over the last 15 years.
- - - - -
Jan06/86 11:52
75:11) Christine Wendt: Fifteen?  But K4QQ:RP.CONFER wasn't even
born until   1975!
- - - - -
Jan18/86 15:08
75:12) Karl Zinn: Chris, my response to #11 is somewhat delayed by
long hours helping new classes get started with Confer this term.
(Anyone else volunteer to help out?)
   My interest in conferencing was ignited in '64 by a visit to Doug
Engelbart at SRI.  Anyone remember the big screen (video
projection) demo he did at FJCC in San Francisco a few years later?
   The "major investment" by CRLT began about '71 with Project
Extend's use of various facilities on MTS for communications among
community college users of MTS.  I'd have to check my notes to name
all the various things we tried.  (Anyone k now about Autonote?)
Mostly we adopted conventions for using shared files (relatively
cheap and easy) for mail and joint authoring.  I recall one of the
early proposals for Merit (back when it was MERIT, and really a
"research information triad") was done through such "conferencing"
   I didn't have time to find my notes on the history of MERIT,
MICIS, IUCIUC and the CRLT proposal to the state ('64, I think)
when Research News did an issue on Merit, but I know they are still
   Bob's contribution in 74-75 (and continuing through the present!)
was to make something reliable, economical, functional, easy-to-use
and responsive to the evolving needs and interests of users!  Bob
has given us "the Ferrari of computer conferencing." (Byte, Dec 85,

Finding that Byte article might be interesting.


[A very large scanned PDF of Byte Magazine, Vol. 10, No. 13, December 1985 is available at https://archive.org/stream/byte-magazine-1985-12/1985_12_BYTE_10-13_Computer_Conferencing#page/n140/mode/1up (293 Mbytes). -Jeff]