Obsolete Technology: Library edition

This is Richard O’Keefe, Rice Librarian from 1968 until 1979, showing off what is apparently some cool technology:

Richard OKeefe 4th librarian 68 to 78 Fondren computerI especially like this one–he looks like the cat that ate the canary:

Richard OKeefe Exchange Director

Unfortunately, I have no real idea what the machine is or what it was used for. All I have to go on is what’s on the back of the second image, which doesn’t do much to clear things up:

Richard OKeefe verso

Any thoughts?


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12 Responses to Obsolete Technology: Library edition

  1. almadenmike says:

    This may help: The Feb. 6, 1969, Thresher’s “Notes and Notices” column (p.8) contains this: <>

    • almadenmike says:

      Ooops. Looks like angle brackets (which I used to avoid all the quotation marks) actually delete text in these replies. Here’s the item:

      — The “Rice: Spectrum ’69” television show this week is “Harnessing the Information Gap” (or, “Richard O’Keefe and His Electric Library”), and features O’Keefe, Rice Librarian; Rita Paddock, Regional Information and Communication Exchange (RICE) Associate Director; and Elizabeth Rodell, Assistant Librarian for Technical Services, who explain the automation of college libraries to the academic and business researchers keep up with the information explosion. —

  2. almadenmike says:

    The Woodson’s historical sketch for the exchange provides an overview of it’s purpose: https://library.rice.edu/collections/WRC/finding-aids/university-archives/RiCE

    — The Regional Information & Communication Exchange (R.i.C.E.) was established in 1967 as a fee-based information service operating as a cost-recovery center within the division of community services of Fondren Library. It provided library and research services and document retrieval for the nonacademic community that would otherwise not have access to the exceptional resources of a university library. Most clients were Houston-based companies utilizing the service to supplement their corporate libraries and information centers, or use as an off-site company resource. The cost-effective resource offered its technical expertise of reference and document-retrieval specialists by offering accurate, current and complete information mainly through electronic means.

    Revolutionary changes in how information is retrieved via the internet plus economic upheaval in how businesses function forced the closure of RiCE in December 2003. —

    Note that the “Information” initial is now lower-case: RiCE. I wonder if there were any intra-Rice copyright issues with an all-upper-case acronym.

  3. almadenmike says:

    “its” … of course (not “it’s”)

  4. almadenmike says:

    The machine itself is a computer tape-storage read-write data-storage device. No logo is evident, but I’m sure other readers will know more details about it.

  5. C Kelly says:

    Hmm. I thought it was an episode of Outer Limits in which a library’s computer went rogue and gobbled up all the books. It came close to conquering the world until a valiant librarian crawled across the heaving machine room and pulled the computer’s power plug from its wall socket. I think it was episode 4 from 1963 titled “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.”

  6. Mark Williamson says:

    Interestingly, the two pictures show different models of tape drive in different spaces. The indicator light arrays and the vacuum column arrangements are different. (So are Mr. O’Keefe’s ties.)

    I think the first photo could be in the basement of the then-new wing of Fondren, and the tape drives would have been 7330s or similar attached to the IBM 1401 that I worked on there with Fred Ruecking. I thought for a moment that the taller man in the second picture was Fred, but now I think it looks more like Bill Paling, which might mean that picture was taken in the Research Computation Laboratory in Abercrombie. I don’t know that R.I.C.E. ever used the 7040 there, but the drives in that picture do look more like the 729 family.

  7. Kathy says:

    When I was a science ref librarian from 1975-7 we spent some of our time working for businesses via RiCE. I don’t remember at that point doing anything with a mainframe; our primary activity was doing literature searches on remote databases (using dial-up modems that you had to stick the phone into…anyone remember those?!). You had to be trained in how to perform those searches at day-long classes; I like Google better 😎

  8. Marty Merritt (Hanszen '84/85) says:

    Sounds like RiCE was basically subscription Google before there was Google, or, importantly, the web.

    • Kathy says:

      Exactly right, Marty! Back when you had to be initiated into the mysteries of being a librarian to find information 😎

  9. C Kelly says:

    The device Kathy mentioned was called an acoustic coupler. I used them long ago, too.

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