The Year of Reading Dictionaries

My first real job in Los Angeles was for System Development Corporation (SDC) in Santa Monica. My predecessor in the job was a young woman who was murdered by a UCLA film student. How odd that she was succeeded by another UCLA film student—me!

The nature of the job was to proofread two transcriptions of Merriam-Webster dictionaries. Thy had been punched on paper tape and converted to character files that were sent to a line printer. The first was the Merriam-Webster Seventh Collegiate Dictionary and the other was the M-W Pocket Dictionary.

Everything had been entered—not only the definitions but the pronunciations and etymologies as well. This was a database to be used to assist in computer translation between languages. Was it, in fact, ever used for this purpose? I don’t really know, because my part of the project ended before the database was ever used for any practical purpose.

The project ended with a publication in June 1969 of which I was a co-author: Two Dictionary Transcripts and Programs for Processing Them. Volume I. The Encoding Scheme, PARSENT, and CONIX. My co-authors were Richard Reichert and John Olney. If you are interested in reading it, you will find a copy in the Library of Congress.