By Michael J. Cook (Auth.)
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These are all relatively straightforward steps, complicated only by the large amounts of data that are often involved. An advanced operating system would be able to carry out most of them, and would not necessarily require a specially written program, or at least not a very complicated one. Where this is so, specific programs compiled for archives would be based upon the powers and facilities of the operating system which is in use. They would assume its capacity to support the programs, and would take advantage of its strengths.
Cheap dot matrix printers tend to produce a very crude image, each character containing only the minimum number of dots. A common feature of these printers is that alphabetical characters do not have true descenders: letters like 'g', since their pattern of dots must be contained within a small square, appear to have shifted above the line. More expensive models avoid this problem because their matrices are bigger, and they use a wider range of dot patterns. Consequently, if the right equipment is there, and the system allows, dot matrix printers can be used for almost any kind of output: Greek, or even Arabic characters (conceivably Chinese), or mathematical symbols.
Although the results of a search may also be used in printout form, essentially a search is a dialogue between the user and the computer system, consisting of questions and answers about what is held in the data base. Searching works best with a system in which the data is clearly structured into records which can be numbered or coded but this is generally the case with archival descriptions. To carry out a search successfully, users must have a coherent search strategy, including a knowledge of variant keywords and connections between keywords.
Archives and the Computer by Michael J. Cook (Auth.)