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Digital access to EU information 30 years ago

I just stumbled over a nice academic publication presented quite exactly 30 years ago, in June 1981.

This article titled “A practical introduction to sources of information about the European Communities” by Giancarlo Pau (an Italian working at the Commission representation in the UK; Source (pdf)) covers ways to get information about the European Communities, including computerised ways.

Some beautiful quotes from his article on digital technology and EU information at the time (p.432):

A special transmission network, Europe’s first high-speed computerised information retrieval system (Euronet-Diane), now links together the capitals of the member states of the Community. Diane (Direct Information Access Network for Europe) is composed of independent European computerised information services (known as ’Hosts’) which can give access to databases and databanks. Access to this expanding European network of information—which range from scientific and technical to legal, economic and social data—is remarkably simple. All the user needs is his own computer keyboard and screen, a normal telephone and a pass-word to enter the system. […] One year after the official inauguration, approximately 28 hosts are connected to Euronet Diane and more than 1700 organisations currently use the network’s 250 databases.

And already then, the EU Commission was at the forefront of technical innovation (p.432, highlight by me):

The Commission is also studying the possibility of linking Euronet to the new videotex technology (a system which presents computerised data in visual form by means of a television set) thus enabling a subscriber to telephone for information which is then displayed on his television screen.
Not to forget the endless topic of machine-translation and multilingualism (p. 432, own highlight):
The network  has been specially designed to allow access by different makes of computers and all are covered by common ‘command language’. This means that users in all the Community member states can talk to each of host computers in a single language. The Commission is currently looking into the possibility of developing computer translation of the data itself. Use of this method—known as ‘Systran’—would greatly  increase the value of Euronet information.
Some of the things from back then still exist as of today, even if they have been reformed, updated and renamed since then (p. 433; links to current websites added by me):
Two databases available on Euronet Diane deserve a special attention because they  concern everyone in Europe, CRONOS, the statistical database which I have already mentioned, and CELEX.
It’s great to see that 30 years later we are still discussing how the EU presents its information, how gets all its pages translated and how it deals with the issue of multilingualism online. But not now, because most of the institutional Brussels seems to have disappeared to holidays.


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