UPI/ISR (circa 1973)



Here's the text of a two-color brochure UPI produced in the mid-1970s explaining its move to video terminals, etc. It featured a nice wide-angle photograph of the general desk at UPI's New York headquarters. Also included are photos of abstracts of incoming stories on a printer, an electronic queue and an unidentified UPI editor at a "video terminal."


IS&R is a system of sending devices, communications links, computers and video terminals. UPI uses it to edit and distribute its national and international services--over 30 outgoing circuits including general, business and sports wires; newspapers and broadcast wires, and international circuits in three languages.

On March 6, 1972 UPI's primary domestic news circuit, the A-wire was converted to IS&R. Since then, other services have been phased into the systems. The expansion continues.

UPI has begun a program of bringing state and regional reports into the system. By the end of 1974, all writing and editing in the 100 UPI U.S. bureaus will be done on electronic devices.

Subscribers will be able to retrieve news at will from UPI's computers.

The vast amount of information passing through the IS&R system is being permanently stored. It will be the database for an electronic morgue library.

IS&R is a newsroom tool. It helps organize the information explosion. IS&R enables UPI editors--and subscriber editors--to have access to a choice of news as never before.

The heart of the IS&R system is a Spectra 70/45 computer in the data processing center of UPI's New York world headquarters. It is one of three such computers. The others are used for financial statistics, hyphenation and justification of newspaper services, and for backup.

Into the IS&R computer flows news from 200 UPI bureaus. Europe and Africa copy is funneled into a switching computer at Brussels where that coded for IS&R is automatically routed to New York via trans-Atlantic cable or satellite. Asia copy is automatically routed through a computer at Hong Kong. U.S. news is gathered by geographic divisions and sent into the IS&R computer by the eight division headquarters.

Until a bureau becomes all-electronic, the copy is punched on Teletype and transmitted by low-speed lines. Bureaus with video terminals file copy into the IS&R system by high-speed datalinks.

As the story enters the computer, an abstract is generated. This abstract is the first paragraph of the story with an information line attached for the editor. the information line gives a word count and the file number to be used for retrieval.

The editor types the command, "get aa100" or the file number and sends the instructions to the computer. This computer finds the desired story and copies it into the editor's video terminal. The original story remains in the computer. An exact copy of it is displayed on the editor's terminal screen. The terminal can handle a 1,000-word story, much more wordage than the normal wire story.

The editor can delete characters, lines, paragraphs or blocks of words. Or he can insert characters. Or move words or paragraphs. Or strikeover. Or even translate into another language.

UPI editors in New York, Washington and Chicago--the first bureaus to use the video terminals--mastered the units in two-hour training sessions. Not only have the editors accepted the system, they like it!

When a newsman has edited a story he sends his new version back into the computer with instructions on where it is to go. This new story is recorded and now two versions of that story are available.

A story that comes into IS&R from Dallas, say, may be handled by editors for the A-wire, the multi-purpose TTS wire, the broadcast wire, the cable TV wire, and several outgoing international circuits. Therefore, there will be many versions of the original story in the computer. But no re-keyboarding is required once the original story has been recorded in the computer.

An editor controlling a wire uses an electronic queue to keep track on his circuit. He sends a simple command to the computer which reponds by displaying the queue for his wire. This shows him what story is moving, the number of words and the time it will clear. Then it shows the editor what stories are stacked up to go out next, their word-count and the time they will sign off.

The editor can move around the stories on queue. Or he can remove one or more. The queue is his guide as he controls his wire.

If an urgent or bulletin comes into the system, the bells sent with it cause the abstract program to handle it ahead of routine items. The abstract of the urgent story thus appears at the editor's desk almost immediately. The editor calls up the story on his tube, edits it and files it back into the computer with an urgent priority on it. This priority causes the computer to "more off" the item in process at the completion of the paragraph. The computer sends the urgent story, then comes back to the story it interrupted, writes a "pickup line" and continues sending out the mored-off item at the point it stopped.

The change in the New York newsroom has been dramatic. Gone are over 100 Teletype senders and receivers. Desktop noiseless printers have replaced the Teletype monitors.

Most of the copy leaving UPI's New York bureau originated elsewhere. New York is an editing and relay point. Therefore much of the repunching that occurred in the past has been eliminated by IS&R.

For example, the sports desk in New York takes dictation directly on the screen on many sporting events. All UPI baseball coverage is handled in this manner.

The Baseball Central gets a call from the staffer at a ballpark late in the game. If the game seems settled, the staffer will dictate a lead even though the last out has not been made. The contingent lead is put into computer storage. An editor will call the lead out on his terminal and start polishing it. The staffer and dictationist may start on the bpxscore. A form, similar to the old paper box form, is stored in the computer and called out on the screen. Then it is filled in, in much the same way it used to be by typewriter.

While he is giving the box, the staffers keeps the Baseball Central abreast on the progress by giving the number of outs remaining. With one out to go, he may tell the New York deskman to change some pitching total in the game story. The deskman will relay the change to the editor who simply changes that part of thestory. When the staffer says, "game is over," the editor pushes a button and files the story on the sports wire.

When the deskman taking the box is through and proves it out mathematically, he will send the box to the sports wire and to the Dataspeed sports service by pushing buttons.

That is how IS&R works on one situation at one desk. Each desk or service has individual needs and problems. The IS&R system is broad enough to handle the functions of the varied news operations.

Each week, a new use for the system is discovered or created.

The UPI Information Storage and Retrieval System: A massive database that grows daily by millions ofwords, and the editing and communications ability to move it to those who want it.

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