I heard about the arrival of the computer: Hans Rutimann and Julianne Nyhan


I heard about the arrival of the computer: Hans Rutimann and Julianne Nyhan


An oral history interview for the Hidden Histories project


This oral history interview was conducted between Hans Rutimann and Julianne Nyhan via skype on 15 November 2012. Rutimann was provided with the core questions in advance of the interview. In this interview he recalls that his first encounter with computing was at the MLA, c.1968/9. Following a minor scandal at the organisation, which resulted in the dismissal of staff connected with the newly arrived IBM 360/20, Rutimann was persuaded to take on some of their duties. After training with IBM in operating and programming he set about transferring the membership list (about 30,000 contact details) from an ‘addressograph machine’ to punched cards. After its early use to support such administrative tasks the MLA began investigating the feasibility of making the research tool called the MLA International Bibliography remotely accessible. Rutimann worked with Lockheed to achieve this. It was in Lockheed’s information retrieval lab that the system known as Dialog, an online information retrieval system was developed (Summit 1967). He vividly recalls how he travelled the 3,000 miles to San Francisco to deliver the magnetic tape to Lockheed so that they could make the database available online. He “jumped for joy” when, once back in New York, the data was available to him via the newly acquired terminal of the MLA. While making clear that his roles in MLA, Mellon and EIF have primarily been enabling ones (and to this we can add advocacy, strategy and foresight) he also recalls the strong influence that Joseph Raben had on him and mentions some of the projects and conferences that he found particularly memorable.


Julianne Nyhan and Hans Rutimann


Julianne Nyhan and Andrew Flinn 2016. Computation and the Humanities: towards an oral history of Digital Humanities. Springer


15 November 2012; supplementary questions were asked in a separate interview in 2016


Interview audio files are made available under a creative commons licence “by-nc-nd” with the following characteristics:
• by: the content must be attributed to me and the interviewer.
• non-commercial: commercial use of the content is not allowed.
• no derivative works: the material is to be allocated in its original form and may not be
See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-ncnd/
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oral history



Julianne Nyhan


Hans Rutimann



Julianne Nyhan and Hans Rutimann, “I heard about the arrival of the computer: Hans Rutimann and Julianne Nyhan,” Hidden Histories: Digital Humanities 1949 – Present, accessed February 22, 2024, https://hiddenhistories.omeka.net/items/show/50.