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November 28, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

Memex Information Systems Ltd, East Kilbride Scotland, has launched an upgraded version of its Textract hardware-based text retrieval system. With the incorporation of an enhancement called Navigate and Search, Textract – which until recently was restricted to sales on Gould Computer Systems hardware under the name Hypersearch – can be configured and networked to handle distributed, dynamic information networks consisting mainly of textual data. Memex is aiming the product at what it regards as a major emerging market in the 1990s, embarassingly dubbed text exploitation, and claims that Textract can search very large databases without any loss in performance. A database to contain one gigabyte of text can be created in 12 hours, and by using advanced text compression techniques, requires only half a gigabyte in total storage space. Because the system uses hardware to perform its operations, it doesn’t execute code, has no occurrence lists and enables other users in the system to have full access to the CPU whilst text retrieval is going on. As well as Sun and Gould hardware, the product runs on the DEC MicroVAX II under VMS, and provides invisible interfaces with other relational databases such as SQL/DS, Oracle and Ingres. Memex claims that its approach to text retrieval is both fast and cheap – citing the cost of five Sun 3 workstations with Textract to handle one gigabyte of data as UKP250,000, compared with upwards ozzf UKP2.5m for a comparable mainframe solution – Textract still has some traditional retrieval deficiencies, such as case insensitivity when searching. The exclusive phase of the deal with Gould deal ended in 1987, and although the agreement as a whole still has two years to run, Memex resellers have been successfully selling Textract systems into applications where they claim that volume and volatility of the text resource makes efficient retrieval impossible by any other means. Sun UK’s John Coon regards the improved Textract as an important addition to Sun’s application platform and says it has many implications for Sun in the commercial, government and military markets.

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