The Proceedings of the 1989 NanoCon Northwest regional
nanotechnology conference, with K. Eric Drexler as Guest of Honor.
Return to NanoCon
Return to NanoCon
Proceedings Table of Contents
Return to Jim's Molecular
Nanotechology Home Page
NANOCON PROCEEDINGS page 13
Appendix F: Hypermedia Photo Retrieval
System by G. Louis Roberts
The following material was selected from among the illustrations
and notes used by G. Louis Roberts in his
talk. Photostatic copies were used for the printed version of the NanoCon
Proceedings, but for this electronic edition, some portions were
scanned and slightly edited, and some portions were typed, so that any errors
of transcription are the responsibility of the editor. Jim Lewis, July,
Hypermedia Operations Technology
Photo Retrieval System
Boeing Computer Services
Information Retrieval Technologies
G. Louis Roberts
Copyright© 1989, the Boeing Company
All Rights reserved
This presentation will be a guided tour of an application developed for
the Commercial Airplane Company, specifically for the Operations Technology
organization, in Auburn.
During this presentation, we will be focusing primarily on the issues of
"what, why, and how much" rather than discussing the implementation
details of "how we did it."
Please feel free to ask questions.
- Senior Analyst with Boeing Computer Services, Information Retrieval
- Developer Charter
- Implement full text, text and graphics, and graphics databases across
the Boeing family of companies, using a variety of technologies including
- Boeing Commercial Airplanes Operations Technology
- (Manufacturing Research and Development).
- Customer Charter
- To insure that Boeing Commercial Airplane manufacturing processes
are current, and optimally deployed.
Our organization is part of BCS's Corporate Support Division. We use a variety
of software tools on the three hardware tiers, from Tier I --mainframes,
to Tier II --minicomputers and organizational servers, through Tier III
We are chartered to develop full text and graphics information retrieval
applications internal to Boeing.
Our client for this application, Boeing Commercial Airplane Operations Technology,
is chartered to make sure that the manufacturing technologies in use in
the Commercial Airplane are kept appropriately close to the state of the
Our "work order" on their behalf, is to automate the Operations
Technology Photo Library.
- 40,000+ photographs (in 1985)
- Manual, multi-drawer "wall of files"
- Paper based, manual index system.
- Roughly 100 photos added monthly.
- Slow to retrieve documents.
- Complete retrieval can be problematic.
- Manual system contains errors.
- Users tend to stop when they get fed up, rather than when they've
gotten precisely what they need.
The system in place when this effort started was entirely manual. More than
40,000 photographs, slides, negatives, overheads, line drawings and other
visual materials had been accumulated over the life of the Company. The
collection was organized by a paper index system, in wooden file drawers.
On occasion, as many as several hundred photographs had been added to the
system in a single month.
The drawbacks inherent in manual systems had been impacting the organization
for years. Until recently, appropriate enabling technologies in the areas
of workstations and networking were unavailable in a cost effective manner.
Planned Production Scope
- All 40,000+ photos converted.
- Category information enhanced.
- Intra-site connectivity established.
- Site-to-Site connectivity established.
When full production scope is attained, the intent of this system is to
enable end user access to all of the 40,000 plus images from any
compatible workstation connected to the Boeing backbone Ethernet. Near term,
that means Macintosh and MacII computers, within the Puget Sound region.
Long term, other workstation types may be added, as may Company permission
for network connectivity of broader scope. The physical network is in place
today, and is being upgraded to optical fibre.
Typical Networking Path
The size and complexity of Boeing's networking environment is surprising.
It's almost a joke when people ask "What does Boeing have a lot of?"
The answer is "Everything!"
Even a simple communication configuration from our Renton site to the Auburn
test database host site involved five different communication "boxes"
before the signal even got out of our building.
The configuration shown was used to demonstrate the feasibility of running
an image retrieval application using Hypercard over Ethernet, on a file
End User Workstation
- Enter retrieval criteria on Mac (iconic interface).
- Interface drives videodisk player to single frame containing visual
- Requested photo frame displays on color monitor.
- Updates displayed 72 DPI B/W on MAC monitor; video disk remastered
only when "sufficient" photos added.
Although the screen prints of the system you see in this presentation are
from a Mac Plus, the intent is to go to production implementation using
a Mac II platform, storing the images as analog video on local optical disk,
and the storing database linking the images (and providing the
retrieval capability) on magnetic disk, on a local area networked server.
This will provide a degree of platform independence to the application,
since any software and hardware combination could be used to generate the
serial control sequences required by the videodisk player.
[Editor's Note: Only a very brief portion of the guided tour of how
the system appears to a user is presented here. Only the first screen illustration
is shown, and the notes for the subsequent screeen illustrations have been
condensed and added to the notes for this screeen illustration.]
This is the first screen a user would see upon accessing the application.
The main activity "loop" is multiple passes through the "Category
Selector", into the "Photo File", where an order list is
If the user cannot locate an image that is useful, it may not exist within
the system. On a "find failure" the user is given the opportunity
to view an organizational procedure whereby a new photograph may be requested.
A design constraint for this system was to make it as simple as a hammer
For that reason, the opening screen incorporates an animated description
of the "features and functions" of the system, that is intended
to be somewhat more entertaining than the system itself.
All the icons on this screen flash as they are being discussed in the scrolling
text field. When "you must obtain your supervisor's signature"
appears on screen, it is accompanied by a "lightning flash" (the
screen inverts very rapidly three times in succession) and a digitized audio
"thunderclap" is heard.
Category Selection ...
[The] "Category Selector" segment of the application [contains]
... over a thousand broad categories of photographs within the system.
This series of screens allows users to reduce the number of images under
consideration by selecting one category of images for detailed examination.
Users are allowed to free-browse screen to screen, and line to line within
screens, using either the on-screen pushbuttons or the keyboard "arrow"
Information is provided about what screen is being displayed, how many lines
of text are within that category, and how many cumulative items have been
Select by Keyword ...
If the user "clicks" anywhere within the text field, a data entry
panel appears, requesting keyboard input for text retrieval. Any word or
phrase contained in the text (including category numbers) is available via
Keyword Not Found ...
The "failure case" (if a word is not found) gives the user the
opportunity to be routed to the Organizational Instruction describing the
procedure for requesting new photographs.
If the user has just misspelled the word, and knows it, we allow him to
Organizational Instruction ...
When the user can't even locate the category of images of interest,
it might be because he is seeking "that which is not there."
We handle that eventuality by providing access to the Organizational Instruction
that defines the administrative conditions and procedures for requesting
the services of a photographer to take a new photograph.
"Generic" Image File ...
When the user is at this point, a category of images has been successfully
The data shown in "bent brackets" ("<example>")
is dynamically modified, either at file entry, or when individual images
are displayed. At all times, we attempt to provide the user with maximum
information about his location, and maximum cues about the next available
In all of the "image" screens, the control panel is across the
top. Forward, backward, and "go-top" arrow buttons are supported,
as are the keyboard arrow keys.
All the data fields in the left third of the screen are "live".
If the user mouseclicks in any of them, a data entry panel will be presented,
so that keywords or phrases may be used to further refine the selection.
Category Restricted ...
Certain types of materials are restricted, and require a special coordinating
process with signature approval, before copies can be released.
We warn the user if this is the case for materials being requested, both
on initial entry to the file containing restricted category materials,
and each time a copy of such materials is requested.
Show Instructions ...
If the user selects the "FIND" pulldown at the top left of the
control bar BEFORE clicking in a field and entering any retrieval criteria,
the "Show Instructions" choice is presented.
Enter Criteria ...
Here, the user has clicked in the "REMARKS" panel, and has entered
some retrieval criteria.
Filter Input ...
We filter the input, and detect any characters that might cause problems
with string parsing, or with later retrieval of a phrase.
Image Retrieved ...
Retrieval is possible within 3-5 seconds, even though our test system is
on a rather slow Bernoulli drive.
At 72 dots per inch, the standard black and white Mac resolution, this retrieval
spped is maintained over Ethernet.
Several browse modes are supported.
The keyboard arrow keys and the control panel arrow buttons support scanning
the images one by one, outside the context of any retrieval criteria.
The "FIND" menu supports dynamically modified "SHOW NEXT"
and "SHOW ALL" choices, in which the most recently entered "FIND"
criterion is shown in the menu, in upperclass letters.
Repeat Browse ...
Since a user might not have a specific retrieval criterion, but
might just be "free browsing" for inspiration, a "SHOW CATEGORY"
choice is supported, that shows every slide within the selected category.
On the "SHOW ALL" and "SHOW CATEGORY" choices, after
one pass through the file, the user is notified, and given the opportunity
to repeat the browse.
Order Original ...
During a browse or a slideshow, clicking on an image as it slides past "freezes"
it, so that it can be ordered.
The six available image types are shown in a pulldown menu.
Type Restricted ...
Certain categories of originals are restricted.
Here, we warn the user that a supervisor's signature will need to be obtained.
A color viewfoil has been ordered; the ordering of this item class is restricted
due to cost.
Category Restricted ...
In this case, we warn the user that the entire image category is restricted,
and that special approval routing is required for this entire range of images.
Enter Quantity ...
The item type ordered is repeated in the panel requesting the item quantity.
Select Source ...
The user can select the source negative for the original, depending on availability
Done with file ...
When all images of interest have been ordered from within a given category,
the user may then select a new category, or may elect to print the order
for those images already selected.
The Trail ...
Each time a category is visited, it is also recorded on a list that may
be displayed or cleared on the OVERVIEW panel. This feature is provided
for users with long lists, and short memories: if the system knows
where the user has been, the user doesn't need to bother to remember
Show It ...
The image categories visited have been selected for display.
Clear it ...
If the "CLEAR" choice has been selected, the user is given the
opportunity to revise the choice.
We always try to give the user the chance to "bail out" before
doing something that might cause trouble later.
User Form ...
The user may print order when all images of interest have been selected.
This is the first point at which we "know" the user as an individual.
Whether to capture this information here, or earlier, when the first image
has been ordered, is still under evaluation within the user and management
"Busy ..." your request is being processed ...
The electronic order form takes a minute or so to print. Since this is the
only point within the system where the user is exposed to any significant
delays, we say something positive, so the user won't think the system has
just "gone away."
User Feedback ...
After the user has provided feedback on this form, the answers are catenated
to a dayfile of all the responses given by other users earlier in the day.
Although we do not tell the user so, the name and mailstop already provided
for the photo order form is also catenated to this response, as
is the date and time.
A separate application (to which the users do not have access) allows review
of all the answers so that user requests and feedback may be incorporated
(as appropriate) into phased upgrades of the software.
Other Applications ...
All of these hypertext applications were developed to address widely variant
browsing needs. The Photo File application you have just seen is largely
graphics, with only a little text.
The next applications are towards the other end of the spectrum, in that
they are largely text, with only a little graphics.
Boris Mishel's DC Office Morning Report
- Daily analysis and "clipping service" of publicly available
media of interest and significance to The Boeing Company.
- Hypertext application developed in parallel with a Tier I text retrieval
application, as a menu interface for SEARCH®
- Six months of data in a 2 Megabyte text stack, accessed over 802.3
- Automatically load text.
- Full "Hypertext" point-and-click browse.
This application has not graphics at all; it is, however, the most "hypertext-like"
of the three, in that double-click selection of any word anywhere in the
text chains forward in the database to the next occurrence of that word.
SINGLE-clicking on any word asks "What is the definition of this word?"
If the word has been defined in an application specific database, the definition
is presented. If the word has NOT been defined, the user is put into authoring
mode, and given the opportunity to define it.
Each text frame contains a single topic, attributed to a source.
Although in the "real world", dates would obviously be present
in such an application, a conscious design decision was made to exclude
them for this demonstration, to allow the demo to be used over a longer
period of time.
Government - Industry Data Exchange Program
- Existing publication forum to facilitate exchange of information between
the government and various government contractors, including Boeing.
- A "proof of concept" demonstration application containing
only 500K data.
- Point-and-click browse frame-to-frame or hypertext word searching.
- Dynamic, context sensitive linking to separate graphics documents.
The orginal version of GIDEP electronically available did not have any graphics;
it seemed logical to provide the means to attach graphics to any frame of
Again, point-and-click hypertext is provided, as is the ability to free-browse
using cursor keys and or arrow keys.
The "PICTURE" button ... is dynamic. It only appears if the artwork
is actually attached to the given frame.
In this application is differentiated from the others in that the artwork
is maintained in a separate file as bitmap images in Hypercard, rather than
as analog images on a laserdisk.
- User's application learning curve may be shortened by:
- Providing a visual, mnemonic "model" of the application's
- Maintaining a visible "trail" of information space nodes
visited by the user.
- Providing "Shape Cues" for functions.
- Ensuring consistent "control panel" functionality and
- Functionality of Hypercard is adequate to the tasks attempted so far.
- Networking capability of Hypercard seems adequate over 802.3 Ethernet
access thru Local Talk to a Kinetics box.
- Text retrieval capabilities of Hypercard are in need of improvement:
HC 1.0 inadequate, HC 1.1.2 barely adequate, with programming.
External XCMDs available to meet this deficiency.
The "lessons learned" will probably come as no surprise. They
are certainly consistent with other work, already published.
What is surprising (to me at least!) is that a product like Hypercard,
intended primarily as a toolkit for a single user workstation, is able to
address the information retrieval needs of a networked application in such
an easy, straightforward manner.
This page concludes the NanoCon Proceedings.
Previous page of the NanoCon Proceedings
Return to NanoCon Proceedings Table
Return to Jim's Molecular Nanotechology Home Page
Return to Web site design and authoring
Comments and correspondence? Send email to Jim Lewis:
NanoCon Proceedings © Copyright 1989, by NANOCON
This page is part of Jim's Molecular Nanotechnology Web, copyright ©1996
James B. Lewis Enterprises. All rights reserved.
Last updated 6July96.
The URL of this document is: http://www.halcyon.com/nanojbl/NanoConProc/nanocon11.html