DOMESTIC BUILDINGS RESEARCH GROUP (SURREY)



Database - page 3

Transition

In 1985 Joan, with the help of Katie Dobson, compiled and published the first edition of "Surrey Buildings Recorded and Dated" - the Green Book - a full list of all buildings which had been recorded. The buildings were grouped by parishes, listing their estimated dates of construction and National Grid References. This book was essentially a paper database of recorded buildings, complemented by the Visiscan card database of recorded features.

In 1988 Joan invited me to discuss the possibility of using a personal computer to replace the Visiscan system. As a first step I offered to take the information from the 1985 Green Book and its subsequent Annual additions and produce an updated Book.
Using an Acorn (BBC) computer) and a home-made DMS written in BBC Basic, we were able to publish the new edition of the Green Book in time for the 20th anniversary AGM.
At the same time we now had a back-up copy of this on 'floppy' disc.

Translation/Transfer

The next stage was to attempt to add the information on architectural features stored on the Visiscan cards. Joan had created well over 200 of these cards, containing several thousand punched holes, each of which had first to be translated into a reference number.

The Acorn computer was replaced by an Apple Performa, the home-made DMS was replaced by a powerful commercial one - Omnis - and the basic data which had been stored on the Acorn was successfully transferred to the Apple. (Very fruitful)

With the kind help of George & Pru Howard a procedure was then devised whereby George visited Joan and photocopied the top section of a number of cards. Then Pru assiduously decoded and listed the reference numbers punched on each card before passing her lists to me to convert into data records.
By this means we created over 2,000 links between 3,800 building records and 162 features. Note that this left 1,699 buildings with no linked features, and perhaps 100 features not yet incorporated.

Meanwhile a new edition of the Green Book was produced and published in 1995 for the Silver Jubilee of the Group.

Transformation

In 1998 the Chairman asked a systems analyst to review what was being done and make recommendations for future action.
The principal conclusion was that the database manager, his computer and the DMS being used were all a "bit long in the tooth".
Said manager promptly went to the dentist, bought a newer, more powerful, computer (Apple iMac G3) and established that a newer, more powerful, version of Omnis was available which would operate with both Macintosh and Windows personal computers - several members of the DBRG use Macintosh computers.

After some deliberation the Committee agreed to purchase Omnis Studio and with the help of Omnis Support department the existing database was quickly converted to work with it.

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©DBRG 10th May 2007