History of the Church's use of technology

Some discussions just don't fit into a well defined box. Use this forum to discuss general topics and issues revolving around the Church and the technology offerings we use and share.
jhvdh84
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History of the Church's use of technology

Postby jhvdh84 » Wed Feb 28, 2007 12:25 am

This is pretty much to anyone and everyone out there who may be interested or have information about this topic. I am a student at BYU and I am writing a research paper about the history of the Church's use of technology, more specifically computer/information systems, for one of my classes. So far I have been able to find very little out there on the subject, just some Ensign articles - some of which are very old. I would be very grateful for any possible leads or sources on the subject. Thank you.

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Wed Feb 28, 2007 2:41 am

That's a pretty broad subject. I do remember when our ward was shipped a nice new IBM PS/ValuePoint 486-25 to run MIS. As well as our Epson 386-16 that was used to run FamilySearch using CDs. (I miss that CD reader. It used caddies so the patron never touched the CDs. They just handled the whole cartridge.) I helped a friend install PAF1 on a Commodore C128 running in CP/M mode. (The specs called for two disk drives. The C128 only had one, but I made it work.) What kind of info are you looking for? I need to focus my rambling. :D

I do know the church's efforts in computing was documented in at least one computer magazine prior to 1985. I want to say it was a now defunct mag called PC/Computing, but I could be wrong. Someone from the church was quoted as saying the goal was to create a database of every man, woman and child who ever lived.

jhvdh84
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Postby jhvdh84 » Wed Feb 28, 2007 7:31 am

While I'm sure it would be great fun to hear about experiences people had with church computer systems before I was born or even knew what a computer was, for the purposes of the research paper I need some concrete, quotable sources. Also I'm focusing less on what specific technologies were used and more on how they were used. If I can find the article you were talking about that would be useful because that would make a great quote.

As one example, I'm looking at how The Church has used computer systems to first organize and prepare the LDS edition of the Scriptures back in the late 1970s, how a little after that The Church began using them to aid in the translation of the Book of Mormon into other languages - cutting the time it took to translate in half. Now we're simultaneously translating General Conference into 85 different languages and broadcasting it to the world. That's the kind of thing I'm focusing on I guess. How the church has used computer/information systems to further the three fold mission of the church.

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mkmurray
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Postby mkmurray » Wed Feb 28, 2007 9:05 am

If you could somehow get into contact with the leadership of those various departments, you could ask who used to be in that position and so on until you reach the individuals who actually worked on the projects...kind of a longshot...

I personally don't know of any official sources documenting stuff like that.

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chrissv
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Computers in the Temples

Postby chrissv » Fri Mar 02, 2007 11:42 am

I remember when I first went to the temple back in 1985 (Chicago), the temple recommends had a magnetic strip on them. You swiped the temple recommend at various stages in the temple to record the ordinance work as being done.

Being a computer geek type of person, I had a chance to talk to the main guy in charge of the computers for the Chicago temple. He rolled his eyes a bit as he was telling me the difficulties he had keeping the computers up and working, etc. I didn't get the details, but it appeared to be something which kept him busy!

Then a funny thing happened a few years later - they went back to the paper slip process where the names were cut off of a big strip of names, and you carried the name from one place to another.

Years later I asked someone in the temple about why the apparent "backward" step in technology, and he said that it was a case of the computers not adding anything to the process that couldn't be done by hand later.

I thought it was an interesting procession from low-tech to high-tech back to low-tech.

-- Steven

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Fri Mar 02, 2007 11:50 am

chrissv wrote:Then a funny thing happened a few years later -


The church reduced and simplified their record keeping. It was no longer deemed important to track who did the proxy work for whom - only that it was done. The same thing happened to the membership records.

With that simplification, apparently the technology of the time became more problem then it was worth.

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Postby BlackRG » Fri Mar 02, 2007 12:32 pm

It was my understanding that they took a step back in technology because it was found that the computers were actually slowing the whole process down for them. Given some of the rumors I've heard concerning coming changes lately it sounds like some of the ideas from back then haven't been forgotten and perhaps they've found some new ways in which to apply them so they do meet the need. This is all rumor on my part though and may or may not be true.

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2007 Church Almanac feature on Technology and the Church

Postby cottrells » Fri Mar 02, 2007 4:32 pm

Have you read the latest Church Almanac? The feature article of this latest edition "examines the use of technology by the Church to unite an ever-expanding membership". It probably does not go into the depth that you are looking for, but it does cover a wide range of topics and has extensive references in the endnotes. It was written by Jim Allen, emeritus professor of history at BYU and former Church historian. Maybe you could try contacting him.

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Fri Mar 02, 2007 5:37 pm

cottrells wrote:Have you read the latest Church Almanac?


Wow. Is this on-line somewhere?

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Postby JamesAnderson » Fri Mar 02, 2007 6:06 pm

There are also some books relating to the genealogy program, I think a whole issue of BYU Studies, which is online at a commercial site run by LDS Media, that because of it's nature, discusses the Church's use of technology and computers for family history.

Another book discusses the early familysearch things, that is 'The Second Rescue', likely out of print but you can find it around at used bookstores.

The system used for the temples from about 1980 to 1991 had, in some areas the nickname, 'Springville' because it was developed, including some hardware elements, by a person in Springville, Utah. When the temples went to a new system in 1991, since superceded by yet another system that prints things out much more nicely than then, I saw alot of equipment from the Provo Temple, including the blonde oak cabinets they were housing some of the printers (which used adder paper (sometimes called 'adder tape') by the way) and other equipment like keyboards, etc., in the local DI. There were articles in the Church News in 1980 (should be available in the HBLL at BYU) about this system as well.

Elder Nelson's 1998 talk 'A New Harvest Time' discusses technology to a degree, check any talk about family history for more clues about technology and the Church as it existed over the years too.


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