information storage and retrieval

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

information storage and retrieval

information storage and retrieval, the systematic process of collecting and cataloging data so that they can be located and displayed on request. Computers and data processing techniques have made possible the high-speed, selective retrieval of large amounts of information for government, commercial, and academic purposes. There are several basic types of information-storage-and-retrieval systems. Document-retrieval systems store entire documents, which are usually retrieved by title or by key words associated with the document. In some systems, the text of documents is stored as data. This permits full text searching, enabling retrieval on the basis of any words in the document. In others, a digitized image of the document is stored, usually on a write-once optical disc. Database systems store the information as a series of discrete records that are, in turn, divided into discrete fields (e.g., name, address, and phone number); records can be searched and retrieved on the basis of the content of the fields (e.g., all people who have a particular telephone area code). The data are stored within the computer, either in main storage or auxiliary storage, for ready access. Reference-retrieval systems store references to documents rather than the documents themselves. Such systems, in response to a search request, provide the titles of relevant documents and frequently their physical locations. Such systems are efficient when large amounts of different types of printed data must be stored. They have proven extremely effective in libraries, where material is constantly changing.

See A. Ishikawa, Future Computer and Information Systems (1986).

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