by Wayne M. Krakau - Chicago Computer Guide, May 1993

The AIIM Show hit town April 5th through 8th at McCormick Place. It was sponsored by the Association for Information and Image Management. The really unusual thing about this year's exhibition was that the biggest breakthrough was not technological - it was political.

Nien-Ling Wayman, president and founder of Compulink Management Center (Torrance, CA), the makers of the LaserFiche family of PC/LAN based image and document management products has been elected to the AIIM board of directors. This is the first infiltration by a representative of an open PC/LAN product into an organization dominated by manufacturers of large, expensive, proprietary systems.

AIIM is just starting to experience the same changes that publishing has gone through over the last few years. The shows were originally ruled by large proprietary vendors fighting to lock customers into their own unique (and incompatible) way of doing things.

This gradually transitioned into an intermediate stage wherein these manufacturers offered scaled down systems in an attempt to stem the tide. These shrunken systems contained standard pieces of PC technology with a different brand name slapped on the front and the price tag boosted to levels barely below the old systems.

In viewing publishing shows, I was often able to identify the real manufacturer's names and even the exact model numbers of these camouflaged items. There was usually a major price difference - multipliers of three to four were not uncommon. Eventually, the importance of the large system companies diminished. They still exhibit in some of the publishing shows, but only to cater to the most conservative of the attendees.

The same process is happening in AIIM. Ms. Wayman's election is but the first of what will certainly be an ongoing series of incremental changes in the balance of power. That's evolution. (The mammals are coming! The mammals are coming!)

Let's hope that she has the strength to refrain from laughing aloud when one of her colleagues tells her that "small" systems CAN'T do some task that she knows has been done on "small" systems for several years. That's always been one of the more difficult things for me.

This election also gives Novell an ally within AIIM, since Compulink is an early implementor of the new Novell-Kodak image enabled Netware system. This system allows image-oriented products to run as an NLM (Netware Loadable Module) inside of a Netware file server providing true client-server technology (where the file server does the searching, not the workstation) to image databases. Since Novell has declared that image management is the next great network application, this kind of clout is of great strategic importance.

There were some interesting technical developments at the AIIM Show as well. Optical jukeboxes (also called autochanger) were there in force. The devices allow access to multiple optical disk cartridges via software commands. They work very much like an old Wurlitzer jukebox, with cartridges in place of records. They do, however, allow multiple drives within the larger capacity systems. The drives can be WORM (Write Once, Read Many or Mostly), read/write, multifunction, or CD-ROM (Compact Disc - Read Only Memory).

The largest of these jukeboxes now holds 1.4 Terabytes (trillions of characters) using twelve-inch cartridges! In round numbers that's a one and a four followed by eleven zeros! Each byte represents the equivalent of one character. They don't even bother attaching them to the file server. They attach them directly to the Ethernet cable. High-speed magnetic media (that's means regular disk drives) are used to cache the information from the optical disks. Before you jump to the conclusion that their capacity is too great to be useable, remember that Netware 3.11 can theoretically handle twenty-two of these drives with plenty of room left for software and indexes. Netware is designed to swallow thirty-two terabytes of storage.

The phenomenon of multiple brands and price ranges for the same device that happened in publishing was very apparent in another model of optical jukebox. It was sold under so many different brand names that I lost count. This jukebox holds up to one thousand and fifty-four cartridges while configured with one drive of your choice - it's made to hold different types and brands of drives. In a more realistic configuration, multiple drives would be implemented, with each additional drive reducing the cartridge capacity by ten. Depending on the drive chosen, each 5.25-inch cartridge can hold from six hundred megabytes (millions of characters) to one gigabyte (billions of characters).

Other breakthroughs were in the scanning area. Bell & Howell's forty-eight page per minute dual sided scanners scan both sides of a sheet at once, giving an effective throughput of ninety-six "faces" per minute. Kodak was showing single-side models with speeds in excess of one hundred and forty pages per minute. TDC was showing a wide variety of high-speed scanners with both single and dual sided capabilities. All of these brands can be connected to a PC via Kofax's newest line of high speed controller/compression cards.

As I finish this column, I have just received word that I won a scanner and its companion software by dropping my business card into a fishbowl during the AIIM Show. Hmmmmm. I started thinking about winning this prize after twenty-plus years of attending trade shows without winning anything. Now I know why Lotto works - there's always hope.

                                    1993, Wayne M. Krakau