Science-Computers-The Use of Data Processing in Legal Research

In 1960, at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., representatives of the University of Pittsburgh Health Law Center conducted a demonstration of the use of an electronic computer in searching statutory materials. For purposes of the search, each statutory section had been numbered consecutively and programmed into the computer which contained an alphabetical list of every word in the statutes (with the exception of articles) and their location. To locate material on a given topic, the searcher requested the machine to list the location of key words or combinations of words which he believed were present in the relevant materials to be searched. For example, if a searcher wanted a comprehensive list of all statutory references to illegitimate children, he would feed into the computer words such as “child” or “natural child,” or combinations such as “child out of wedlock.” Such a request would cause the computer to identify the exact location in the statutes of each appearance of the particular word sought. The obvious advantages of this method of searching are the timesaving elimination of manual indexing and searching and the thoroughness of the search.