Left to right: COMPASS Brochures describing the Library’s fee-based Computer-Assisted Search Service (COMPASS), ca. 1980s-1990s; The Cornell University Library Newsletter, Volume I, No. 2, announcing Olin’s launch of the service in February 1978; Texas Instruments “Silent 700” Electronic Data Terminal, Model 787, ca. 1984. Courtesy of Kathy Chiang, Mann Library
Before the availability of networked personal computers, librarians searched databases through portable terminals such as this Texas Instruments 787 model. It transmitted data at up to 120 characters per second and retailed for around $2,300. After connecting to a network via telephone, searchers inserted the handset into the terminal’s acoustic coupler (called “ear muffs”). Citations were printed out on rolls of heat-sensitive, or thermal, paper.