When I wrote about the UK Pyrrho predictive coding judgment on 23 February, I referred to the first information retrieval application I ever used, saying this:
If the Master did indeed see “primitive versions of this kind of process” in the mid-80s, then he was somewhat ahead of the rest of us. I was learning how to do command-line Boolean searches in the then new ZyIndex in the mid-80s and that seemed terribly sophisticated (as indeed it was by the standards of the time).
ZyIndex was the first product of computer technology company ZyLAB which was founded in the Netherlands in 1983, making it truly a veteran in its field. 33 years later, and with a strong presence in the US and the UK as well as in the Netherlands, it is still very much a leader, with applications and consultancy covering the full range of corporate data management, from information governance through to eDiscovery. Its software is used by in-house counsel, law firms, information and IT professionals, HR compliance teams, and records management; it is used by government and in investigations including, famously, the O.J. Simpson and Uni-Bomber investigations, as well as the United Nations War Crimes Tribunals.
I can’t remember when I got hold of a copy of ZyIndex. I think I had moved on from my first PC, with green type on a black screen, and moved to a Toshiba laptop. My data retrieval requirements were tiny compared with those of today, but I fell eagerly on a tool which allowed me to retrieve files in response to keyword searches. In those days, retrieval was done by typing Boolean search strings into a command line, and I became adept at searching for words using this, preparation, perhaps, for a subsequent spell at programming.
Even as I was reminiscing in my article about my early forays into computer search, Grace Whitney was writing a piece called the History of ZyLAB, published on the Beyond Search website here. She notes ZyLAB’s expansion from that initial indexing tool through to technology which enables companies to manage data, including the increasing volumes of unstructured data. ZyLAB brought advanced text analytics to this before many of the companies now specialising it were founded. Whitney Grace describes ZyLAB’s subsequent inventions thus:
During 2008 and later years, ZyLab’s milestones were more technological, such as creating the Zylmage SharePoint connector and Google Web search engine integration, the introduction of the ZyLab Information Management Platform, first to offer integrated machine translation in eDiscovery, adding audio search, and incorporating true native visual search and categorization.
A quick skim through ZyLAB’s website shows that it has products for all the full range of information management problems faced by large organisations, from document creation through to discovery and disposal.