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David M. Carlisle Fonds
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1958-1991, 2018-2019 (Creation)
- Carlisle, David M.
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ca. 26 cm of textual and graphic records and 3 MB of textual records
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Name of creator
David Murray Carlisle was born in 1936 in Grand Prairie, Alberta. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Alberta. One summer during his studies, Carlisle worked at Canadian Protective Coating to measure and plot the flow of electricity in oil and gas pipelines. After graduation, he worked another summer for Canadian Protective Coating before leaving to undertake a 3-year scholarship to work at Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company and to pursue post-graduate work at the University of Manchester, UK. At Metrovicks, Carlisle rotated positions, spending time in the Computer Lab where the company had not long previously introduced the first commercial computer with all-transistor circuitry. He worked on the large scale AEI 1010 system. Carlisle also had a rotation in the Metrovicks’ sales office. At University of Manchester, he learned to program the school’s Ferranti Mercury computer.
Returning to Canada in May 1961, Carlisle began his career at IBM as a systems engineering trainee just as the company began to sell 1401 computers (first computer where customers could write their own programs in a practical way). After several months of training, Carlisle started work as an engineer at IBM’s Edmonton branch installing 1401 computers. He would learn to install and program all six of IBM’s Electronic Data Processing (EDP) computer lines. Carlisle switched to sales in 1963. He moved to the Toronto headquarters of IBM Canada in 1964, becoming Manager of Commercial Analysis. At this time IBM was retiring its EDP computer lines, replacing them with System/360 computers that were software interchangeable (all could run the same programs and read the same data). In 1966, Carlisle received an IBM Outstanding Achievement Award, was promoted to Marketing Manager, and moved to the IBM Ottawa branch office. In Ottawa, he was involved with large procurement projects meant to improve computation at Government ministries such as Revenue Canada, as well as at companies like Bell-Northern Research.
Carlisle left IBM Canada to pursue a focus on online computer services, joining AGT Data Services in Montreal in 1970 and then at Datacrown in 1971. Both companies were service bureau, providing data processing to companies that could then forego a medium-size computer for their work. Carlisle was Vice-President of Marketing at Datacrown until he left the company at the end of 1978 after its merger with SDL. Infomart, a joint venture between two newspaper companies (Torstar and Southam) hired Carlisle as President and Chief Executive Officer in 1979. Infomart was started to find a solution for electronic publishing and text-search software. However, in 1979 it also entered into an agreement to begin to commercialize the Telidon videotex systems developed by the Federal Department of Communications in response to French and British systems being introduced. In the early 1980s, Infomart described itself as a videotex system operator, a Telidon systems turnkey supplier, and a database search service provider. Carlisle was a principal actor in the dissemination of Telidon and videotex technology in Canada and throughout the world in his role at Infomart. However, Torstar and Southam ultimately refused a deal that would have made Infomart the chosen instrument to commercialize Telidon technology, by, among other means, selling Telidon crown assets to the company. Torstar began cutting costs in 1983 and although Infomart continued to operate at a loss, it was kept afloat while it gradually decreased its videotex operations. David Carlisle was fired on August 3, 1983. Southam bought out Torstar’s share in Infomart and it eventually evolved into a media monitoring business, which was sold to Meltwater in 2017.
After leaving Infomart, Carlisle formed a corporation (Network Videotex Systems Ltd, later renamed Acuna International Inc) that consulted on videotex to many companies in North America, developed and sold a new videotex server software system based on IBM PCs, and participated in the development of 9 separate videotex system operations projects. In 1997, Carlisle joined Price Waterhouse Coopers and ran their service for the Year 2,000 date change problem. After this project ended, Carlisle retired. He described his experiences in the world of early commercial computing in Canada in a memoir called Videotex America.
Ingenium/Canada Science and Technology Museum acquired the fonds in 2018. Carlisle sent a revised edition of his memoir in 2019.
Scope and content
The fonds includes a memoir, scrapbooks, trade literature, photographs, slides showing Telidon displays, newspaper clippings, posters, correspondence and other records that reflect Carlilse’s university career and work at IBM, Datacrown, and Infomart. The records bear witness to the technological developments and commercial pressures that shaped the early years of the computing, data processing, and videotex industries in Canada.
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Preliminary inventory available upon request.
Related materials: the Canada Science and Technology Museum’s library holds a number of pieces of trade literature from Infomart, as well as technical manuals for IBM computers, such as the System/360, and Government of Canada Department of Communications brochures on Telidon. The Museum also preserves Telidon and videotex equipment, as well as a number of IBM computers.
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A. Torrance, 2021-01. French editing by Céline Mongeau, Larocque Linguistic Services, 2021-03. Entered into Archeion 2021-04-06.