[SIGCIS-Members] Resources re: history of menus in computing?

Murray Turoff murray.turoff at gmail.com
Mon Mar 24 15:28:42 PDT 2014

I did not get a chance to put in my reply to Ramesh's message copied to
me.  This is my view of menus in 1970 and used in the first Delphi
Conference System that year and later in EMISARI and EIES in 1971 and
1975.   I think it provides some further views on menus that i just caught
up with by getting access to sigcis.org which i will continue to track.

If you go to the book The network Nation, hiltz and turoff in 1978 it has
the original eies menus.  The book was reprinted by mit press in 1993 and
you can still get it from amazon.

Menus were used largely with the tty interface that was the only thing
available in general in those early days.  however, they could be very
efficient if done right.

In our system we allowed users to answer questions ahead so if they had
learned what the sequence of questions is that they had to answer to do
something they could type answers ahead separated by commas so that
all of  them
were done in one operation.  If you put in a ? in a sequence of questions
you could have the system stop in the sequence and get an answer.

Finally, if instead of putting in a menu choice you put in a command
+command it would execute that command.  One important command was +store
(name=question sequence) so that you could create your own commands to do
sequences you are always doing.

A map of the relationships of the menus was what most people used to learn
the system and then when they found out what they would do most often they
could create their own command structure for more experienced interactions
among those who became frequent users of the systems.

This approach can still work in todays screen oriented system and in many
cases would be ideal for more complex systems with many alternatives.  EIES
and EMISARI (the 1971 emergency management system designed in the u.s.
government for emergencies like the wage price freeze were not simple
systems.  They had many group communication features still waiting to be
rediscovered in the new social media systems.  If you want the full manuals

they are stored on a collection of early reports on the NJIT library system.


it is a library special collection.

In hte EIES system we could design special interlaces for groups.  You
might check out the manual on the TOPICS system which those with group
communication systems have still to discover how useful that sort of system
can be.

The very first group ware system i designed has a map structure given in
the article that follows and includes the complete discussion with a very
good group of computing professionals (Herb Grosch, Ruth Davis, and many
other well known professionals).  It was a delphi conference with anonymous
voting.) .  The discussion and voting was about future applications of the
type of system they were using.  It makes very interesting historical

Turoff, Murray, (1970) Delphi Conferencing: Computer Based Conferencing
with Anonymity, Journal of Technological Forecasting and Social Change
3(2), 1970, 159-204.

The map of menus in a complex system is great tool for newcomers that
should be designed for any system-especially a game and especially for
letting advanced users to tailor their own commands.  feel free to
reference any of my comments and you can reference the historical documents
on EIES and EMISARI where this was all done for real time large group
communication systems long before the current generation of social media
systems.   also feel free to ask roxanne or me further questions.


please send messages to murray.turoff at gmail.com  do not use @njit.eduaddress

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Information Systems, NJIT

homepage: http://is.njit.edu/turoff

On Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 1:16 PM, Subramanian, Ramesh Prof. <
Ramesh.Subramanian at quinnipiac.edu> wrote:

>  Hello,
> Menus were used in Murray Turoff's early computer conferencing systems
> starting in 1969/1970. Menus were also used in the HCL 8C microcomputer
> (India, 1978) as a way to provide an easy alternative to typing in the JCL
> on the keyboard. I can provide references, if needed.
> Regards,
> -Ramesh
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