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" I think that computers today allow us one last opportunity to provide something like a level playingfield in America."
- William Gibson

House Records  
  The vast archival information management system of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, covering millennia.  

Computers are young; the first working computer systems were created only a half-century ago. When information management systems are implemented in real work environments, like hospitals, the first problem is - what do we enter into the system? Think of all of the information that is passed around in notes, written by hand in patient charts, x-ray films and so forth. Now, imagine what would it be like to have the many different tidbits of data (in every conceivable format, as technologies improved and varied) entered over the course of tens of millenia to sort through!

At this point in the novel, Taraza needs to check the records of the ancestry of particular individuals; the Bene Gesserit kept records of key bloodlines going back 300 generations and more.


The holoprojector flickered with its continuing production above the table top - more bits and pieces that she had summoned.

Taraza rather distrusted Archivists, which she knew was an ambivalent attitude because she recognized the underlying necessity for data. But Chapter House Records could only be viewed as a jungle of of abbreviations, special notations, coded insertions, and footnotes. Such material often required a Mentat for translation or, what was worse in times of extreme fatigue demanded that she delve into Other Memories. ...You could never consult Archival Records in a straightforward manner. Much of the interpretation that emerged from that source had to be accepted on the word of the ones who brought it or (hateful!) you had to rely on the mechanical search by the holosystem. This, in turn, required a dependency on those who maintained the system. It gave functionaries more power than Taraza cared to delegate.

From Heretics of Dune, by Frank Herbert.
Published by Putnam in 1984
Additional resources -

Information management systems are as old as human bureaucracies; the ancient Egyptians had elaborate methods of ensuring that essential information (mostly related to taxes and land use) were kept from year to year. The "operating system" for information management was a whole social class; the scribes who could create and read the records.

I also enjoyed this little tidbit from the Bene Gesserit archives:

Bureaucracy destroys initiative. There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept. Who enjoys appearing inept?

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Heretics of Dune
  More Ideas and Technology by Frank Herbert
  Tech news articles related to Heretics of Dune
  Tech news articles related to works by Frank Herbert

House Records-related news articles:
  - National Archives And Dune's House Records
  - Immortal Computing - Microsoft's 'House Records'
  - The Digital Dark Age And Bene Gesserit House Records
  - Conservation Of Tweets
  - Vint Cerf's 'Digital Dark Age' Vs. George Orwell's

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