Carlos Cuadra 1925-2022 A pioneer in commercial IR service development

Carlos Cuadra died in August this year. I doubt many readers of Informer will recognize the name but Carlos was a remarkable innovator in information retrieval in the 1960s and 1970s. Almost all his development work was carried out in a commercial environment, notably at System Development Corporation when it was spun out of RAND in 1957 and then at Cuadra Associates from 1978. His early work at SDC was on the development of question-answering applications for the Los Angeles Police Force. In 1979 Carlos released STAR, the first multi-tasking/multi-user information retrieval application that could be run on a PC. It was (and indeed is!) widely used as an archive management solution.

A measure of the contribution that Carlos made to the development of on-line information retrieval applications is that in the definitive A History of Online Information Services 1963-1976 there are more items in the index relating to Carlos than any other individual.

I first met Carlos in 1979 and discovered quite quickly that he was as good a pianist as he was in creating IR software. A very quietly spoken man, his presentations to conferences were always well prepared and he actively encouraged delegates to come up to him at any time in the conference to talk about their particular challenges. Over the 30 years from 1970 to 2000, Carlos took over 300 business trips to 20 countries for conferences, speaking engagements, board meetings, and product exhibits. His first business trip was in 1957, his last in 2012, a span of 56 years.

Throughout his career Carlos was a strong and very visible supporter of the American Society for Information Science, subsequently to change its name in 2013 to the Association for Information Science and Technology.

Of his many papers I would highlight a 1967 paper Opening the ‘Black Box’ of Relevance ,  a long-standing and unsolved challenge! There are many more on Google Scholar under CA Cuadra

Three links below provide more information on this remarkable man and his contributions to information science and information retrieval. I remember hm well and have memories of very lively conversations at conferences in the USA over several decades.

Martin White

About Martin White
Martin White

Martin is an information scientist and the author of Making Search Work and Enterprise Search. He has been involved with optimising search applications since the mid-1970s and has worked on search projects in both Europe and North America. Since 2002 he has been a Visiting Professor at the Information School, University of Sheffield and is currently working on developing new approaches to search evaluation.

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