Last Writes? Re-assessing the Law

Review in the Age of Cyberspace

Spotlight on...John Horty

John Horty, a graduate of the Harvard Law School, became the Director of the University of Pittsburgh Health Law Center in 1956; from 1960, he was also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. In 1959, he began to explore the potential of computer technology for legal research, and inaugurated a project to computerize all Pennsylvanian statues related to health law. The statutes were initially encoded on punch cards, the information from which was tranferred to magnetic tape on a series of IBM mainframes. The scope of Horty's database gradually expanded to include the rest of the Pennsylvanian statutes, the opinions of the Pennsylvania Attorney General on education, the complete statutes of New York, and decisions of the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas and the United States Supreme Court. Horty and his team of programmers developed the "KWIC" ("Key Words in Combination") search system which allowed legal researchers to customize a search free from the constraints of traditional print-based indexing tools. In 1968, Horty left the University of Pittsburgh to establish his own information technology firm, Aspen Systems Corporation. In 1970 the American Can Co. became principal stockholder of Aspen; the following year Horty entered private practice as managing partner of the Pittsburgh firm of Horty, Springer & Mattern, where he specialized in health and hospital law issues.

Photo courtesy University of Pittsburgh Archives.

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