Scrapbook and the umbrella (groupware from the 70's)

I bought a book! And there’s an anecdote about an umbrella in there…

An early e-mail When Scrapbook was shown to the Director, the latest message in the demonstrator’s mailbox appeared as usual on the screen. This was a known risky moment, though what appeared could have been worse: it was a message from a colleague announcing that he had lost his umbrella and would welcome information leading to its recovery. This caused different reactions: the Director was concerned at the impression that the system dealt with trivia, whereas the team thought it showed how well fitted Scrapbook was to everyday needs. “John Stockton’s umbrella” accordingly found its small niche in computing history: trivial at one level, but quite significant at another. And yes, he did get it back as a result of the message.

The book is Turing’s Legacy by David Yates - actually about the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, a national research lab. The hook, of course, is Turing and his early work on the ACE, but there are many projects with a brief writeup. The following is from a TNMoC newsletter:

Early in 1971, four VDUs were connected to a CTL Modular One computer at the National Physical Laboratory and the first Scrapbook became operational.

… it should be left to industry to develop Scrapbook commercially and it was licensed to Triad and then to BT who marketed it as Milepost and developed a transaction processor as an additional feature. Various implementations were marketed on DEC, IBM and ITL machines. All NPL Scrapbooks were closed down in 1984.

The Museum is currently working on the restoration of a Scrapbook taken out of service in 1990 and implemented on a PDP 11/70, while the Archive contains a fully commented BCPL source code listing along with operator and user manuals and publicity material.

In the book, we learn of “a study by NPL of how a singleuser Scrapbook system might be implemented on a BBC Microcomputer” but it came to nothing.