A Chronology of Legal Technology, 1842-1995

[I came across the following chronology among some old files. I originally compiled it in 1995 in conjunction with a magazine article I wrote.]

1842

The fax machine is invented by a Scottish physicist. Images were sent by wire and the receiving machine recorded the images on damp electrolytic paper.

1867

The typewriter becomes available.

1877

Carbon paper invented.

1881

The mimeograph invented.

1890

West Publishing introduces Key Numbers

1938

Xerography developed.

1944

First electronic digital computer, ENIAC, weighing in at 30 tons and containing 18,000 vacuum tubes. Price: $487,000.

1950s

Transistors and miniaturized circuits lead to invention of the silicon chip.

1960

Xerox introduces the first office copier.

1973

Mead Data introduces Lexis, providing full text of Ohio and New York codes and cases, the U.S. Code and some federal cases.

1975

West introduces a database of digests and key numbers, called Westlaw

1977

Tandy Corp. becomes the first major electronics firm to produce a personal computer.

1978

Westlaw adds full-text information.

1979

Lexis adds Nexis, providing the Washington Post, Newsweek, The Economist, U.S. News & World Report, Dun’s Review, and the Reuters and Associated Press news wires.

VisiCalc, the first electronic spreadsheet software, is introduced for the Apple II.

1980

Some 724,000 pcs are sold.

Lexis reports annual sales of $31.9 million, up from $15.8 million in 1978 and $3.9 million in 1975.

Among new products:

WordPefect, word-processing software for use with a Data General minicomputer, from Satellite Software.

1981

IBM introduces its first personal computer.

1.4 million pcs are sold.

Average price of a facsimile machine: $10,500.

1982

2.8 million PCs are sold, ranging from the $77.95 Timex-Sinclair 1000 to a $4,000 IBM. (Biggest sellers: Timex, Commodore, Atari, Apple, IBM and Tandy.)

A Fortune magazine study determines that corporate legal offices would realize direct cost savings by using computers.

Among new products:

Apple’s Lisa computer, the first to allow users to carry out many functions by using a “mouse” to click on an icon.

Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet software.

1983

Time magazine declares the personal computer the “Machine of the Year” for 1982, in place of its traditional Man of the Year.

Harvard Law School prohibits students from using PCs during final exams.

Lexis becomes accessible thru an IBM PC, rather than exclusively through Mead Data’s proprietary terminals. (This was already the case with Westlaw.)

The price of a Kurzweil Optical Character Recognition unit goes down, from $89,800 to $69,800.

Among new products:

Syntrex introduces a new dedicated word processor targeted at the legal community, with automatic table of authorities generation, automatic index generaton, line numbering, and full-text searching.

IBM introduces the XT microcomputer, with a 10mb hard disk, for $5,675.

IBM introduces the System/36 minicomputer

Lassen Software introduces Personal Lawyer/Wills, a general purpose will writer for the IBM-PC targeted at non-lawyers ($50)

General Robotics Corp., La Jolla, Calif., offers an “electronic jury” for people who want to have their disputes resolved by computer.

Legal Talk, intended for the blind, reads aloud the results of Westlaw searches.

The Official Airline Guide goes online as an electronic database.

The Matthew Bender Automated Will Drafting System is introduced for lawyers.

A Westlaw interface for the IBM Displaywriter is introduced.

1984

Dialog Information Service adds Trademarkscan, a database of all registered and pending U.S. trademarks.

Top-selling word processing software were WordStar and MultiMate

Among new products:

The Macintosh computer, from Apple, which, in a radical departure, used a 3.5-inch floppy disk rather than the standard 5.25-inch. Price: $2,495 for 128K of memory.)

The Laserjet, from Hewlett-Packard, the first “affordable” laser printer. Price: $3,495; $220 for each extra type font.

IBM introduces the Portable PC, with 256K of memory and a 5.25 inch disk drive. Price: $2,795.

IBM introduces the “Cluster Program,” which allows up to 64 PCs to connect and share files.

IBM upgrades memory of System/36 minicomputer to 1024K and stroage from 400 Mb to 800 Mb.

IBM introudces new electronic typewriter that includes a disk drive for storage.

1985

Among new products:

Windows, from Microsoft.

The Apple LaserWriter. Price: $6,995.

WordStar 2000, the latest release of the popular word-processing software from MicroPro.

The IBM PC AT, with an 80286 processor instead of the 8088s used in other IBM pcs. Price: $5,795.

1986

As WordPerfect takes the No. 1 slot among word processors, its parent company, Satellite Software, renames itself WordPerfect Corp.

300,000 fax machines are sold, compared with 500,000 in all prior years.

IBM discontinues its DisplayWriter dedicated word processor.

Among new products:

Timeslips time and billing software. Price: $100. (Compare with another legal time and billing package then available that cost $18,000.)

An upgraded IBM PC XT, which now includes a 20 mb hard disk. Price: $2,895.

The Deskpro 386, from Compaq, with 40 Mb hard disk and 1 Mb of ram. Price: $6,499.

A battery-powered “laptop” computer, from IBM. Price: $1,995.

WordPerfect version 4.2.

BRS/Search, a full-text-search, litigation-support system, from NBI. Price: $18,000

1987

Computer Systems News declares the IBM System/36 and System/38 mimicomputers “dead products.”

500,000 fax machines are sold, as the average cost of a machine drops to $3,000.

Private e-mail services now have 5.6 million subscribers, up from 3.9 million a year earlier.

Use of Telex drops to 200 million minutes, from a peak of 397 million minutes in 1984.

Kelly Services announces that it will begin training temps to use PCs.

Harvard law School and Lawyers Cooperative Publishing team up to create an interactive trial-skills tutor using PCs and laser disks.

Corrections officers in Massachusetts begin using PC-linked “electronic bracelets” to monitor house arrests.

Among new products:

IBM introduces its new operating system, OS/2.

Macintosh II, from Apple. Price: $3,769; with 40 Mb hard disk, keyboard a
nd color monitor: $6,996.

The Series II Laser Jet, from Hewlett-Packard. Price: $2,495.

IBM introduces four “Solution Pacs” for the legal profession: Lawyer Assistant, $1,991; Law Firm Secretarial, $1,921; Law Firm Financial, $2,632; and Law Firm Practice Management, $1,932.

CompareRite document-comparison software, from JuriSoft.

1988

Cost of a low-end fax machine drops below $1,000.

The IRS first experiments with electronic filing of returns via modem.

Sales of Apple computers surpass IBM computers for the first time, 1.27 million to 1.23 million.

Among new products:

WordStar releases a legal edition of its owrd processing software.

West introduces its first CD ROM titles, including Federal Civil Practice Library, Federal Tax Libarry, Bankruptcy Library, Government Contracts Library.

Timeslips releases a Macintosh version.

WordPerfect version 5.0.

1989

Police in Ottawa County, Mich., begin using PCs and modems to transmit search-warrant applications to judges.

A study concludes that automation has enabled attorneys in the U.S. Justice Dept. to increase the time they spend on “thought work” from 49 to 69 percent.

Mead Data purchases Jurisoft, maker of CiteRite and CompareRite.

A Minnesota law firm buys 750 Macintosh computers.

In probably the largest deal to date in the legal market, Kodak Legal Systems contracts with Mayer, Brown & Platt for 1,000 networked workstations at seven locations, tied to 200 DECservers.

Among new products:

WordPerfect introduces a version of Black’s Law Dictionary to use with its spell checker.

1990

Fifty-nine percent of small-firm lawyers now use PCs, an ABA survey reports, but only 3 percent use electronic mail.

U.S. Supreme Court begins distributing decisions electronically under the auspices of Project Hermes.

Lexis reports nearly 270,000 users.

Soon after WordPerfect releases version 5.1, it becomes the top-selling word processing software.

“The PC revolution is over, and the PC industry has taken over the castle,” declares Lotus Development Chairman Jim Manzi

Among new products:

Compaq releases its LTE and LTE/286 notebook (under seven pounds) computers.

1991

Westlaw adds a “transparent” gateway to the Dialog news and business database.

Among new products:

A number of notebook computers are introduced at Comdex.

DOS version 5.0 is released.

WordPerfect for Windows is introduced.

Apple releases the PowerBook portable computer.

1992

Lexis now has more than 621,000 users.

1993

The Securities and Exchange Commission announces plans to put EDGAR, its online filing database, on the Internet.

E-mail grows in popularity among lawyers and firms.

Apple announces plans to make the Macintosh DOS compatible.

1993

Among new products:

The Thinkpad computer, from IBM.

WordPerfect version 6.0 for DOS and Windows.

Windows NT.

The Newton MessagePad personal digital assistant, from Apple.

The Pentium chip, from Intel.

DOS version 6.0, from Microsoft.

1994

Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti becomes first law firm to establish a site on the Internet’s World Wide Web; a number of others follow.

An Arizona law firm creates controversy by posting ads to thousands of news groups on the Internet, a severe breach of Netiquette.

Novell and WordPerfect merge.

Reed Elsevier buys Mead Data, owner of Lexis/Nexis, for $1.5 billion.

Among new products:

Several companies introduce automated speech-to-text dictations systems.

1995

Eighty-seven percent of solo and small-firm lawyers now use a PC, an ABA survey finds, and 23 percent use e-mail.

Lexis Counsel Connect and Martindale-Hubbell announce that they will assign every lawyer an e-mail address.

Lexis has 707,000 users.

Among new products:

Windows 95.

Law Journal Extra, an online service from the publisher of the National Law Journal.

Copyright 2010 Robert J. Ambrogi

Posted in: General
Updated:

3 Responses to “A Chronology of Legal Technology, 1842-1995”

  1. and you can add to your list.

    2012
    The explosion of Online legal services LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, eMinutes, ……….

    AND

    The Automation of how legal document are prepared by VentureDocs!!!

    Just as Westlaw automated legal research, VentureDoc automates documentation preparation to improve lawfirm’s efficiency.

    VentureDocs is NOT a law firm, it is a Cloud based software service You still need a lawyer to sign off on the docs. VentureDoc assures the client/companies are paying only for the valued legal advice and not wasteful, error prone word-processing time.

    Want to know more?
    Thad Leingang
    (408) 772-2131

  2. […] question and wanted to find out. That’s why we created the infographic below, inspired by this post from Bob Ambrogi’s blog, Lawsites. Our goal was to visualize the top 10 technologies that […]

  3. […] 10 Technologies that Have Changed the Practice of Law, was inspired by a post here on LawSites, A Chronology of Legal Technology, 1842-1995. Thanks Nicole and MyCase for turning my rudimentary list into something much […]

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