From ‘Archive 1996 – what were we up to 20 years ago?’, the Spring 1986 meeting item ‘introduction to Kew and overview of computing facilities’.



The Royal Botanic gardens (RBG) installed the Prime minicomputer during December 1983. The choice of equipment was made while RBG were still part of the ministry of agriculture fisheries and Food (MAFF) STATUS was also selected by MAFF as their major database package, although RBG were represented on the selection committee.

Before the RBG computer was installed MAFF provided computing mainframe. This work covered part resource on their central ICL of the Plant Record system, Seed Bank Recording and the use of statistical packages.

The following computer equipment is now installed at RBG:

  • Prime 9750 processor with 4Mb memory
  • 2 300 MB exchangeable disks
  • 5 315 MB Winchester disks
  • 1 1600/6250 BPI magnetic tape deck
  • 1 600 LPM Central printer
  • 50 terminals
  • 22 s1ave printers

The local communications network is based on CASE Grapevine with a recently purchased CASE DCX850 to provide a range of facilities which include line contention handling , message and service switching , and dial up facilities . A small Grapevine system has been installed at the RBG Garden at Wakehurst Place in Sussex which is then linked by private Telecom line to the Kew computer. RBG is also connected to the MAFF network.

Some 220 members of staff are registered to use the computer.

Database Projects

Plant Collections This was our first major database to go 1ive. The full record of data available for each specimen (c.86,000) is now on the Prime and is used in the day-to-day management of the collections at Kew and Wakehurst Place , and for general interrogation and simple report production. Separate databases are available to transfer records of ‘ dead ‘ specimens (c.4,000) from the live database and to hold National Trust arboretum records (c.26,000) .

Bibliographies A Plant anatomy bibliography database is now available (c.70,0000 records) and two others are in the process of being developed – Kew records of Taxonomic Data (c. 60,000) , and Economic Botany of which some 35,000 records are loaded out of a total of 90,000.

Index Kewensis The complete IK has been digitised and loading has commenced, supplement 12 is now online (17.000 of 950,000 records) and the next batch in being cleaned up. Data for the current supplement is being keyed directly into the Prime for transmission to the publisher and to provide the source for the database.

Generic Index This database contains all the generic and associated familiar names accepted by RGB (c. 16,000), and includes synonomy and homonomy.

Other developed systems

  • Specimen lists for floras
  • Leguminosae database
  • Palynology slide index
  • Wood Anatomy
  • Worth weather recordings (300Mb)

Projects under development

  • Museum specimen catalogue
  • SEPASAL database (arid lands research project)
  • Door / collector index
  • Geographic index
  • Danum Valley International Collection Project