Age 92, on Thursday, May 1, 2014, helped change the world through his pioneering work in computer technology. Born in Harlem, New York, in 1921, Allen was the son of a tailor. He attended City College of New York, studying chemistry, and served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. Following the war, he became an editor of technical manuscripts, which led to a legendary career in information science. Enlisted to participate in a classified project at MIT, he helped develop a system for mechanically encoding key words to help find specific bits of information within large documents, the precursor of today's internet search engines. At Western Reserve University, he helped establish the first academic program in the field of mechanized information retrieval, first using cards, then utilizing new reel-to-reel tape technology. Allen's 1959 article for Harper's Magazine, "A Machine That Does Research," was among the first pieces in the national popular press explaining to Americans how their lives would soon be changed by electronic information technology. In 1963, he founded and became Director of the Knowledge Availability Systems Center at the University of Pittsburgh. He was also Chairman of the Interdisciplinary Department of Information Science and Head of Communication Programs. Early in his Pitt tenure, he served as an advisor to the Kennedy White House regarding the creation of a National Information Storage and Retrieval Network. A prolific writer and editor, Allen wrote the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, the Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology, and The Encyclopedia of Microcomputers. Throughout his illustrious career, Allen remained steadfastly devoted to Rosalind, his dear wife of 71 years; and their daughters, Merryl Samuels (Marc), Emily Yeager (Paul), Jacqueline Maryak (Matt), and Carolyn Newcott (Bill.) Roz accompanied him on many of his worldwide travels, spreading his message of instant information for everyone. The family traveled extensively, driving great distances for professional purposes with a lot of fun along the way. He was also a loving role model and inspiration to seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Graveside Service and interment Friday, May 2, 2014, at 2 p.m. in Mt. Lebanon Cemetery, Temple Emanuel Section, 509 Washington Rd., Mt. Lebanon, PA 15228. Arrangements entrusted to WILLIAM SLATER II FUNERAL SERVICE, Scott Twp., 412-563-2800.
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Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on May 2, 2014