chapter  4
32 Pages

Centers of activity

The Founding of CAAL, the First Literary Data Processing Center in Gallarate, Italy, 1954–1956

This chapter is about S. J. Roberto Busa's establishment of the first humanities computing center in Gallarate in 1956, the Center for Literary Data Analysis (CAAL): the Center for the Automation of Literary Analysis. Busa's 1961 presentation in France characterized the work of CAAL in terms of "'industrial accounting'", that is, "techniques for the continual control of production, time, and costs. Father Busa's remark about detecting "the mathematical structure of the language" suggests how far the practical work of making concordances had taken him into the realm of a linguistics that applied information theory to natural language. Father Busa was not just an operator; he made himself a kind of human switch, someone who routed the interchange and formed the link with his own itinerant activity, and in so doing, extending an international network. Father Busa's background and training led him in a direction that converged with IBM's interests.