One of the biggest challenges in computing is maintaining large volumes of information that have to be updated frequently. Over the years, so-called data-base management programs have been written to cross-index the data and speed the retrieval of selected items. Such indexing, though, takes time. And it continues to limit data searches to predefined patterns based on how the data were indexed. In response, Bell Communications Research (Bellcore), the Baby Bells' research organization, has devised a new way to provide broad and flexible access to large amounts of information.
Several times a second, Bellcore's Datacycle system broadcasts complete copies of a data base throughout a fiber-optic data network at speeds of 32 million characters a second and faster. All computers on the network receive the entire data base and electronically copy from it only what they're looking for. Key to the scheme are high-speed "filter" chips that Bellcore has invented to do the quick scanning. One big advantage: Even nationwide data bases can be maintained at a single location, without regard to how different receiving computers intend to use the information.