The plethora of approaches to the assignment of unique identification numbers to computer software has led the American National Standards Committee Z39, which oversees the U.S. standards in the library and information science and publishing fields, to establish a committee to design a standard numbering system for computer software.
Among the multiple approaches to "standard' numbering currently being promoted are:
1. a system for registering and identifying microcomputer software developed by Technique Learning Corp. of Dobbs Ferry, NY. Known as the Universal Software Market Identifier (USMI) the system allocates unique registration numbers using numeric codes to identify the publisher, software package and version number, and the target microcomputer. The final element in the code indicates the minimum hardware configuration needed for operation. Technique Learning Corp. plans to publish directories based on the data it collects through its registration program.
2. the use of ISBNs. The R. It. Bowker Company is assigning International Standard Book Number (ISBN) prefixes to hundreds of microcomputer software producers. The company sees the assignment of ISBNs to micro software as an aid to the retailing of these products in bookstores which currently use ISBNs to control software sales and inventory.
3. Imprint Software Limited, compiler of the International Software Database is promoting a system based on International Standard Program Numbers. These numbers are also used in the print products generated from the data base and published by Elsevier Science Publishing Co., Inc.
The Z39 committee was concerned about the potential impact that the use of ISBNs software might have on the quantity of ISBNs left for books. It also recognized that the nature of software products requires that they be identified not only by publisher, but also, possibly, by language, minimum hardware configuration, operating system, and edition. Z39 hopes that the new Subcommittee will be able to focus the needs of the diverse companies and groups in the industry.
The charge of the Subcommittee is to design a standard numbering system for software developed for mainframe, mini- and microcomputers. The system would uniquely identify each variation of the same software package in order to differentiate between products made for different operating systems, and different makes and models of hardware, as well as for revised editions of the same package.
The system will also have to meet the needs of retailers, distributors, publishers, informational data bases, and libraries. It should be easily understood by users; be converted for international use; and if possible, be compatible with ISBN. The Subcommittee is also charged with providing for a maintenance agency to make the numbers available and to distribute information about the system to all concerned.
[Contact: Patricia Harris, Executive Director, American National Standards Committee, ANSI Z39 Admin. Bldg., Room E1O6, U.S. Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards, Washington, D.C. 20234. (301) 921-3241.]