Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Trivia
The New England Electronic Commerce User Group Association (NEECOM) recently celebrated its 25 year anniversary at the Oct. 15 fall conference held in Westborough MA. Over one hundred EDI professionals attended the conference to celebrate the success of the United States’ largest EDI/E-Commerce user group association. Many people, including myself have been actively participating in this association since its 1990 inception. It is hard to believe that 25 years have gone by since I attended the very first New England Electronic Commerce User Group conference. In the spirit of EDI nostalgia and fond memories of the early days of Electronic Data Interchange. (EDI), the following are some interesting and perhaps, not so well known EDI trivia facts.
Trivia Fact #1: Edward Guilbert.
All of invention/technology has a ‘father’ – and EDI is no different. The father of EDI is a man named Edward Guilbert. Back in June 1948, the Soviet Union, which controlled eastern Germany, cut off road, rail and barge access between western Germany and the parts of Berlin that were controlled by the U.S., England and France.
During that time, Edward Guilbert, a US Army Master Sargent, and other logistics officers developed a standard manifest system that could be transmitted by telex, radio-teletype or telephone. With this standard manifest system, they were able to track thousands of tons of cargo per day until the roads to Berlin were reopened in 1949. Guilbert did not forget the value of standard manifests when he left his military duty. In the early 1960s, while working for Du Pont Co., Guilbert developed a standard set of electronic messages for sending cargo information between Du Pont and a carrier, Chemical Leahman Tank Lines. In 1965, Holland-America Steamship Line began sending trans-Atlantic shipping manifests as telex messages that were then converted into paper tape and input into the company’s computers. Since Edward Guilbert essentially helped to create the first EDI standards, he became known as the ‘father’ of EDI.
Trivia Fact #2: ANSIX12.
In 1975, the Transportation Data Coordinating Committee (TDCC) published the first official EDI standard and the first VAN (Valued Added Network) was created and called Telenet. While the TDCC standard served a very beneficial purpose for the transportation industry, other industries wanted their ‘own’ standard that would cover their specific business documents and guidelines.
In 1979, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) chartered the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X12 to develop uniform standards for inter-industry electronic exchange of business transactions, namely electronic data interchange. In 1981 – 1982, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) published the first ANSIX12 EDI standards. The standards covered business documents primarily used in the transportation, drug, retail and automotive industry. With the EDI industry standards in place, large US based companies such as Ford, General Motors, Sears, and Kmart started using EDI as a means to create, transmit, and receive business documents with their trading partners. They also began to mandate that their suppliers and trading partners adopt the EDI standards if they wanted to keep the business!
With the larger companies essentially forcing their suppliers to use EDI in order to retain business, EDI adoption started taking off by many companies. By 1991, appox.12000 companies in the Unites States were using EDI.
Trivia Fact #3: EDIFACT EDI.
The EDIFACT EDI standard was created by the United Nations in 1985 to promote the global reach of EDI. It was rumored in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s that EDIFACT would ultimately completely replace the ANSI X12 EDI standard, and become the defacto world-wide EDI standard, however, that never came to fruition. US Companies were too far entrenched with ANSI X12 to completely abandon it, and they felt the ANSI X12 Standards were easier to implement than EDIFACT. Today, EDIFACT is used in many European based companies as well as ANSI X12.
Trivia Fact #4: EDIINT.
Many companies wanted a less costly replacement to Value Added Network communication costs. In 1996, The Uniform Code Council was commissioned to develop EDI over the internet (EDIINT) to standardize the communications of EDI data over the internet. Although EDI over the Internet was not as expensive, companies were concerned about the security of their data that was transmitted via EDIINT and did not widely adopt this communications protocol. In 2001, the AS/2 communication standard was published by the UCC. The AS/2 enable encrypted transmission of data over the internet, and used the HTTP protocol. By 2004, Wal-Mart adopted the AS/2 standard to communicate with suppliers.
EDI has paved the way for the electric commerce explosion. It can arguably be considered one of the top technological advances in history since it ultimately changed the way companies as well as people around the world do business
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