May 1992

NeXT going to races

by Eliot Bergson

Lexington, KY: Before the jockeys put on their silks and the first mint juleps were poured at the Kentucky Derby on May 2, a NeXTcube in the offices of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) had let local race officials check on volumes of information surrounding the annual Run for the Roses.

The '040 Cube, with 40MB of RAM and 2.5GB of disk space, allows racing commissioner and race-track officials around the world to check on licensing, court rulings, and suspensions for jockeys and trainers, according to Neil Greene, director of computer information services at ARCI.

Racetracks and commissions access the system through the Tymnet global network by dialing a local phone number. An Oracle 6.0 SQL database maintains all rulings and licensing histories since 1974, when the system was originally designed. "Computer technology has changed since then Ð there was no concept of fields, restricted searches, or other simple database features," said Greene.

The system also compiles statistics relating to wagering, attendance, and purse distribution. "Racing's changing fast, so the statistics had to change, too. Now we do off-track, intertrack, and simulcast wagering," said Greene.

It was this complex wagering system, and the fact that jockeys race in several states, at tracks administered by different commissions, that led Greene, founder of the Kentucky NeXT User Group, to push for a NeXT as host for the database. He explained that as use of the system grows, commissions and tracks should replace their various stand-alones and mainframes with NeXT machines.

"In the long term, I want to go to a more distributed network, and do our networking through ISDN. I want commissioners to have much better communication," he said.

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