Tomas Ohlin

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Tomas Ohlin (1934) is a Swedish information specialist.

On two occasions in the late 1970s, Ohlin invited the authors of The Network Nation (1978), Murray Turoff and Roxanne Hiltz, to Stockholm, to present their ideas to a group of people including himself, Jacob Palme, and Torgny Tholerus.

A group authored a number of articles promoting the idea of networked communication. In 1971, Ohlin wrote an article for the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper proposing home terminals so that people would have better access to government documents and be able to take part in computerized citizens’ panels to enhance democracy. Tholerus wrote a paper titled "Computers for Everyone" [Allmänhetens informationssystem] (1974), which proposed that computers could be used as tools for a new kind of free speech – where anyone was able to have their say in ways which enabled everyone to listen. Palme wrote a paper "The General Public Information System" (1974) proposing people should use computers to handle textual messages, where anyone could write what they wanted and everyone could access the information and comment on it. Palme also wrote an article for the newspaper Dagens Nyheter in 1975 proposing that the new Swedish National Encyclopedia should be published on computer networks, available to everyone, instead of as a set of printed volumes.

Between 1978 and 1981, Ohlin was the secretary of several government committees (e.g., the information technology committee, Informations teknologiutredningen, and the commission on new media) which, among other things, proposed that simple, low-cost home terminals could provide access to databases of linked pages, and that consumer information should be available through the same terminals.

In the mid-1970s, Ohlin was working at a government agency for research funding. Together with a small group of partners, he started the Telecommunications and Regional Development (Terese) project in Sweden that included studies of pioneering communication software. This project, carried out through social trials of computer conferencing in the north of Sweden in 1976–77, used the then unknown Planet narrowband communication system, with fifty writing terminals equipped with acoustic modems. The system was used in applications concerning transport, education, and health services, among others. A small number of people, mainly researchers at DSV, KTH-NADA, and FOA (the Defense Research Establishment of Sweden), also used Planet.

Palme later developed a new, more powerful forum system which became popular. At its peak in 1987, it had thousands of users, and was the largest of its kind in Sweden at that time.