2016

Govinfo.gov goes online: On February 3, 2016, the Government Publishing Office (GPO) launches the beta website, www.govinfo.gov an eventual replacement for the Federal Digital System (FDSys) public website.

 

House and Senate Bill Status Information was made available in XML Bulk Data on the FDsys Bulk Data Repository.  Sample files were released for comment on GitHub prior to release through GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys), govinfo, and Bulk Data repository. (February, 2016)

 

House Rules in XML: The House Rules and the House Manual for the 113th and 114th Congresses were made available in XML format using the United States Legislative Markup (USLM) schema through GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys), govinfo, and Bulk Data repository. The files were released for comment on GitHub prior to release through GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys), govinfo, and Bulk Data repository. (April, 2016)

2015

GPO joined GitHub and shared documentation about the process used to create FDsys metadata. (March, 2015)

 

The Library of Congress’ site Congress.gov began to use the XML files as the default view for bill text. The style sheet used for display was first used on THOMAS in 2004.  

 

Member Data in XML: In April, 2015 (114th Congress), the House Clerk begins publishing some Member data in XML format.

 

Quick Links to Statutes at Large: The Law Revision Counsel (assisted by GPO and Library of Congress) made quick links available from the online version of the U.S. Code (uscode.house.gov) to the complete Statutes at Large.  The Law Library of Congress explains in their blog that users “can now jump to pinpoint page citations in the Statutes at Large”.

 

House Rules change: The House Rules for the 114th Congress continued to call for greater transparency and accessibility to legislative information. Among other things, the Rules instructed the Clerk of the House to make available electronically each memorial pertaining to Article V of the Constitution of the United States and added a requirement to parallel citations for amendatory instructions to Public Laws and Statutes at Large that are not classified in the U.S. Code to be included in proposed legislation.

2014

House Bill Summaries were made available as XML bulk data on the FDsys Bulk Data Repository.  Senate bill summaries were added to this collection in January 2015.

 

GPO’s official name changed to Government Publishing Office, reflecting the increasingly prominent role that GPO plays in providing access to Government information in digital formats. (December, 2014)

 

The Library of Congress completed the transition from beta.congress.gov to Congress.gov. (September, 2014)

2013

House Bills were made available as XML bulk data on the FDsys Bulk Data Repository. Senate bills were added to this collection in January 2015.

 

Docs.house.gov was expanded to include committee meetings, documents, and text of legislation that will be considered by a House committee. (January 2013)

 

US Code available in XML: In July 2013 (113th Congress), the Law Revision Counsel made the U.S. Code available in XML.

2012

The House created docs.house.gov, which makes text of legislation being considered on the House floor available by week.  

 

Committee Video: The House implemented a strategy to centralize the webcasting of committee proceedings, providing for consistent public access and archiving on Congress.gov.  

 

On September 19, 2012 (112th Congress), the Library of Congress launches the beta version of a second generation system delivering federal legislative information freely available to the public – www.congress.gov.

 

On June 1, 2012, House Report 112-511 that accompanied H.R.5882 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act of 2013 directed the establishment of the House Bulk Data Task Force to examine increased dissemination of congressional information via bulk data download from non-governmental groups supporting openness and transparency in the legislative process.

 

The Library of Congress, with support from the Government Printing Office, released an iPad application for the Congressional Record. The project was initiated by House Leadership and guided by the Committee on House Administration.

 

FDsys API Link Service is available at http://api.fdsys.gov/.

2011

House Rules change: The House Rules for the 112th Congress called for greater transparency and accessibility to legislative documents. The intention of the change was to ensure that Members and the public had easy access to bills, resolutions, and amendments considered in committee and by the House and to place electronic distribution on par with traditional printing rather than entirely replacing it.

 

House floor proceedings available in XML: The House Clerk’s office began to post the summary of floor proceedings on its website.

 

Letter from House Speaker to House Clerk: Speaker Boehner directed the Clerk to continue efforts to release the House’s legislative data in machine-readable formats.

 

GPO launched Mobile Member Guide App http://m.gpo.gov/memberguide.

2010

Live House proceedings: On April 13, 2010 (111th Congress), HouseLive was launched providing live and on-demand video access to House Floor proceedings.  

 

The main display boards for the Electronic Voting System on the House floor were updated from a series of light bulbs behind Plexiglas® to high definition LED boards. In 2009, the summary displays were converted to high definition LED boards.

 

On June 30, 2010 (111th Congress), Representative Charles Djou of Hawaii became the first individual to use an electronic device during a House Floor speech.  In the 112th Congress, the House Rules were amended to permit the use of mobile electronic devices so long as it did not impair decorum.

2009

GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) went live on January 15th with information from all three branches of the federal Government including content and XML metadata files for Congressional Bills, Calendars, Committee Prints, Hearings, Reports, Documents, Congressional Directory, Congressional Record, Public Laws, and United States Code. In December 2010, FDsys became GPO’s system of record, replacing GPO Access. In addition to being available on the Library of Congress’ THOMAS\LIS sites, XML bill files were made available on FDsys.

 

Discharge Petitions: Petitions to discharge legislation from a House committee were posted online and made available in XML.

 

Senate votes available in XML: During the 111th Congress, Senate Roll Call votes were made available in XML on the Senate’s website.

2008

Public Disclosure Forms: Lobby Disclosure forms were publicly available. 

2007

Public Disclosure Forms: Gift and Travel forms were publicly available with downloadable data.

2005

In 2005, the Capitol telephone switchboard received more than 30,000 calls per week. This was a marked decrease from the 1983 statistic of Capitol operators receiving more than 22,000 calls a day. The decrease in calls was due to the rising popularity of e-mails during this period. Based on 2002 statistics, on average the House received 234,245 e-mail messages a day, amounting to more than 88 million e-mails a year.

2006

LIMS, the House’s Legislative Information Management System was successfully ported from an IBM mainframe to an HP UNIX server.  LIMS originated from the Bill Status System.

2004

House and Senate Bills available in XML: The Library of Congress began publicly posting House and Senate bills in XML format.  It was agreed that the same style sheet used for the web display should be used by all Legislative Branch web sites displaying XML bill format. 

2003

House votes available in XML: During the 108th Congress, House Roll Call votes were made available in XML on the House Clerk’s website. Votes were available online, but in HTML format, since 1997.

2001

During the 107th Congress, the House Office of Legislative Counsel began to use an XML editor to draft legislation.

2000

The House Clerk presented the SGML/XML Feasibility Study Final Report to the House Committee on Administration.

 

The House of Representatives received e-mails at the rate of more than 48 million a year.

1998

The BioGuide is available online: The entries of the printed Congressional Biographical Directory became available online during the week of November 9, 1998 (105th Congress), at bioguide.congress.gov under the auspices of the House Legislative Resource Center and the Senate Historical Office. The project was the first SGML/XML project for the House and Senate and paved the way for the drafting of legislation in XML in both chambers.  With 15 previous print editions spanning back to 1854, the online Directory provides up-to-date information on Members of Congress to researchers around the world.

1997 

Establishment of exchange standards: During the 105th Congress, the Clerk’s Office started an effort to establish a document exchange standard and the transformation, creation, and exchange of House documents using XML.   This included an effort to customize an XML editor for the creation of bills and resolution. The initiative is rooted in a 1996 directive from the chairmen of the Committee on House Oversight (now known as the Committee on House Administration) and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration to the Clerk of the House and Secretary of Senate, respectively, to work together toward establishing common data standards for the exchange of legislative information. (2 U.S.C. 181)  (See also Public Law 104-197).

1996

By the summer of 1996, 223 lawmakers had websites.  Over 3,500 miles of copper cable and 312 miles of fiber-optic wire in Capitol Hill offices had been run to connect to the Internet.  In the fall of 1995, the House appropriated funds to buy each member and committee a new computer.  Source: “Capitol Hill Takes to Cyberspace, Though in Fits, Starts and Stumbles”, New York Times July 10, 1996 p. A12.

1995

THOMAS was launched: Congress directed the Library to make federal legislative information freely available to the public. THOMAS was unveiled on January 4, 1995 (104th Congress).

 

The House’s Electronic Voting System was updated.

1994

GPO Access was launched on June 8th and included the Congressional Record, Congressional Record Index, Enrolled Bills, and the Federal Register.

GPO’s Federal Bulletin Board contained over 5,000 files representing more than 18 Federal organizations including Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court. 

 

The House of Representatives launched its first Internet web site: www.house.gov. The Senate followed suit with the launch of www.senate.gov nearly a year later. 

1993

Members of Congress on the ‘Net:  On June 2, 1993 (103rd Congress), the House launched a pilot program connecting seven members to the Internet.

With assistance from MIT, Senator Kennedy is credited with being the first member of Congress with a website.  Sources: “Calling Sen. Kennedy via the computer”, Boston Globe, September 15, 1993.  “The Hill on the Net: Congress Enters the Information Age” by Chris Casey, 1996

 

Congress passed the GPO Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act (Public Law 103-40) which directed GPO to make legislative and other official documents available to the public in digital form, leading to the launch of GPO Access.

1983

In 1983 (98th Congress), all machine typesetting ended at GPO.

1981

The House’s Electronic Voting System was updated. In 1987, aging wiring in the main display boards were replaced.

1979

First live televised proceedings: On March 19, 1979 (96th Congress), the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and C-SPAN picked up the House feed and broadcast the House proceedings to the public. The first Member to speak before the television cameras was Representative Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee.   

1978

First live radio broadcast of the regular proceedings of the House: Only 16 Members were present for the beginning of the first live radio broadcast of the regular proceedings of the House. Freshman Representative Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee gave the first one-minute speech and used the opportunity to comment on the historic occasion. The Associated Press was the only major radio broadcaster to carry the day’s proceedings.

 

During the 95th Congress, the House Office of Legislative Counsel began producing legislation in electronic form.

1973

On February 26, 1973 (93rd Congress), the House Bill Status System began operation. In 1975, the Committee on House Administration printed the document “The Bill Status System for the United States House of Representatives”.  According to the committee print, the bill status system “was implemented to fulfill a need for a centralized source of legislative status information.”

1973

First electronic vote in the House: January 23, 1973 (93rd Congress), The vote was a 15 minute roll call vote of Members, which prior to the electronic system took on average 30 to 45 minutes.  

1967

Computer typesetting: As machine typesetting replaced handset type (in 1904), so, beginning in 1967, machine typesetting was replaced by computer typesetting when GPO implemented the Linotron, GPO’ first venture into computer typesetting.

1952

Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn barred television and radio coverage of House committee hearings—which the networks had covered intermittently. Telecasts of House Floor debate still was not authorized under the chamber's rules. Live television broadcasts from the House Chamber continued to be conducted during Joint Sessions when the President delivered the Annual State of the Union Message.

1947

First live television broadcast: The first live television broadcast coverage of a congressional proceeding occurred on January 3, 1947, when cameras were allowed into the House Chamber to telecast the opening of the 80th Congress. It also was the last such broadcast for more than three decades.  

1939

The first U.S. government officials to appear on a live television broadcast were four Members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Speaker William Bankhead of Alabama, Majority Leader Sam Rayburn of Texas, Minority Leader Joe Martin of Massachusetts, and Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts. The group was interviewed in front of the Department of Agriculture along the National Mall. Images and sound were transmitted one-half mile away to the National Press Club where members of the press and Washingtonians gathered on the top floor in front of several television receiving sets.

1936

During the 74th Congress, the Library of Congress was directed to author the Digest of Public General Bills and Resolutions (known today as “Bill Summaries”).

1926

GPO installed its first two offset presses, a development in printing technology that drastically reduced costs for long runs, and paved the way for later developments in phototypesetting and the entry of computers into the printing process.

1922

First live radio broadcast: During the 67th Congress, House debate about a constitutional amendment to abolish tax-exempt securities became the first ever congressional proceeding broadcasted on the radio (December 19, 1922)

1922

First public address system: On February 8, 1922 (67th Congress), President Warren G. Harding was the first person to use the system in the House of Representatives for a radio broadcast when he addressed a Joint Session of Congress in the House Chamber.

1920

Horse drawn wagons were replaced by electric trucks for deliveries to Capitol Hill from GPO.

1904

Machine typesetting: In 1904, machine typesetting revolutionized government printing with the arrival of Linotype and Monotype at GPO. These machines shifted the formula for typesetting from minutes-per-line to lines-per-minute.

1895

The Printing Act of 1895 made GPO responsible for the printing of all three branches of the federal Government, and for the dissemination of Government publications for deposit in congressionally designated libraries nationwide.

1880

First telephone: In 1880 (46th Congress), the telephone was installed in the House of Representatives lobby four years after Alexander Graham Bell received his patent (March 7, 1876) and made his first long distance call. 

1874

In 1874, the first elevator was installed in the U.S. Capitol, and electric lighting began to replace gas lights in the 1880s.

1866

In 1866, GPO purchased a Bullock press, an example of the cutting edge printing technology of its day. Installation of the Bullock was one in a continuing series of technological changes that vastly expanded the volume and quality of its printing work.

1861

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) was created by Congress in June 1860 (36th Congress), and began operation on March 4, 1861 (37th Congress), with 350 employees.  Not only did the 37th Congress convene on March 4, 1861, it is also the day Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as the 16th President of the United States.

1844

First official telegraph: On May 24, 1844 (28th Congress), inventor Samuel Morse sent a telegraph from the Capitol to his partner in Baltimore, MD.

1800

The Library of Congress was established on April 24, 1800 (6th Congress) when President John Adams signed a bill providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington.  Part of the legislation appropriated $5,000 “for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress…”  On January 26, 1802, Thomas Jefferson signed the first law establishing the structure of the Library of Congress.  In August1814, the Library of Congress was destroyed in the fires from the War of 1812.  Within a month, former President Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement.

1789

Although the Constitution does not mandate open sessions, the House opened its doors to the public starting in April of 1789 during its first meetings in Federal Hall in New York City.  Since that time, the House has maintained galleries so floor proceedings can be viewed by the public. Source: U.S. House Journal. 1789. 1st Cong. 1st sess., 4 April Page 7.

 

Additional information can be found at: http://www.gpo.gov/about/gpohistory/ and http://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/Electronic-Technology/House-Technology/

 

About The Timeline

This technology timeline was compiled from official Legislative Branch sources by staff in the Legislative Computer Systems division of the House Office of the Clerk.  Staff at the Library of Congress, the Government Publishing Office, the Senate Office of the Secretary, and other Legislative Branch organizations provided assistance in gathering this information. 

 

Updated: May 11, 2016