The History of Personal Knowbase

People often ask us how Personal Knowbase first came to exist. In short, it came to exist because we needed such a tool ourselves and couldn’t find other software that fit our needs, so we wrote it.

Why We Created PK

When we first created Bitsmith Software, we wrote game software. But, starting our own business, we found the need to keep track of many text notes — business information, legal regulations and tax requirements, business tips we gleaned online, code snippets, meeting notes, market research, magazine clippings, book reviews, email messages, product ideas, contact addresses… The list went on and on.

Starting a new business, you deal with a massive amount of incoming information, you learn new things every day, and you quickly become overwhelmed if you don’t find a way to organize that information so you can find it later when you need it. Bits of paper were swallowing my desk, and little text files were crowding my hard drive. I don’t have a great memory for detail to start with, and I needed an extension for my memory.

This was the mid-1990’s. I searched for a tool for 16-bit Windows 3.1 that would fit our needs for keeping track of information and failed to find anything at a reasonable price that really matched the way I thought about and organized my notes. Much of my information was not associated with a date or person, so calendars and contact managers were inappropriate.

I needed software that did not require strict single-category categorization of notes, something that could handle variable-length notes and vast numbers of notes, something fast and easy-to-use for everyday, anytime use. I wanted to be able to add information conveniently, modify it easily, and find it quickly.

So we wrote Personal Knowbase. Originally, we wrote it simply because we needed it. Then we realized that other people could benefit from it too. So we decided to sell it while still working on our games projects. But sales for Personal Knowbase took off, and eventually we decided to simply concentrate on it instead of the games. The games projects were never completed for release.

First Release

Personal Knowbase 1.0 was first released as shareware in 1998 on the CompuServe Information Service. Later that year, we released it to the general Internet using the Web homepage included with our CIS membership and then got our domain name and launched a real website.

Personal Knowbase version 1.1

From the beginning, we knew we wanted to use a keyword-oriented model that avoided the problems of straight text search and allowed the end-user to control the keywords assigned to each “article” (the PK term for a single “note” of information).

The keyword-based system was based on the keyword systems used by common research databases of the 1990s, such as Knowledge Index and CompuServe’s file library, and was similar to the keywords Index for an MS Help file. In more modern Internet usage, such keywords are now often referred to as “tags”.

For more details on why Personal Knowbase uses this keyword-based structure, see my previous posts on Why Index Your Notes with Keywords.

Many Changes Over the Years

Personal Knowbase has undergone many changes over the years. To its rather simplistic beginnings, we added more advanced features. The ability to attach external files and Internet addresses added a lot of power. Queries enabled more powerful use of combinations of keywords. Hypertext links allowed connecting articles. Password-protection added privacy.

In 2003, we released PK Reader, a free read-only version of the software that users can use to share data files with co-workers, students, or clients.

We continue to modernize Personal Knowbase as times change. For example, originally, we used the term “tagged” for articles flagged for instant access. In 1998, that term was not ambiguous. But in the years since then, use of the word “tag” on the Internet had evolved and proliferated. Now, it can refer to HTML or XML markup, hashtags, photo tags, and even keywords. The term raised confusion. So, with version 4.0 in 2015, we replaced the term “tag” with the now-more-familiar term “bookmark”.

Personal Knowbase version 4.1

Take Control of Your Notes

We still use the software extensively ourselves and so designed it for everyday, practical use. PK has remained flexible and relevant through changing times and continues to provide a way to collect and store your information locally, privately, & securely on your own PC.

Personal Knowbase still has a free 30-day fully-functional trial available so anyone can easily try it risk-free and determine if it meets their needs. Try PK today.