The speed and volume requirements of MEDLARS necessitate the use of high-speed data processing equipment, including paper-tape typewriters, a digital computer, and a special device for producing photo-composed output. Input to the system is of three types: variable source data, including citations from the literature and search requests; changes to such master files as the medical subject headings list and the journal record file; and operating instructions such as computer programs and procedures for machine operators. MEDLARS builds two major stores of data on magnetic tape. The Processed Citation File includes bibliographic citations in expanded form for high-quality printing at periodic intervals. The Compressed Citation File is a coded, time-sequential citation store which is used for high-speed searching against demand request input. Major design considerations include converting variable-length, alphanumeric data to mechanical form quickly and accurately; serial searching by the computer within a reasonable period of time; high-speed printing that must be of graphic quality; and efficient maintenance of various complex computer files.