An interactive data retrieval apparatus in which a data base store is searched by content using search keys entered by an operator. Dedicated hardware includes a plurality of search modules and apparatus for clocking the byte-wide data stream read from the data store through successive search modules. In each module, the data is compared with an entered search key. When a match is found between the data stream and the search keys, the data record is displayed to the operator. The apparatus can detect near matches to allow for misspellings etc. In one embodiment of the search module, a plurality of comparison cells perform byte-equality operations on search key data stored in a search key register and the data stream. In a second embodiment, an associative store contains the n-character search key, the associative store being addressed by each character in the data stream as it is clocked past its data port. n shift registers are connected to the outputs of the associative store and are shifted in synchronism with the data stream.