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USA Visit July 1983
- 1. DEC
- 2. IBM Sterling Forest
- 3. Three Rivers
- 4. INA
- 5. SIGGRAPH: Office Automation
- 6. SIGGRAPH: Conference
- 7. SIGGRAPH: Exhibition
- 8. IBM
1. Visit to DEC 18-19 July
The major reason for the visit initially was to run the AI/IKBS on a large VAX 11/750 configuration. As I was going to be in the USA, agreed to visit with Len Ford. As a result, DEC widened the meeting to include discussions on UNIX and AI/IKBS. As Dr Sleep, who chaired the AI/IKBS infrastructure meetings, was also in Boston, we arranged for all three of us to make the visit. We all signed non-disclosure agreements.
The benchmarks were run on an 8 Mbyte and 6 Mbyte system with a single large disc being used for file store and paging. For the interactive benchmark, scripts were run with output going to real terminals. Berkeley 4.1 was used as the operating system.
The functionality benchmarks - compiling C program etc, went through without any problems. A number of minor problems were found with the interactive benchmark. Initially it was tried with all scripts logged in as the same user sharing files. The system as configured had a maximum number of processes per user which was exceeded.
Eventually, benchmark ran in 18 mins 20 sees on both a 6 Mbyte and 8 Mbyte system. Although the editing scripts were staggered, they all caught up with each other mid-way through. The FRANZLISP interpretive program finished last.
Benchmark does not appear to test the virtual memory system too well. Given more time it would have been worthwhile redoing it but I doubt if we have the time.
Rich Ptak gave us a presentation of DEC's future plans. DEC indicated that they have had a long involvement with UNIX via Bell Labs even though they have not supported it in the past. The current commitment is to:
- VNX: a version of the UNIX Shell coexisting with VMS. Changes are being made to the VMS kernel to allow pipes etc to operate correctly.
- Berkeley 4.2: a recent decision to go to 4.2 rather than 4.1. It was to have been called SYSTEM X but they have just decided to change the name.
VNX appears to be the major thrust mainly because they want to have access to the large amount of software available under VMS. VNX will have Programmer's Work Bench, SCCS, MAKE etc. In some cases, DEC will produce similar systems also of use in the VMS environment. Main points coming out of VNX discussion:
- Shell will be the Bourne Shell.
- First Customer Ship is probably a year away.
- TCS: Test Control System to be added.
- BTS: Bisynchronous Terminal Support to be added.
- CMS: Code Management System.
- >The VNX/20 for the DEC 10/20 series is being done by University of Utah.
- Version of UNIX is Enhanced V7 rather than System III.
- Both Native UNIX and VNX will only be shipped as binaries.
- Games will not be supported.
- Non-DEC peripherals will not be supported.
- VNX allows user to add 4 additional device drivers.
Major points on Berkeley 4.2 release:
- Initial release will be unchanged Berkeley code.
- Decision not to go to System V based on fact that it will not run on 730.
- New MICRO-VAX will run Berkeley 4.2 eventually but not initially.
- Work being done to modularise the UNIX utilities.
- RCS will be added if it is part of frozen 4.2 code.
- Additional documentation and a Newsletter are planned.
- It will eventually be possible to get Auto-Delivery of updates via the engineers' hot line.
- In depth, 5-day course planned.
- Typical cost of a 32-user system will be $2,500.
- First Release of 4.2 planned for March 1984.
- It will be possible to mix VAX systems running VMS and UNIX on the same CI but with code to drive it needed. Exact form this will take should be decided before September.
- DEC have contributed to the Standards Efforts for UNIX and will continue to do so. They will adopt a standard if and when it emerges.
- Whether you could run Writers Work Bench on DEC UNIX was unclear.
- In theory, it needs a System V licence. Unclear whether DEC's 4.2 licence would be regarded as a V licence by Bell.
- DEC is clearly committed to UNIX but it is a second operating system. Support on new products always likely to be VMS, VNX and Native UNIX last. In some cases, the latter may never appear.
- If only binary licences available from DEC, either DEC has to incorporate our WAN and LAN comms in their product or we shall have to buy direct from Berkeley and, therefore, lose DEC support.
The AI/IKBS developments are run by Mahindra Patel who used to work for ICL on VME/B. He is very good. He left ICL with Geoff Cross and worked for A B Dick both at Chicago and Phoenix. He helped design the GEC R Machine and also did the negotiations with Roger Newey for DEC on the DEC/Manchester Dataflow involvement. Clearly, DEC must have a good idea of GEC's future plans!
Patel gave an overview of DEC's AI/IKBS activities. The main thrust is tools for two areas - the Research Community and Industrial Products. The main facilities required in both areas are access to large scale cpu power (5 MIPS) and a rich environment using high resolution graphics.
In DEC's view, the building of specific architectures such as the LISP machine is the wrong way to go. There needs to be a path through to existing algorithmic software which is denied by the LISP machine approach. Thus, AI must be integrated into the normal domain. The emphasis at DEC was, therefore, for developers to have high powered systems consisting of good workstations connected to large CPUs. At the same time, it should be possible to produce lower cost delivery vehicles for particular applications. It is not unlikely that a rule-based development system might be converted to a standard FORTRAN implementation for efficiency in the actual product.
The different characteristics of AI software were:
- Application dynamically changing: in many expert systems, the application program is changing at a fast frequency. New facilities are required and, if programmed using conventional techniques, it is impossible to keep up with the changes. For some application areas of interest to DEC, the changes occur daily. In summary, AI techniques and rule-based systems are essential in big complex problems with rapid change of requirements.
- Large parts are algorithmic but there is an additional requirement to include rules of thumb. A particular example of interest to DEC is PCB layout. This task is 90% algorithmic and 10% heuristic. A large multi-layer board may have 200-300 untracked wires still to be done once the algorithmic part is complete. An expert system can reduce the remaining untracked wires to 2-3 which is feasible for the human operator to solve in a short time period. The 200 untracked wires would take many hours.
There were about 7 people in the advanced development group at DEC and about 12 looking at products aimed at the engineering area. This whole group was advanced development and the engineering area was used as a testing ground for new products. This group was run by Patel.
A second group under Dennis O'Connor was concerned with producing internal applications of use to DEC. This had about 80 people and was particularly looking at examples in the area of manufacturing, marketing and sales. Of the 80 people, about 10-15 had detailed AI knowledge and 5 of these could be regarded as AI experts. The budget of this group was $5M compared with 2.7M for the advanced development group.
The whole aim of the team was to produce a set of tools which gave DEC the ability to sell hardware and to allow more people to develop AI software by reducing the expertise required. The view was that the number of AI experts worldwide was 200 with 100 being in the USA and perhaps 20 in the UK.
The major development tool for expert systems being used was OPS - a joint development with CMU written in BLISS.
The equipment being used for developments was VAX 11/730 with VS100 workstation for the main developers. This was backed up by three VAX 11/780s. The view expressed was that all rule-based systems used a large amount of I/O and were therefore inappropriate for running on the workstation itself. It was necessary to have this work run on a central server. It would perhaps be feasible to move parts of a rule-based system to a workstation for processing but unclear how this could be done.
The long term aim was to have a VAX 11/780 powered system for each worker backed by about 15 x VAX 11/780 power servers.
The current team was only formed in October 1982 and would grow to about 40 people.
A second presentation followed by Mike 0' Callaghan talking about the specific expert systems developed and used by DEC. The aim was to try and increase the productivity of DEC personnel. The experts in DEC were a scarce resource which needed to be amplified.
The current group would be enhanced by an AI Technology Centre to be set up in Scotland.
The main expert systems developed and used by DEC were:
- XCON: Configuration tool
- XSEL: Salespersons' assistant
- XSITE: Site planner for customer
- IMACS: Intelligent Manufacturing Assistant for Computer Systems - 9 integrated small systems.
- ILOG: Intelligent Logistics Assistance
- ISA: Intelligent Scheduling Assistant. The total cost of ISA was $300K and it had saved $0.75M in the first year of use.
- CALLISTO: Intelligent Project Management System
- IDT: Intelligent Diagnostic Tool
DEC were funding Edith Mumford at Manchester to work on some of these products.
There had been a split at one stage between people who extracted knowledge from experts and those who defined rules. Tending now for the same person to do both jobs. DEC had about 25 people doing that job.
The major conclusion DEC had reached for successful Expert Systems was to bound the problem area early on and not let it extend in an uncontrolled way. The number of rules in a system tended to be at least 400 and below 2,000 to be successful. However, systems as small as 100 rules were found to be useful in the diagnostic testing area.
DEC had also found that as systems got extended, the' quality of the system degraded. It was necessary at some stage to clean a system up and this would frequently reduce the size of the system by several hundred rules. Often the system became better understood in the process and, in some cases, a heuristic approach turned into an algorithmic one as a result of the better understanding.
The general impression was that OPS was quite slow and some effort had been made to organise rules so that they were as orthogonal as possible.
An example of manpower savings achieved were that DEC used to employ 28 people to deal with VAX orders. In a period, when the work had increased by 5, they had reduced the number of people to 17.
We had a demonstration of XSEL which was not that exciting and gave incredibly low response.
1.4 VS 100 Workstation
DEC have two A4 display products. The VS100 is already announced and I have a brochure. The second is the VS300 still to be announced. Effectively the two are 68000 based terminals with memory shared with a VAX host. The memory in the terminal is effectively part of the host address space. In order to allow it to be remote from the host, ft is connected to the host via optical fibre. The aim is obviously to get the micro VAX eventually installed in the workstation so that it will be a true workstation with the attraction of running the VAX order code. So far about 50 VS100 systems have been shipped.
The basic VS100 consists of 128 KBytes of RAM with 256 KBytes space in the VAX.. It has an optical mouse. Apparently there are problems in getting mechanical mice as SRI/XEROX have all the patents so that DEC cannot make them.
They have a good tablet made by GTCO with a 5-button cursor and controlled by a Z80.
The VT100 turned out not to have true Raster Op but just a move command as far as I could see. Alternatively, the software for removing windows was terrible. The display was A3 size with slightly lower resolution than the PERQ (same as SUN). It could move a 400 x 400 bit area in 12 millisecs. It can draw 1500 2" vectors per second.
The demo showed a number of windows being used as VT100 terminals. Redrawing windows in new positions was done by pointing where you wanted top left corner and it redrew using a most peculiar algorithm for removing old.
The VS300 is similar to the VS100 but with a grey scale or colour display. It could either be 30 Hz or 60 Hz with 16 or 256 colours. Speed was 1.37 microsecs/pixel and 19.8 millisecs for moving a 400 x 400 area. It could also output characters to the screen at a rate of 13,000 characters of a 6 x 13 font per second. There was a lot of graphics support circle, arc generation, patterned areas, line style and thickness etc.
No price was available for the VS300 while the VS100 was 9K. MIT were buying a lot and getting the VS100's to work with a VAX running UNIX. Contact at MIT is Ed Dalkovitz.
Personally, I thought the VS100 was awful. It would also be overpriced once you added the micro VAX and disc.
2. IBM STERLING FOREST
Sterling Forest is responsible for IBM's internal PROFS strategy. I met Gene Mazerelli who is in charge of the operation.
Sterling Forest is responsible for the production of a variety of administrative products used in IBM. Specific items include software for internal audit control of fixtures, fittings, control of manufacturing plants. It runs a corporate APL service and is also responsible for software distribution in the USA. As a result it has a whole range of equipment with some approaching obsolescence (370/168 etc). It also educates Field Engineers.
Being a large administrative unit within IBM, it was an early PROFS user and eventually, because of its expertise, was put in charge of strategic planning.
I got the standard PROFS history (there was another UK customer from CITIBANK also visiting). The current PROFS system is supported by the Dallas Office Automation Division.
The largest internal IBM user is Poughkeepsie with 1700 people while Sterling Forest is about the third largest with 400 people. A Marketing Office in Boston has 600 users. Of the 400 at Sterling Forest, 40 work at home on a special 'Work at Home' project. They access PROFS from home using software in a PC which emulates a 3101. Consequently, full screen support is available at home via a normal modern connection. When. you dial-up, the computer asks for your account and password. It then rings you back to confirm that you are at an approved location also.
The 9 people in charge of Strategy at Sterling Forest were responsible for the binary only policy as all the IBM systems were getting heavily modified locally. User exits are planned to ease the pain of no source.
Dave Robertson at White Plains is responsible for coordinating customer requirements for changes to PROFS.
The major changes to PROFS mentioned for the future were:
- Note facility would return message to sender on a connected set of PROFS systems if person could not be found.
- Rather than having a single PROFS administrator, some of the functions would be decentralised.
- More places where local nicknames can be used. Nicknames to be added using menu format.
- Real meeting scheduling with diaries being updated is considered but is long term.
- Message/Note/Documents to be more integrated. If a person not there, you could turn a message into a note. Notes will be able to have spelling checked etc.
- Easier ways of specifying the Start and Epilogue of a note.
- 3274 assist microcode for PC.
- National language support in Dictionaries and European date - soon!
- Administrative tools for reorganising the system to help the system administrator.
- Archive/retrieval of files.
- Mail Room Enhancements - you will be able to tell a person has received a document.
- Tools to split a PROFS system into two - need to move an existing system on to two CPUs or people moving departments needing to split up their files.
- Alias/Delegate function. Authorisation for somebody else to look at some parts of your mail.
- Record Management System (long term) to allow documents to be disposed of according to some specified rules.
Other points coming up in discussions at Sterling Forest:
- They had a good education system for users. Users introductory course and local documentation (which I have). A Rolling Class Schedule which repeated a set of modules allowed people to go to courses as and when they needed them.
- All secretaries at Sterling Forest used PROFS from screens. They only had one Displaywriter and that was not used by a Secretary. They had provided a number of standard formats to cut down the need for DCF commands. However, none of the secretaries found it a problem to learn DCF apart from one - but that one had refused an electric typewriter also!
- A lot of IBM confidential information was on PROFS and IBM did not feel it was a problem. Better protected than filing cabinets.
- CITIBANK in UK have a lot of IBM PC's connected via IRMA cards.
- PF10 key has been switched to PF4 in released product for 'NEXT DAY' in calendar. Caused a lot of problems at Sterling Forest.
- Used scheduling for people leaving buildings and scheduling loan equipment such as viewgraphs.
- They have a HELP Desk and log all comments and requests. Adjust courses, documentation etc as a result.
- There is a corporate IBM Phone Directory which includes the people's PROFS location. You send changes in using a standard PROFS form. Local sites get an update every 2 weeks.
- They have a second main menu allowing PASSTHRU to TSO and links to STAIRS databases. One particular system is a Current Awareness programme run by the Library. It searches literature and sends you information on relevant articles etc. Currently 6,000 people get mailed every week. They will modify PROFS so that it will come into your In-Basket.
- There is an internal IBM benchmarking/sizing document for PROFS. I have asked the IBM person for CITIBANK to give Laurence Aspinall a copy.
- Don Panko in Toronto has analysed which PROFS commands users most frequently use.
- Sterling Forest back up their system once a week. Average user space is between 3 and 6 cylinders of a 3330. Large users have 12 cylinders.
- They went from 25 to 450 users in a year.
- Maintenance functions are organised by NOTES. You send a note for a new light bulb etc.
- TEXTPACK 8 on Displaywriter has graphics and allows Displaywriter to simulate a PC.
I also had a demonstration of document passing from Displaywriter to PROFS. All went very smoothly including inputting a NOTE this way. The visit was useful without being really valuable. The dates on when new functions would appear was very vague. The emphasis was on internal IBM support and local use with little involvement in customer problems.
3. THREE RIVERS
The visit was completely messed up by a Tornado which hit Pittsburgh airport about an hour before I was to leave Philadelphia. As a result, I had to stay overnight in Philadelphia. Pittsburgh Airport did not open again until mid-morning. I finally got to Three Rivers around 2.00 pm.
ICL had given them a copy of the viewgraphs that I used for a comparison of systems for ICL marketing and we spent some time discussing the competition. Three Rivers were surprised that the disc speeds had not improved with PERQ Mark 2 on our benchmarks. They would like a copy to run to find out what the problem is.
Most of the time was spent with Aaron Coleman and Brian Rosen but I also saw Brad Myers (he is leaving in August to do a PhD at Toronto) and a few others. Aaron looks a typical business man and has as much faith in. Brian's timesca1es as I do.
The main emphasis at Three Rivers at the moment seems to be software rather than hardware. They seem to be heavily involved in mounting UNIX on top of ACCE~T. They have 8 people using ACCENT which they: feel is stable. Brian had no figures for message passing times although it was clear that they had read our papers. They would like our code particularly utilities, but ICL seem reluctant to provide them. They appear to have several people at CMU helping on this. The impression given was that CMU had a larger effort on ACCENT now run by A1 Spectar.
The aim was to produce a POS-1eve1 performance UNIX system by September 1983. The timesca1es sounded like Rosen arm waving! Having said that, they had managed to do remote file access already and IPC. A number of the major POS utilities were running under ACCENT.
By September they hoped to have the major UNIX utilities running, the SHELL and EMACS.
ACCENT had been shipped by 3RCC to Westinghouse, Siemens and FONNTEC (?).
3RCC had little interest in PNX. They had shipped about 5-10 systems. As it did not work on PERQ Mark 2, and most users at the moment were happy with POS, it did not get a great deal of push from 3RCC.
Specific answers on the software side were:
- The ethernet software seemed to be about the same as when I visited a year ago. You could send screen images or files to a server. There seemed a lot of enthusiasm for INTERPRESS.
- On the Z80 rewrite, I think that I made it clear that it was urgent. They only have one person who could do the work so not a great deal better than ICL. They said that they would do it in return for a copy of the X25 software.
Specific answers to hardware questions were:
- A3 head can be fitted to Mk 1 PERQs. Emphatic answer from everyone not just Brian. Acted as though it was stupid to raise the question.
- They are looking at a Cache/Paging Box for PERQ Mark 2. Probably would be 32 Kbytes in size. They have a prototype wired and in the debug stage. Aiming for a 95% hit rate. Rasterop would be virtual.
- Floating point hardware would be added. They had not identified chip.
- METHEUS add-on colour display could be shown at SIGGRAPH. Brian clearly feels it is a lash up. Effectively PERQ sends commands to METHEUS for it to obey.
- Looking at 140 Mbyte Winchester on PERQ Mark 2. They have at least one at 3RCC. It is a five and a quarter inch version.
I did get some information on future plans but it was regarded as Commercially in Confidence - they had not even told CMU. As it was almost completely Rosen arm-waving, I am unclear as to its value.
Other points were:
- They have System V Source so it does exist.
- Unclear whether they will implement LLC1/2.
- SIGGRAPH 83 demo is about 15 minutes long - very spectacular and educational - even explains rasterop. Must get a copy!
- I saw Brad Myers' new window manager which was impressive as well as having some resemblance to DEC VS100. Is that because person who worked on VS100 now works for 3RCC?
- The new window manager is very icon-orientated. Pressing button down will in general indicate what function the system thinks you want. Releasing it causes the action to happen. If you move out of window with button down, you release the command. Consequently, you can sample the commands available without obeying any of them. It has a record in a separate window of the windows currently operative and you can look at these for information such as how far it is through a computation intensive task. CMU are implementing it under ACCENT and debugging it in the process.> It is called SAPPHIRE, standing for Screen Allocation Package Providing Helpful Icons and Rectangular Environments.
- 3RCC have a VISICALC package similar to ICL's called PGRID. You can purchase in UK from a company called PROLOG run by President of PERQ European User Group. Looked quite good.
INA are a large coast-coast insurance company based in Philadelphia for its central office. My visit was due to a Bell Northern salesman telling me that they were using PROFS connected to SL-1 Displayphones.
The computer centre is outside Philadelphia, about 30 minutes away, in New Jersey. It has 1,000 employees and wall-wall 3081s. It is an enormous machine room. They have MSS, 3880s etc. Interestingly they double stack cluster controllers using tables specially designed so that one goes underneath and the other on top.
They have a large SNA network with small front end systems and DISOS for document formatting.
Their decision to use PROFS was based totally on its message/note facility and the fact that so many phone calls just do not get through the time difference does not help. Incidentally, they have a telephone note facility also - not the IBM offering but a separate one.
Bob Konza, who. did the PROFS developments, was my contact. They implemented the system very quickly. They had only received the system two weeks before they offered a service. They started the Pilot with about 40 middle-senior management but found it impossible to restrict to that number due to pressure from the user population. Since last August, it has grown to 650 registered users.
Many of their executives access it from home so that they have produced a complete set of EXECs for making it user friendly in this mode. I had a demonstration and found it quite good. They will send me a copy of their manual and listings of all the EXECs.
As most of the users are management, the secretarial staff using it is small apart from secretaries acting on behalf of their bosses. There has been a mixture between those managers who use it themselves and those which are content to let the secretary do the typing.
The support of PROFS is done by their normal user support group with an on-line HELP and HOT LINE. They estimate less than 1 MY/year needed to support the 650 users.
They do not use the calendar facility because they have an existing system produced using CMS EXECs and PL/1 which is better. They are hoping to get calendar information into the PROFS users' in-basket. This is the same problem we have with network mail and they are pressing Dallas to build-out the necessary exits for them to be able to do this.
The calendar system has the multiple update problem under CMS and this is handled by a package called FOCUS which they purchased from IBI (Information Builders Incorporated).
They had experienced the same problem as us with messages destroying the screen when it would be preferable to defer. They have masked out messages where they can but PROFS is inconsistent in how it handles messages. They have been pressing IBM to sort it out.
For spread sheet work, they tried ADRS and abandoned it in favour of AUTO-TAB by CAPEX which allows hierarchies of spread sheets.
The cost of the system was estimated at about 1% of a 3081K. If DCF was used, it would be a great deal higher.
They have about 20-30 SL/I Displayphones which are all connected as ASCII terminals at the moment. By using the EXECs already written and using the functionality of the displayphone, it looks very much like an IBM screen a la Cifer emulation. The demonstration was quite impressive.
A displayphone is on order which also has a direct coaxial connection providing full screen facilities. This has not yet been delivered.
With the ASCII displayphone the user can get at a variety of facilities of which PROFS is just one. Effectively, the PROFS menu hierarchy has been implemented in their EXECs so that the four most frequently used PROFS responses at any level are loaded as soft PF keys while the others are invoked by typing an abbreviation of the command.
A second supplier of displayphones which work with the SL/ I is the CANSET system produced by a subsidiary of TYMESHARE.
The visit was less useful than it might have been in that many PROFS functions were not used. On the other hand, if they send the complete set of CMS EXECs, it could be useful for modelling our ASCII terminal support. The displayphone still seems worth pursuing.
To give some idea of the size of INA, they were negotiating with IBM for the purchase of 1,000 PCs!
SIGGRAPH 83 - OFFICE AUTOMATION
SIGGRAPH was in Detroit this year - probably the worst city in the USA. You felt in danger each time you walked on the streets. There had been a substantial riot two weeks earlier.
I went to a Graphics in Office Automation workshop which took place on the first day. It was rather variable but a number of comments on products etc were relevant.
The general view on who would be major forces in complete office systems over the next few years was:
- Data General - they have recently announced CEO, the most complete of all the offerings on the market. They already have 15,000 workstations installed and have big government orders ($70M) for the Forestry Commission and others.
- IBM - not complete product now but it will get there.
- PRIME - they have recently done a deal with Convergent Technologies to add their personal workstations to the system. PRIME came to the market too early with a system full of bugs but they did get experience.
Ones that might succeed but less likely:
- WANG - still only a word processing company who kid you that they have more.
- DATAPOINT - a new menu oriented system to be released.
- HP - potential to get in top 5 but currently have a set of incompatible functions.
Ones that will not succeed:
- APPLE-LISA - too low on power, inability to get out of the LISA environment, icons that get on your nerves with little ability to take short cuts as you get more competent. LISA has training wheels on the bicycle that you cannot take off.
- XEROX - they died 18 months ago with STAR. An overpriced slow product with -not enough software due to it all having to be developed by XEROX using the proprietary language MESA. Pioneers are never successful!
Random comments of interest that came up were:
- Data General CEO system is the only one which really allows graphics in documents.
- A study showed that 107 characters is the average length of an electronic mail.
- Only company that has produced a meaningful filing system for documents is Burroughs but rest of system is useless.
- Wang keeps lists of everything - your system has to work all night keeping the lists up-to-date. PROFS is somewhere between adequate and mediocre.
- Best spread sheet system is 1-2-3 and a new product is coming out called 1-2-3-4-5. ADRS is inappropriate - too slow and lacks functionality. Much better to use a vendor offering on PC. MICROSOFT will come out with integrated set of tools.
- INED is a UNIX-based system worth looking at. The Bell workbench software is no good.
Hardware comments were:
- GRID's terminal has probably come and gone. Too expensive and only did half the job. Now being attacked by other companies. GAVALAN have a cheaper electro-luminescent device.
- NBI have a LISA-like product of interest.
- Low cost laser printers now in good supply. QMS, Symbolics and IMAGON mentioned. At the high end, a lot of nice things said about XEROX and IBM 3800-3.
- IBM electro-erosion system excellent but takes a 3033 to drive it.
- Slide making systems now benefiting from Polaroid's instant film. Future will be with digital systems such as MATRIX QCR.
- Versatek have a colour electrostatic plotter.
- High resolution colour laser printers will soon be announced - CANON? Pass paper three times over three colour beds - not really difficult.
- AMOCO have developed a method of incorporating pictures in PROFS - basically compress it into text.
- Installed business graphics is rising from 383,000 systems (workstations) in 1982 to 4,435,000 in 1986.
There was a session on slide/foil making which made the following points:
- Studies in USA have shown that presentations with audio visuals increase likelihood of your position being accepted from 50:50 to 67:33 independent of which side you argue on.
- The idea of having dumb terminals (not graphics) inputting data and having a chart book which you identify the layout required is used a lot in USA. Large part of business graphics is produced using non-graphic terminals.
- Many people use IBM equipment installing the slide maker on an IBM controller and having a protocol converter for a 3287. Matrix and Dunn cameras have been used this way using PC as protocol converter.
Other minor points during the day:
- Document transportation came up several times. The ANSI Generic Code for Markup Languages was mentioned many times.
- I met Martin Newell who now works for CADLINC. They have sold about 100 systems and seemed to be doing reasonably well. The improvement over competitors due to having grey-scale on their A4 display had won them several orders. Quality of complex line drawing is significantly better.
6. SIGGRAPH - CONFERENCE
The Conference was a bit lower in numbers finally than last year with only 14,454 attending some part of it and 3,470 attending the Technical Programme. SIGGRAPH made only Â£150,000 profit approximately compared with the 2M at Boston. It is partly due to the location but also the fact that NCGA took place in Chicago about 3 weeks earlier.
The Conference Proceedings were available to all attendees and both Julian and I have a copy if anybody wants to look through them. The papers had a very short time for presentation so there tends to be more information in the proceedings than in the presentations.
Of the Panel Sessions the most interesting were a set from Japanese companies indicating what products they had, where they were going, and their views of USA companies' efforts in Japan. The latter was quite amusing as they were quite blunt about USA representatives being under prepared and not too knowledgeable about the products and the products being overpriced.
Many of the Japanese companies were using the devices that they built and in many cases this was the original motivation for getting into the graphics market. They have products in almost every area from DEC terminal look-alikes right through to high powered coloured systems with hardware -rotation. The general impression was that more and more Japanese companies would get into this market with very competitive products. This year even, there were quite a few Japanese manufacturers at SIGGRAPH.
The audio-visuals as always were very spectacular. Speakers were displayed as they talked on a large screen. Many used two slide projectors. Video tapes were used to demonstrate techniques in papers. At the film show, laser projectors were used for high quality visual effects. It seems like half of the downstairs floor area is filled with audio-visual equipment.
7. SIGGRAPH - EXHIBITION
There were about 200 exhibitors at the conference and several announced new products. If anything, A4 single user workstations were less in evidence than last year with only about 6 companies present. There was a great deal of emphasis on high quality colour systems - 1000 x 1000 resolution is standard with many hardware extensions to perform specific functions and at relatively low cost.
Rather than give a complete catalogue, I will concentrate on devices which caught my eye:
Single User Systems
PERQ: 3RCC had a PERQ Mark 2 and landscape display on the stand.
The main demonstration this year was probably better than previous ones in being both entertaining and educational.
One of the PERQs had an attached Metheus 400 colour system which was quite impressive. The Metheus can run at either 30 Hz interlaced or 60 Hz non-interlaced depending on resolution. required (1000 x 1000 at 30 Hz and 736 x 552 at 60 Hz).
It has the ability to do pan and zoom in the hardware and also has a fast rectangular area fill operation capable of 16 million pixels/second. The cost of the display is about $9995 from Metheus direct.
Also on the stand, INTRAN were demonstrating their form design system for the Xerox laser printer. It has the ability to input fonts as a complete set and then cut them up into the individual characters.
- PIXEL: PIXEL showed an A4 workstation at SIGGRAPH for the first time and looked quite good. It is a 68000 based system with a lot of software and double the resolution of the PERQ display. It can be used as both a single user and multi user system. Cost for a typical single user system would be 22,000. They said that they marketed in the UK under their own name.
- SUN: They did not seem to be showing anything new but the systems did not keep falling over as they did last year. They seem to be selling quite well in the USA. CMU have purchased about 40 for the joint project with IBM according to Dave Rosenthal.
- SYMBOLICS: Their LGP-1 laser printer attracted a great deal of attention. Otherwise, nothing new from last year.
- RIDGE: Another Single User System running UNIX. This is a development out of Hewlett-Packard. All of the people originated in H-P initially. It costs $6,400 for a 1 Mbyte system with 60 Mbyte disk. The disk is a PRIAM. It runs UNIX System 5 and they are putting Yale's TLISP and Utah's PSL up. The rasterop is in software but as the machine is an 8 MIP machine, it was not obvious. However, they were not showing any complex graphics on it. It could be of interest to the AI community.
- SEIKO CH-5201B Colour Laser Printer: This was quite impressive. It could work from a range of terminals and up to four different terminals could share it. The cost in the USA is $8,950. They currently have agents in Denmark and West Germany but not UK.
- Versatek Colour Plotter: VERSATEK Colour Plotter: producing excellent images
- DICOMED D148CR: A new colour recorder which DICOMED asserts works well as both a raster and line drawing device.
- SEILLAC-7: A Japanese colour display with hardware rotation which will be marketed by Sigma in the UK. They will repackage it.
- GTCO Tablet with Pressure Sensitive Pen: It gives you a third dimension on the pressure and a fourth which is the angle that the pan is at. Cost was $1,600 for tablet and pen.
- ELOGRAPHICS Touch Sensitive Screens: Touch sensitive screens with a resolution of at least 100 x 75 on an A4 display. It will be marketed in UK by Dicoll. Cost in UK is about 1 ,800 per screen which is rather expensive.
- GKS on Tektronix: Tektronix announced GKS level 2B available for Tektronix devices.
- DATACOPY Digitising Camera: Allows you to input a digitised picture to a PERQ. Cost was only $8K.
- POLAROID: Polaroid were exhibiting film stock with a small local developer almost hand-size which allowed you to take output from a Dunn or Matrix camera and develop/mount the slides in minutes. Very impressive. The cost of the auto-processor and mounter was $100. Estimated cost per slide was 45 cents. Should be available in the UK from January 1984.
- Anti-Glare Screens: INMAC (UK) sell anti-glare screens for PERQ displays at a cost of $99 per machine.
I spent two days with Dr Manning at IBM. Geoff was spending the whole week with IBM so the first day was spent at the obligatory White Plains Briefing Centre getting an overview of IBM.
Cliff and I had a similar briefing two years ago and it had not changed a great deal. Some general facts:
- IBM is now the sixth largest USA company and made the largest profit last year. It sold $34B and made $4.4B profit, a gain of 18.2% over the previous year.
- The split between revenue in USA and worldwide is s
- 75% of revenue is from hardware and only 5% from software.
- Breakeven price between rent and lease is now 25 months.
- The split of the company between large and small systems is still much as in 1981.
- An announcement this week has led to a different Group in the company responsible for entry level systems. For the first time the IBM PC and Displaywriter are the responsibility of the same Group.
- A planning group now exists whose responsibility is overall architecture - S/370, SNA, DIA (Document Interchange Architecture), DCA (Document Content Architecture).
- DACU - Device Attachment Control Unit has been announced in USA to allow IBM channel connection to both UNIBUS and RS232.
We spent about 5 hours there and it was not very valuable to me. It was more use to Geoff who had not experienced the briefing before.
The second day was spent at Poughkeepsie discussing scientific systems and PROFS. The original plan had been to do PROFS in the morning but it was switched around to suit the IBM people. Then we found my plane had been rescheduled to a later time and, consequently, I had to leave earlier. The result was that less time was spent with the PROFS person.
As usual, IBM gave little away on their array processor product to be available in about two years. The impression was:
- 64-bit floating point, large virtual memory (256 Mbytes and an effective add-on unit to one of the new systems. That is, it is rather like an IBM 308X but with vector additions. A system could have the vector upgrade at a later time.
- The architecture was a vector register based one like the CRAY with the implication that different models would have different length vectors. You could not join vector registers together as you can on the Fujitsu but chaining of operations involving vector registers would be provided.
- Significant cache memory would be available.
- The aim would be to have software (new FORTRAN compiler) which would give a good level of optimisation to a wide range of problems. Effectively, they are not trying to hit directly against the CRAY market of heavy vectorisable codes but instead give a good cost-effective vector boost to a larger range of programs.
- They had moved to Kingston. Hugh Walsh, who Cliff and I met, was still in charge. The people we met were Ted Schurman (hardware) and Lip Lim, David Soll and Bernie Rudin (software).
- They felt good scatter-gather commands were less important than our CRAY users had indicated.
- All vector operations would route memory accesses via cache.
- It will only run under MVS/XA.
On the applications side, they had been visiting sites around the world to get a view of requirements. We agreed to get a copy of the Daresbury CRAY document which analyses users' experiences to them.
We may delay this. To get more information, we need to sign a 112 non-disclosure agreement and using the Daresbury information as a bargaining point, it may help to get the 112 signed. The IBM lawyers need to see that IBM are getting something out of it.
The PROFS part of the day was spent with Bob Rogan who is responsible for PROFS at Poughkeepsie. He developed the original code and clearly knew it backwards. He was happy to get enquiries from UK if we needed help.
They have a group of 10 people supporting PROFS. Currently have 2500 users in Poughkeepsie with 1100 in DSD. Their mission is to have all secretaries and managers on PROFS by the end of 1983 and 75% of all professionals by end of 1984. To achieve this, the group would grow to 17. By the end of this exercise, they would have 4100 connected.
They used PROFS Administrators to be the major interface to the user population. They were typically ex-secretaries who eventually gravitated to administrative assistants or even system analysts.
The site ran a number of separate PROFS systems with interconnections. This was to allow users to access PROFS from their normal processor rather than putting all PROFS users on a single processor.
Most of the new facilities mentioned at Sterling Forest originated at Poughkeepsie. They were currently moving to the standard product and were worried that they could not tailor it to their requirements once source code was not available.
Dallas had about 70 people working on the product. It was clear that Poughkeepsie did not really feel that they understood it.
Specific points that came up:
- Our problem with Messages messing up Note screens should have been cured in latest release. Message should be held up.
- Poughkeepsie keep Current Year + previous year files on-line and archive the rest. There is one big archive each year. Currently they have about 150,000 documents in the system before archiving and about 90,000 afterwards.
- Allocate 3 x 3350 cylinders to users initially. Increase in system is at rate of 100 x 3330 cylinders per 100 PROFS users per year.
- Most users tailored the system to have their own initial main menu.
- Major addition was the telephone directory and XEDIT macros to "help document creation.
- Secretaries used 327X terminals and liked it. Only a few Displaywriters. Learning DCF was no problem.
- Most people seemed to pick it up from the documentation plus ringing up the Data Administrator. Managers did get a 1 hour course.
- The AMOCO software does not add graphics to documents. Effectively it leaves space for a diagram and, when displaying a document, you have to move cursor to position where diagram is to be inserted before calling in the relevant graphics file. Once happy with it, there was software to merge text and graphics.
- No use of ASCII terminals except from home and then they emulated screens.
- PROFS facilities had been provided free so far but users would pay next year.
- They were beginning to use PC's connected to PROFS.
The impression is that Poughkeepsie has a wide knowledge of PROFS and if we have detailed internal queries it is the place we should go to for information. For example, they understood the PROFS title problem for Notes originating from CMS - no PROFS trailer on CMS notes. They thought that it was possible to send mail out from PROFS without touching PROFS code. You effectively send it to a specified address and pass on from there.
It is probably worth somebody visiting Dallas, AMOCO and Poughkeepsie in the future.
Note: The set of brochures refered to in the trip report can be borrowed if anybody wants, so long as they are returned to me by 26 August in time for Eurographics.