Innovative Systems I have Used
Atari ST (computer with
built-in GUI operating system)
This was my first home PC purchased in 1987. It was chosen for its built-in
GEM Graphical User Interface (GUI) (see below), 1M
of usable memory, and a price tag of under £700 (700 pounds). Because
the GEM GUI was built-in most developers used it as the prefered user interface.
This gave a high degree of commonality between the applications which made
it easy to learn further applications - an important consideration for a
family environment. The Atari ST owned much to the Mac and was often called
the poor man's MacIntosh. Like the Mac, GEM provided a desktop complete with
filing cabinets and waste paper (trash) basket. Some of these things
that we now take for granted with Windows, but as you can see it pre-dated
Windows by many years (Bill Gates was probably still at school then
<g>), and in some respects even Windows 95 still has some catching
up to do (this may be a patent issue).
One of my initial applications was TimeWorks DTP (also
below), allowing the production of magazines and brochures. Another
application was Superbase (see below) for record
keeping. An excellent Basic compiler and Resource Kit allowed fairly novice
programmers to write windows style applications. The Atari ST also has midi
ports that allows music keyboards and synthesizers to be controlled by software
and also allows digital recordings to disk. Because of this feature the Atari
ST was very popular with musicians. I still have the machine, though it is
Process Charter (Process
Modelling and Simulation)
DR GEM (GUI operating
Dragon Dictate (voice
Forest & Trees
(data extraction and presentation tool)
Keyfile (desktop, object manager & workflow)
New Wave (desktop &
object manager with agent facilities)
NewWave is a personal productivity software tool from
Hewlett Packard that,
to put it simply, provides an Apple Macintosh type of interface to MS Windows.
That is, the user manipulates his or her data using point, and click and
drag and drop within a familiar office metaphor. It consists of 3 major elements:
Manager that has filing cabinets, folders, waste (trash) baskets,
in & out trays (if using HP Mail), etc., as well as icons representing
ones data objects.
Manager manages the all the data objects, keeping track of
where they are stored, retrieving them and managing their properties (like
author, date last amended). Data objects can have 32 character names and
they can be filed in multiple locations even though they only exist once.
Great when documents relate to two or more projects or organisations.
Tool is a high level object scripting language that can work
both at the desktop level and within applications. With the Agent Tool it
is possible to build high level applications that make use of Windows
applications and the NewWave drag and drop environment. Agent Tasks
can be run on demand, at regular times or when pre-defined event occur.
I have been using NewWave for over 5 years. During that time I have probably
created over 8,000 objects yet I can usually find and retrieve what I what
in seconds. I estimate that NewWave saves me an hour per day.
For a more fuller description of NewWave, complete with screen shots,
follow this link.
Keyfile (desktop, object
manager & workflow)
Keyfile from Keyfile Corporation is
very similar to NewWave with its Desktop Manager
and Object Manager. However, though it doesn't have an Agent facility, it
does have some useful extra features as standard. These are:
Networked Object Manager: This provides
shared filing cabinets that are stored on a network server but can appear
on multiple users desktops (subject to security clearance). This allows users
to share documents and to also trace their whereabouts (e.g. which user has
the "1997 year end accounts"?). One user can check-out a document for updating
but many users can check-out a document for read only, and as soon as it
is updated they all see the revised version.
Work Flow System: A template of a standard
process is defined, stating the various work steps and how they are related.
When a case object is created it is then routed between workers who handle
each step. Because the case object is held in the central file and only a
pointer is distributed, then it is always possible to trace the whereabouts
of any case. Besides the actual steps, a case can also hold documents and
other data objects. These data objects can also be shared with the central
filing cabinets. For example, a case file for Joe Smith can hold not only
the particular case records but also a reference to Joe Smith's central customer
record. Case work is distributed via the network and arrives in the
next workers in-tray. They can see how the preceding steps progressed, take
their own actions, and then drop the case object in the out-tray for onward
progression. Parallel paths and synchronisation points can be defined. From
memory, rules can be set so that different work paths can be taken. Triggers
can be set to "ring alarm bells" if work is not action within a prescribed
OCR and Indexing: Documents that have been
scanned in can be stored as both an image and as text. The text can then
be keyword indexed, thus allowing fast search and retrieval.
Multiple File Format: Keyfile is able to
read a large range of document formats without the need to purchase the
originating software package.
Object Level Security: Keyfile provides
a comprehensive security matrix allowing a fine level of granularity for
As was mentioned above, Keyfile does not have an Agent facility, but this
author has developed a prototype Health Centre application using a high level
programming language and utilising DDE calls to Keyfile.
Superbase (database management
Timeworks DTP (desk
The Timeworks DTP package was actually written by a British company called
GST Software for the US Timeworks
Inc. It was first released for the Atari ST under the GEM operating system
and could run on a single floppy machine though it did need the 1MB memory
ST version. It helped to make the Atari a very popular machine for clubs,
churches and other small organisations who wanted to produce magazines and
brochure but could not afford to have these produced professionally. It was
a frames based DTP package with paragraph styles and style sheets, and was
therefore very similar in style to
Ventura. However Timeworks DTP cost less
than £100 (100 pounds) compared to Ventura at (I think) nearer a
£1,000 and also requiring a more powerful machine.
Later Timeworks DTP was ported to the IBM PC, again under GEM, and could
run on an XT though it did need a hard disk. GST went on to make their own
version, called Pressworks, which was ported to Windows. The product became
a highly regard entry level DTP package offering good functionality, avoidance
of typographical expertise, and superb value at an even lower price of £50.
It is still available to-day and is now a powerful DTP package alongside
its twin drawing package called Designworks.
Professionally I introduced the Timeworks DTP package as the standard DTP
package for the TSB Trust Company. Later, on behalf of GST, I evaluated the
Russian market for its products, including the Timeworks, Pressworks and
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