Click on a component to enter its archive
This site provides information about my software of the pre-internet era, now all archived.
- The LOS Archive
- In the 1970's many moderate sized organisations acquired a single central "minicomputer" into which multiple "dumb"
terminals, printers and disc storage devices could be directly wired. Although
ASCII had become the standard character encoding between components
and there was a rather loose adherence to RS232 for serial communication,
each computer manufacturer provided their own proprietary software to run applications and "drive" compatible peripheral
- The LOS Archive takes a look at the
BCL Molecular 18 Minicomputer running the multi-user "Leicester
Operating System". The "Molly" was in commercial use in the United Kingdom from 1972 to 1999 and found a niche notably amongst
wholesale distributors who appreciated the fast response of its applications
software written entirely in Machine Code.
- The HX20 Archive and The QX10 Archive
- By the 1980's stand-alone desktop "microcomputers", generally incorporating floppy diskette drives and running the
single-tasking CP/M operating system, had become common business
equipment. It was also practical, within an ordinary dialed telephone call, to connect remote devices through acoustic couplers
or (preferably!) modems, albeit at 30 characters per second through noisy mechanical telephone exchanges.
- Pharmaceutical wholesalers, with a long tradition of prompt delivery, were particularly keen to offer their customers the option
to submit their often lengthy orders electronically. In 1983 the
Epson HX20, a self-contained A4-size computer which could
be squeezed into the smallest pharmacy, became widely available. Wholesalers could now offer their customers a completely
electronic order service.
- The HX20 Archive presents the User Guide to my HX20 application for bulk electronic
ordering from pharmaceutical wholesalers. The application source code is also included in the archive. This application was in commercial
use in the UK from 1984 to 2001 and an
adapted version was used
by one company's salesmen to take orders whilst visiting clients.
- At the wholesalers' premises, a number of factors determined that electronic orders should be handled by a "front-end"
microcomputer replacing one of the minicomputer's terminals. The QX10 Archive presents the
source code of my original electronic order entry front-end software for pharmaceutical wholesalers as implemented on the
Epson QX10. An
version was used by Staples Chemists where, in the dead of the night, a QX10 at head office would auto-dial and exchange data
with early (1985) EPOS tills installed in their shops around
Stoke on Trent.
- The QX10 front-end software was written in 8080 Assembler with the Peachtext word processor and assembled with CP/M's ASM.COM,
both provided with the QX10. The multi-tasking implementation interfaced directly with the QX10 hardware, entirely bypassing the
built-in CP/M operating system, thus enabling concurrent communication with the wholesaler's central computer and with the remote
customer's equipment (through separate RS232 serial ports).
- The MS-DOS Archive
- In the 1980s hardware evolution deserted the microcomputer (with its myriad of incompatible diskette data formats) in favour
of "compatibility" to the IBM "Personal Computer". Although the installed QX10s continued running trouble free
for year after year, by 1989 I had transferred all development of the front-end software to MS-DOS on the PC. The
MS-DOS Archive presents my User Guide to this software, which remained in commercial use
in the UK until 2013.
- The MS-DOS front-end software was written in x86 Assembler with Microsoft Word and assembled with Microsoft's MASM 6.11 Assembler.
The implementation, derived from that on the QX10, was now more formally structured into an
operating system providing multi-tasking and other primitive services on top of the single-tasking MS-DOS services to the three
available optional applications: Terminal Emulation, Electronic Order Entry and Document Archiving.
- The implementation represents something of a compromise from the multi-tasking viewpoint, as MS-DOS services were used to access
all devices other than the screen, the keyboard and the serial and parallel ports. However, hardware advances ensured that the delay
incurred while waiting for MS-DOS to execute, say, a hard disc access was normally imperceptible to the user. Furthermore, MS-DOS's
innovative concept of the "installable device driver" transferred driver development from the operating system to the
device manufacturers, enabling a multitude of new devices to be readily incorporated into existing systems.
- The Information Exchange Protocol Archive
- A "handbook" specifying the rules underlying data exchange with my front-end software; this web-based resource acted
as a reference for developers (mostly active during the 1990s). There are two sections: Server side for local information
exchange with the wholesalers' minicomputer and Client side for information exchange with (usually remote) customers' platforms.
- At the physical level all data exchanges took place via RS232 serial cables (with modems interfacing the
POTS where necessary).
- The Psion Archive
Psion Series 3 (and Series 3a) enjoyed a brief but happy life as a "Personal Digital Assistant" in the mid 1990's.
- The Psion Archive presents the User Guide to my Psion Series 3 application offering
bulk electronic ordering from pharmaceutical wholesalers and was in commercial use in the UK from 1993 for a brief period. The source
code is also included in the archive.
- The Palm Archive and The Android Archive
- A digression into smartphone application development, presenting the User Guides to my 2003 Palm application for settling-up shared
expenses, and its 2012 Android successor.
My first keyboard - the Royal Bar Lock typewriter (built to last to the end of time)