Scor­pio News


April–June 1987 – Volume 1. Issue 2.

Page 5 of 51

Language problems

Thinking of public launches, the retrieval software has to be multilingual, and it’s all done in a fairly straight forward fashion so the software speaks English, German, French and Dutch by answering the right questions when the program is initialized. This has caused me a lot of bother, because I don’t speak French, German or Dutch. [Ed. – what about English?] The worst instance took place at the massive OrgaTechnik exhibition in Cologne at the beginning of November. There’s me sitting in front of my machine on a stand at the exhibition, doing demos for all it’s worth (me speaking English, whilst the program is speaking German, of course), when I typed something stupid and the program threw a wobbly and came up with an error message (in German). There’s nothing quite so embarrassing as having to turn to your audience to ask them to translate what has happened, because you don’t understand what your own software is telling you!

Unfortunately, the new job doesn’t stop there. Writing this sort of stuff is good challenge and great fun, but can get boring after a while. Oh no, customers are an original lot and come up with lots of bright ideas some of which take me back to the hardware days. Now the retrieval software is theoretically capable of handling in excess of 1,000,000,000 records, yes, that’s 1 billion in English or 10 billion in American, yet the capacity of your biggest stand alone IBM micro is 32M bytes. One customer has 10.5 million bits of paper which would require 10.5 million records, which with indices would require some 170M byte of disk storage (bigger than the on-line storage of your average mini). To cut a long story short, I’ve managed to jack up the storage on this customer’s IBM to 320M bytes and I now have potential storage of 750M bytes if someone is daft enough to want it and can pay the price. Other bright include porting the stuff to a VAX and running it under emulation (a not very satisfactory exercise), and someone has even wanted it on a main frame (I told them not to be silly and run it under their network instead).

Life’s a challenge

Life doesn’t seem the same old drag anymore, problems are there as challenges; some you win, some you lose, either way, you learn something. The only sad thing is that over the last 8 months I seem to have had little time to do what I want. I haven’s tried any new hardware (except my new toy, more later). I haven’t written anything new of original, at least not Nascom/​Gemini related, and apart from mucking about on bulletin boards on occasion, the machine at home has been collecting dust.

Well I suppose that’s not true, I’ve been carting an IBM AT home at weekends and busily converting various bits of software from CP/M to MS-DOS. Nice bit of software the Gemini IBMCOPY. I’ve also been finding all the useful little tools that I have been using on the old machine, for use on the new. This has been leading up to something, and that is the acquisition of a new toy, a rather smart Japanese IBM AT clone which arrived a couple of weeks ago.

I don’t think it would be fair to say that I’ve outgrown the Gemini/​DH machine, just that I need something to allow me to work at home without being incompatible with the machines at work. Ok, so I could continue to drag one of the works machines around after me, but that is dangerous. A real IBM AT with frills still costs about four and a half grand, it also weighs about 50 pounds (I think they include lead weights to help justify the cost). During that snowy bit a few weeks back, I slipped whilst carrying one these machines from the car, and although no harm was done, I had visions of the damage I might have done to the machine, and even worse, the damage I could have done myself in trying to catch it! No, the only answer was one of my own.

Hunt hunts the clone

I went and shook the piggy bank, and found, lust enough in it (provided the missus doesn’t have funny ideas of trolling off to sunnier climes this summer, and provided the guttering can be persuaded to stay in place one more year). So off I went armed with the loot in search of my ideal machine. Nothing’s easy is

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