|wickensonline.co.uk Retrochallenge 2009 Winter Warmup Entry Allin1|
ALLIN1 was Digital Equipment Corporations' integrated office software. From the
DIGITAL Computing timeline:
Back in 1977, Skip Walter and John Churin began work on
integrated office software that would run on a network and could
mix and match custom applications such as word processing, mail,
calendars and databases. The result was ALL-IN-1.
It was introduced by DEC in 1982.
Starting ALLIN1 you are presented with the main screen. Options are selected by
entering the mnemonic highlighted in bold. So, for example, to enter the
Electronic Messaging system you would type EM. You can string mnemonics together
to drill down into the menu hierarchy, so if you wanted to check your inbox
after importing mail from the VMS MAIL system you could enter: EM V II which
would execute VMS mail import option (V) and leave you at the Inbox Index (II).
The software uses a hierarchical storage system for saving documents with a
close analogy to a filing cabinet, so you have cabinets, draws and folders to
store documents in. When you want to find a document you select the appropriate
index for the filing cabinet you are interested in and you are presented with
the document search screen:
From here you can enter values in any of the fields at the bottom to narrow your
search. In some of the fields (for example Title) you can press the Find key and
a list of matching documents (either leaving a blank field to retrieve all the
matching documents or specifying a partial string). Keywords can be associated
with a document for easy retrieval. The search facility is very powerful, and
one that I know was missed in British Gas when I worked then when the system
moved over to more 'modern' office application suite.
When the search has been completed, you are presented with a document index
screen. Operations on multiple documents can be performed by pressing the Select
key which highlights the document with an X. You can then use standard shortcuts
pre-pended with X to perform the operation across all documents.
When within the word processing subsystem, editing a document brings up the
WPS-PLUS word processor (if this is configured within ALLIN1).
WPS-PLUS is designed to work with a special word processing variant of DEC
keyboards like the LK201. These variants differ from the standard keyboard in
three main ways:
1. Many of the keys in the main section of the keyboard have additional Gold
legends at the front:
Here is a closeup of some of the main key front legends:
Each of these legends indicates a Gold function. These are activated by pressing
the Gold key on the application keypad of this special keyboard.
2. The Gold key together with other application-specific keys replace the
standard numeric keypad with word-processor functions:
3. Some of the standard function keys across the top row have special meanings:
As far as I'm aware the system of using a key as a modifier that is pressed
prior to a function key as opposed to at the same time as a function key (for
example Alt-G or Control-C) is almost unique to DIGITAL. I would love to know
the design process which lead to this decision. Is it an emulation of an earlier
system that used sequential keypresses of a modifier and special function key? I
remember reading a report about the design of a word processing system that shed
some light on these kinds of decisions - I will have to try dig it out.
The other notable feature of the keyboard shortcuts is that they do not overlap
with any system defined keys. The use of the Gold key ensures that all standard
key mappings are maintained (for example those which involve the Control key).
The WPS-PLUS help screens show below give a summary of the special key functions
for reference and for those who do not possess the word-processing variant of
Help screen for the LK201/LK401 keyboard variants:
Help screen for the VT100 keyboard variant:
1. Digital Computing Timeline