Retrochallenge 2009
      Mark Wickens
      28-Dec-2008 08:16

      ALLIN1 was Digital Equipment Corporations' integrated office software. From the
      DIGITAL Computing timeline[1]:

              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).

      ALLIN1 Main Screen

      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:
      ALLIN1 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.

      ALLIN1 Document Index Screen      

      When within the word processing subsystem, editing a document brings up the
      WPS-PLUS word processor (if this is configured within ALLIN1).

      ALLIN1 WPS-PLUS Screen          

      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:

      Gold legends on main keys

      Here is a closeup of some of the main key front legends:

      Closeup of Gold 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:

      Application Keypad

      3. Some of the standard function keys across the top row have special meanings:

      Special Function Keys

      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
      the keyboard.

      Help screen for the LK201/LK401 keyboard variants:
      ALLIN1 WPS-PLUS Help Screen

      Help screen for the VT100 keyboard variant:

      More WPS-PLUS Help


      1. Digital Computing Timeline