April 1999

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A VPlus graphics language is an improvement coming from AICS, not HP

3000 users have asked HP to add new features such as drop-down list boxes and menus to VPlus. If plans from AICS Research come to fruition, those VPlus users may be looking to that third-party vendor instead of HP for the enhancements, as well as client-server features. Best of all, the enhancements will be free.

To find the root of this largess look back to 1921, when Stanford psychologist Lewis Terman began a study of highly intelligent children. The Terman study followed more than 1,500 high-IQ children their entire lives. This granddaddy of longitudinal studies found that the happiest of the “Termites,” as the subjects came to be known, were college professors. Professors generally enjoy a fair degree of independence, although they are often the worst paid.

This pattern reminds me of AICS Research’s founder Wirt Atmar, a professor who found academia so confining he left to start his own HP 3000 software and services company. Like Linus Torvald, the programmer who wrote the freeware Unix clone Linux, Atmar is developing a habit of giving his software away. In 1997 he released QCTerm, a PC-based HP 700/92 terminal emulator and client whose reason for existence was to serve as a front-end for the AICS QueryCalc reporting tool.

QCTerm is offered for free. When asked how he can afford to cover R&D costs, Atmar dryly replies he expects to make it up in volume. He plans to develop a graphical display language for displaying color text and graphics for HP 3000 applications, based upon a relatively simple, high level specification language. The specification will be licensed for free and will see its first implementation as a way to display QueryCalc reports and graphics via QCTerm. Atmar notes that the terminal protocol for HP 3000 terminals is a black and white, client-server protocol with simple graphics capability. The HP 700/92 is only the latest is more than two decades of thin-client, diskless computers. In Atmar’s mind he is “only” adding additional graphics and color capability — promising to do it with a relatively easy-to-use language to boot.

Atmar now says he is planning on making QCTerm a client-server development tool that will support the VPlus commands, plus a new set of more advanced features. As before, he envisions a relatively simple command set that will extend the current capabilities of VPlus. The proposed command set could be added to existing programs, giving them a look and feel indistinguishable from other client server applications.

Atmar’s actions follow a pattern of the Termites, even if he’s not actually a member of the group. And HP 3000 customers might feel another instinctive connection to the Terman study, and the generosity of its subjects. One of the most famous Termites was Terman’s own son Frederick Terman. After taking a doctorate from MIT the younger Terman returned in 1925 to teach at Stanford, rose to dean of engineering and later became university provost. He used Stanford's income from the Varian brothers’ invention of the klystron tube in a physics lab to encourage other engineering students to make their mark. Two of those students were Bill Hewlett and David Packard.

— Cortlandt Wilson, Cortlandt Software (www.cortsoft.com)

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