History

The history of the development of the Microtech machines
in the words of those who developed, sold, supported, & used them.

Michael Marselle


Applications programmer / Technical Support
Microtech - Prior to merger with Star Technologies
1982 – 1984 (2 years) Costa Mesa, CA

Microtech / Startechnologies was a mini-computer manufacturer located in Costa Mesa. The IRIS operating system was first developed by Data-General and included a BASIC language module. This remarkable systems could support up to 64 users all with a CPU with 128KB of memory. My duties included custom modification to Microtech's accounting software to satisfy client needs. As company focus changed from application sales to computer sales, I transitioned to IRIS Operating system support performing trouble-shooting, upgrades and sales engineering.
...
Unix Operating systems support specialist
Star Technologies, Inc.
1988 – 1993 (5 years)

The company president called and invited me to rejoin the company in a new capacity.

Responsible for all phases of customer care from problem diagnosis to resolution and documentation. Supported SCO Unix, Altos, HPux and Xenix operating systems. Assisted dealers and end-users with issues ranging from adding peripherals and users to data recovery. Developed utility shell scripts to automate diagnostic and repair tasks. Designed and implemented a searchable knowledge base to speed diagnosis and resolution

Information as provided by Mike Marsille, September-October 2015.  Thanks, Mike!


10/01/2015:
The M1 was not a rebranded Point-4.  We assembled the systems from scratch in our production facility on Pullman in Costa Mesa. The DART board was the name of the 8 port multiplexor.

Looks like the tapes are a bootable utility, IRIS and DATA and the StarWriter was a failed attempt as a word processor.  Don't recall it ever getting to production.


The OS was our own version. I don't think it will run on POINT-4 equipment. I think the IRIS OS was licensed from Data General or Point 4. We kept our own masters.
Our system programmer was Wayne Horner. Wayne had written IRIS drivers for the DART Mux, Winchester Disks and tape drives.  

By 1982 Microtech had merged with a company from Michigan and renamed Star*Technologies.  We moved from Costa Mesa to Mission Viejo/El Toro. We used the Point-4 CPU until Mark Lyda and James Flavin, who arrived with the merge, designed a new CPU.  The IRIS machine was phased out  when we migrated to Unix based system.

The head of our production department back in the early days was a man named Jay Thayer. I found Jay on Facebook.  


It looks like he is  friends with Doug Chadwick (LinkedIn). He may have information on Gallucci and Shipp, Lyda, Horner and Flavin.

If you can track down any of these gentlemen they may be of more help than I.

Last I heard, James Flavin moved back to Michigan. Don't know where Mark is.  Wayne is a local OC guy, he may still be around.

The logical units are partitions. Each partition had contained an index fittingly call INDEX. The index contained file name and  block number pointer to header block for each object on the LU. Everything on the IRIS OS was accessible via the Disk Service Processor (DSP).

Your bootable utility tape will have the restore program needed to restore the OS and LUs.

-Mike Marselle


10/05/2015:

Gallucci and Shipp were co-founders/owners of Micortech/Star*Tech. Bill Gallucci, I believe attended Harvard. He had a larger than life personality and naturally is sphere was sales and customer relations.  Mr. Gallucci's title was President.

Phil Shipp, (alternate) I think, may have met Bill at school. Phil was a very serious person, at least more serious than Bill.  As CEO, Mr. Shipp managed the purchasing, manufacturing and accounting side of the business.  After the merge, Phil married a Mary Ann (last name forgotten). Mary Ann arrived with the merger with the Michigan based Star*Technologies.  Both of these men were considerably older than us, I certainly hope they are still around.


The link you have for Wayne Horner may be the correct guy. Without a picture it is difficult to say with certainty.  The geographic location and education time frame in the ball park.  Wayne was with Microtech when I arrived in 1980, so the graduation date from UC Irvine is questionable.  


The link to James (don't call him Jim) Flavin is absolutely the right guy.  What I remember about James is; Very nice guy. Also very tall, like 6' 7" of there about. For lunch he often ate a 12 pack of tacos from Taco Bell. He could solve a rubic's cube in minutes. He invented a product called the Multi-Port. It was a serial device used to attach remote offices to the IRIS computer via the Dart Mux.


The link to Mark also looks accurate.  What I remember about Mark is that he is brilliant.  There isn't anything he doesn't know about Unix.  He is the person we lowly support guys would go to for Unix questions.  When we came to him with a question about a Unix/Xenix/Altos command, after explaining what we needed,  He would almost always ask the same questions; What is the Unix brand? What version? He was then able to rattle off the exact syntax required for that particular version. 


Good luck. 


-Mike

__________________________________________

Mark Lyda
Support Engineer
Star Technology
June 1976 – November 1996 

10/08/2015
I don't have any info left on the M1.  The design of the computer and CPU board was done when it was still Microtech, I came into the company afterwards from the merger of Star Computer.  As far as I know, most of the design was by Dallas Hack.  Most of that hardware is so old that trying to get it working will be a major undertaking even if you can find working or replacement parts.

__________________________________________

James Flavin
Director of Engineering
Western Mircro Technologies (Star Technologies)
1979 – 1999 (20 years)

VP Engineering
Star Technology
1981 – 1998 (17 years)

Vice President Engineering
Star Technologies, Inc.
1985 – 1992 (7 years)

(apparently all different iterations within the same company from 1979-1999)

10/11/2015
Hi AJ, that seems like a very interesting project. I did do a bunch of work on the OS and firmware for this system. Does the machine boot to the startup menu?

Please read more of this conversation and history on our page:  StarCalc, James Flavin and Chuck Harriger

__________________________________________

Charles Harriger

Hi, yes I did work with James on Star*Writer in the early eighties. Not sure what help I would be as I am in Michigan currently.
....

The most knowledgeable person I know from that time on IRIS OS would be Mark Lyda. He wrote several assembler calls that then became part of the os. Some of the things he wrote were a call that allowed a program to suspend while another program was run and then return to the original program. Something that Point 4 told us was not possible. 

Star Computer group was buying the mini-computer hardware from Data General and then from point 4. Then as a cheaper alternative they forged a relationship with Microtech. We were buying their computers and they started selling our software packages until the merger became Star Technologies.

Part of the magic of Star*Writer and Star*Calc was the dumb terminals that we added a circuit board to which added 2 pages (screens ) and native word processing capabilities. Recreating the software does not give you Star*Writer or Star*Calc since the program acted as a server to the word processing terminal.

Somewhere I have a newsletter that I will try to find and send to you which talked briefly about the products.


-Charles

Please read more of this conversation and history on our page:  StarCalc, James Flavin and Chuck Harriger

__________________________________________

Neil Mastrian
Mgr, Software Development
STAR Technologies, Inc.
July 1980 – July 1985 (5 years 1 month)

Managed a team of programmers to develop and support a wide range of applications from a proprietary word processing system to municipal government applications, fund accounting and business accounting. We developed applications for the Point 4 system using the IRIS operating system.
....
We find his name listed as the author of the Starwriter Demo, Starwriter Help, and Magtape Utility.

.8..V.-.V                All rights reserved..V     Copyright C 1982, Star Computer Group, Inc..V   This document may not be reproduced without the.V prior written permission of Star Computer Group, Inc..V -.V -.V PROGRAM NAME: STARWRTR.DEMO   ..V DATE WRITTEN: 08/04/82        ..V WRITTEN BY N. MASTRIAN        ..V.V -.V.Y.s|..wq.s.wq.s.wq.s&wq2s&wq8s

.8...5..V -.V.V STARWRTR.HLP..V STATIONARY CODE LIST AND FORMAT CODE LIST.V.V BY : N. MASTRIAN..V 01/28/82..V.V -.V.-.V                All rights reserved..V     Copyright C 1982, Star Computer Group, Inc..V   This document may not be reproduced without the.V prior written permission of Star Computer Group, Inc..V -.Y.

.2..A1..K....1...2......V *** MAGTAPE UTILITY                        ***..V *** WRITTEN BY : N. MASTRIAN               ***..V *** DATE 12-29.82                          ***..V *** COPY STAR*Writer/STAR*Calc TO MAG TAPE ***..V.L_.cObL_.cV.E..qi$MTA0.bV -.V *10 **** START *****..Y.s|..wq.s

10 REM *** MAGTAPE UTILITY                        ***.20 REM *** WRITTEN BY : N. MASTRIAN               ***.30 REM *** DATE 12-29.82                          ***.40 REM *** COPY STAR*Writer/STAR*Calc TO MAG TAPE ***.41 REM.42 IF  ERR 0 STOP .43 IF  ERR 0 REM.50 OPEN #0,"$MTA0".99 REM -.100 REM *10 **** START *****.110 DIM A$[512],B$[20],C$[80],F$[40],I$[20],I1$[132].112 DIM A1$[40],K$[14].120 DIM 1%,I,I1,2%.130 PRINT "\215\\215\*** MAGTAPE UTILITY PROGRAM ***".132 GOSUB 6810.
__________________________________________

Scott Deardorff
Application Programmer
Microtech
August 1982 – January 1986 (3 years 6 months)

Designed and wrote custom top to bottom general ledger, accounting solutions for small and medium size business customers. Modified application code to support customer needs. Maintained source code and provided support to existing accounts. POS Retail, Light Manufacturing, Wholesale Distribution, and General Ledger Applications using C, and Point 4 Basic on Point 4 mini computer systems and DG Nova 3 Compatibles.
__________________________________________

Dan Paymar (email)

According to wikipedia.org:  Dan helped start Educational Data Systems (later renamed Point 4 Data Corp.), which developed products for the Data General Nova computer. He left Point 4 in 1982 to market his own products for the Apple II computer.

10/9/2015

I haven't worked with a Point 4 computer for over 30 years. Been using Macintosh computers since 1984.  I doubt I remember enough to be helpful to you, but it's nice hearing from someone who is still interested in the Point 4. 

Although I started my computer career with hardware, I moved to system programming in 1968. I wrote the BASIC interpreter and much of the IRIS operating system, but I was never involved in the hardware, so I don't know how much I can help you. I left Point 4 before they started using streaming tape for backup.
....
A couple quick comments. Ira [Baxter] and I worked together to turn my BASIC interpreter into a 4-user timesharing system. IRIS came much later, long after Ira left EDS. Also, the first Nova had a 1.4 uSec cycle.
....
I think Ira left EDSi before it became Point 4.
....
Yes, I remember Dick Nordrum. He was a good programmer. I also remember him assembling a digital watch kit.

Dan
....

01/18/2017
Paul Davies, myself and a third man (Bob something) founded Educational Data Systems. I wrote the BASIC interpreter by myself. It was fully functional and delivered to Data General (under contract) before Ira joined us and helped me to turn it into a 4-user timesharing system.

Best,
Dan Paymar


Read more details on Dan Paymar's involvement, both then and now, at our page Help from one of the original IRIS Designers, Dan Paymar

__________________________________________


05/26/2016
IRIS first ran in 1970 and that was pretty early for a timesharing
system.
AFAIK, it ran before *Unix* ran, and that's pretty impressive.
And it had an online editor, assembler, and BASIC interpreter.

I was really proud to have implemented this, along with my
co-conspirator,

I once considered building a Nova emulator.
The program would have looked like this:

        unsigned int* PC; // pointer to 16 bit instruction
        unsigned int Accumulators[4];
        long int temp; // 32 bits

        switch(*PC++){ // branch on 16 bit PC
              case 0:  PC=0;  break; // jmp 0 instruction
              case 1:  PC=1; break;
              ...
              case 0x1712: // ADCZL# 2,3,SBN (I made up the opcode
value)
                      temp=AC[2]+~AC[3])
                      if (temp&1<<16 && temp&0xFFFF) PC=PC+1;  // "skip"
                      break;
              case 0x1713:
                        ...<simulate 0x1713 instruction>...
                       break;
              case 0xFFFF:
                      ...
            }

On a modern x86, this would execute Nova instructions at the rate of
about a billion
instructions per second.  That would be 6000x times the speed of the 6uS
Nova
on which IRIS was first implemented.

Ira Baxter, Ph.D.
CEO, Semantic Designs
512-250-1018
....
I know Richard [Nordrum], have talked to him on many occasions.
Never worked with him.    My stint at EDS was in the first 2 years
of its life, with just a bit of consulting on and off later.

-- IDB
__________________________________________
1981–1985
Point 4 Data Corp
Irvine, CA (Computer and Operating Systems)  
Manager of Systems Software Development  

Supervised five systems programmers.  
The programming effort was directed towards the maintenance and enhancement of
        Point 4's IRIS operating system.  
Typical projects were: 
Two upgrades of the IRIS operating system, R8.1 and R8.2. Each upgrade represented
        more than a man-year of team effort. 
Augmentation of the IRIS system to support three new varieties of peripheral 
        subsystems including 5 1/4" Winchester technology, streaming tape, and 
        floppies/floppy tape. 
In addition to my management duties, I was responsible for periodic advance design 
        efforts such as a local area network for IRIS systems and other major system 
        enhancements.

[Above] is an excerpt from my resume but it is a quick synopsis of my work at EDS/Point 4. For the most part from the fall of 1970 to 1973, EDS was Dan [Paymar], Paul [Davies], and I. Those were lean years where disruptions in getting paid were not uncommon events. I worked mostly under Dan's specific direction. Ira [Baxter] used to drop in and participate but that was very irregular. Ira's work with Dan was mostly before my time I believe. I wrote most of the device drivers as well as the disk allocation and file management system. I did most of the coding for the TEX to REX transition. I implemented the poor man's overlay subsystem known as DISCSUBs. If I remember correctly, the balanced b-tree system was originally written by a VAR in Canada and was integrated IRIS while I was off at Datum and Rockwell. But I may have the timing of this stuff off. It was a long time ago. About '72, Mike Stoddard joined us and he did much of the enhancements to BASIC.   

I returned in 1981. By then it was Point 4 Data due to Renie Bosch's engineering expertise in innovating the 400 Nanosecond NOVA emulator. Hardware was the bigger revenue generator but it was the software/hardware integration that made the product somewhat unique.Point 4 was a legitimate company and no-longer a living room, coding on the Ping-Pong table operation. Most of the software effort in those days was generally maintenance. One of the major efforts was to use memory mapping to use page fault hardware enhancements to extend the memory usage beyond the 2^31 (and 2^32) memory limitation of the NOVA instruction set. This greatly increased the number of users capacity of the time sharing system.  

One curiosity was that I had the curious distinction to program the 1st and 2nd NOVAs ever shipped to the west coast. The first was at Scripp's working for Dr. Cox and the second was at EDS working for Paul [Davies].  

I've gots lots of stories to add such as how my dog Contessa contributed to IRIS's development and what part ping-pong played, but that's for another time. Throughout my career the technology changes and the technologies renaming that gets called "changes" are interesting, but the parts are found the most worth remembering were the people I met and the times and challenges we've shared. That, to me, is what has made the technology journey fun. 

- Ron
....

"Scripps" is Scripps Institute of Oceanography. While it is part of the Univ. of California at San Diego where I went to school, it is actually older than UCSD. Here's a brief about Dr. Cox who recently died at 93. 

"Cox’s research has focused on oceanic electromagnetic fields and the exploration of small-scale ocean structures, including measuring fine-scale fluctuations in temperature and salinity within ocean waters to understand the intensity of ocean turbulence. He has developed free-fall instruments that have made these measurements possible. He also has studied the electrical conductivity of the earth below the sea by measuring the penetration of electromagnetic fields into the seafloor."

I implemented an FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) while Dr Cox built the hardware so he could take analog tapes of micro-electrial, micro-thermal, and micro-salinity measurements at the equator. Using the NOVA mini-computer he could do spectral analysis on the data without waiting for the shipboard IBM 1130 to process it. This way if the data looked interesting they could do another "drop" (undersea data gathering with his custom designed device) while the ship was still at the location. I would have like to stay at that job forever but alas Navy funding got cut. Work was fascinating and I could go body surfing while the paper tape reader did a pass of the assembler. 8kb of memory on that Nova was actual magnetic cores (the original "donuts") and cost about $10k in 1969. Now I can get a 8GM of solid state memory for about $5. Man have things have changed!

__________________________________________


The following was copied from http://pw1.netcom.com/~nordrum/point4.htm

I began working for Point 4 when it was called Educational Data Systems and worked for them for about five years while it grew from working out of the home of its founder and president, Paul Davies, to a $20M company with several offices and a manufacturing facility. EDS had written the time sharing Basic for Data General's Nova computer and then developed a multi-user operating system called IRIS and Business Basic for the Nova which it sold to some schools and to many OEM's or VAR's.
I joined EDS as a customer support programmer, delivering and installing systems and writing device drivers for printers, communications, and disk storage systems. All of this was done in assembly code for the DG Nova.

After a year or so of customer support work I was given more development projects such as an indexed file index optimizer and a linking loader. My work covered all aspects of systems programming with some development of extensions for their Business Basic including support for CRT cursor positioning and special functions. I also presented training seminars both in house and on site.

After five years with Point 4, I left to work at JPL for a little over a year and then returned for another five year stint with Point 4. This time I was made manager of an aggressive project to implement a co-processor board which would run the UCSD P-System making Pascal an applications and systems development tool under IRIS. It was also to implement a relational database system accessible through data base calls in Pascal. Unfortunately, the hardware was predicated on the use of open-collector logic on the Nova's backplane interfacing. When that disappeared, the project had to be abandoned.

I went on to become Point 4's Director of Operating Systems Development and was responsible for a major re-write and reorganization of the IRIS operating system which eliminated many problems and made the code much more maintainable. Part of that involved the development of a policy based time sharing algorithm which significantly improved both perceived and actual performance. Although the ideas were not initially mine, I was responsible for managing the final tailoring of the algorithm to meet the desired performance objectives. Another significant design contribution I made was the hash-bucket management of disk caching.

In addition to improving the process and quality of code development, I supported the development of the Software QA department and contributed to the design of the software configuration management process.

__________________________________________

Sr. Programmer/Analyst
Point 4 Data Corporation
September 1978 – April 1983 (4 years 8 months) Irvine, CA

Enhanced and maintained IRIS BASIC. Added program security extensions. (Assembler, BASIC)
Implemented Polyfiles, an ISAM file system, for multi-volume databases. (Assembler)
Conceived and built an automated patching system for field patch application. 
Ported UCSD Pascal from Z80 under CPM to Data General Nova under the IRIS operating system.

__________________________________________
SENIOR PROGRAMMER
Logical Minicomputers of Erie
February 1983 – January 1988 (5 years) Erie, PA

Responsibilities included working with an analyst in the development of software systems. Developed and implemented procedures for operations including training and customized software packages, as well as authored programs to enhance and meet the specific needs of customers. Development included designing, coding, and testing in addition to installing and maintaining the systems at customer sites. Systems included: inventory, order entry, counter billing, payroll, accounts payable/receivable, and general ledger. Provided direct customer support for both software and hardware. Advanced; IRIS Operating System, Extended Business BASIC.

3/31/2016:
I did indeed work on a Point 4 Minicomputer running IRIS OS. I think it was at 8.2 (?) when I left. OS * brought "Polyfiles" and the ability to span across Logical Units. Boy that is from the way-back machine! It was a good and very stable OS. And the machines were very good & fast for their day. We bought the machines and support from a company in California. 
I seem to have lost the name at the moment. I believe they were based on a DG machine?  

Rich
.....

I worked in Erie, PA for Logical Minicomputers of Erie (LMOE). I found one of the guys I worked with here on Linkedin: Joel Grotzinger

This place may be a help: http://www.point4data.com/  
[we've reached out to Don Burden at Point 4 Data, no response yet]

Michael was the Owner of LMOE.(Michael Mucciarone) 
http://www.intracsystems.com/about.php

Jim Rider was our Hardware man.


4/9/2016:
"Polyfiles" came about with OS (Operating System release 8.0 or so.) . As i recall, discs were divided into LUs (logical units) and could not span drives. LU 0 was were the operating system lived. You have to remember, this was the 1980s. They were a really good system for their time, but were limited in some regards. We used CDC 9448 drives for "bigger" systems like Zurn Industries in Erie, PA. They had a removable disc, and multiple fixed drives. They came 32, 64 and 96 MB ! Two drives for each 32 MB. So, a 32MB "drive" had one fixed and the removable. 64 had the one removable and 3 fixed. 96 MB had the one removable and 5 fixed. Big stuff! Neat thing, you sell a customer a 32MB drive, but it was really the whole 96 MB drive. Just configured for 32. Then "upgrade" them to the bigger sizes without actually changing drives. Also the "Winchester" drives. I think they were 84MB? Came in a long, rectangular box. The machines were actually very efficient with the space. We had the whole water/sewage system for Conneaut, Ohio running on 10 MB. Had one removable surface and one fixed. The old days. It was a fun machine to work on. Wrote MANY lines of code in Extended Business Basic. Still remember how to use the "Search" statement.


05/08/2016:
Nice to see you are making progress! It was a nice machine to program on. Very straight forward and reliable/durable. And good bang for the back back then. I miss those days!  

I think those are generic assembler-type commands. Like "load", "jump to ", etc. I am very fuzzy on assembler.  Were any of the people I suggested any help? Did any answer? 

I wish I could remember the company we bought stuff from and had for support. It was not Point 4 direct, but someone else. They were in California. We even had two people quit us and move out there (from Erie, PA) to work for them. That was around 1986-1987ish.  


Rich



__________________________________________


David Takle wrote an old [SimH] group message that caught my attention, so I reached out to him, and he responded.

[Simh] help with binaries on NOVA 

04/26/2016 by email:

My first intro to DG was in 1974 when I went to work for Hagen Systems in Minneapolis. They were buying systems from EDS which became Point 4. We also had a few CPU's from another manufacturer, but never directly from DG. We were writing order/invoice/inventory systems in Basic. I got interested in the assembly language and write one of the first drivers for some new low cost disk controller that allowed us to move beyond the Diablo 10MB drives to the CDC 25 and 50MB drives. By the early 1980's I was contracting with Simple Systems in Mpls to write various drivers, etc. We created print spooling, sped up the system in several places to where we were running over 50 terminals with 2 second response time in a travel agency. Around 1985 I wrote the drivers for an Apple-Talk interface that allowed us to network Nova's together so that they could read disk drives attached to other CPUs on the network. It was all great fun.


More of the technical information that David shared specific to our systems can be found on this page.

__________________________________________

Information as provided by Tim Plummer, March 2015.  Thanks, Tim!

[These tapes] are from a Point 4 which is a mini computer from the late 1970s. They were Data General Nova clones. The parent company is Point 4 Data which is still around, but the old stuff has been lost to the trash heap. 

I used two versions, a Mark 6 and a Mark 12. I work[ed] on them building medical laboratories that interconnected the various machines. 

The possibility of loading the OS on something new is a challenge. Short of converting to UniBasic.


If you want to read about the old Mark series just google point 4 minicomputer Mark 12 for example they were numbered 2-6, 8, 12. 


The first Microtech DART was a Value Added Reseller (VAR), just like me. It means you were a wholesaler and got a discount, not much more.   (Mike Marsalle later added some correction and clarification to this statement)

The Mark number system is afu'ed, never asked why. Which one your tapes belong to is unknown. The only way to tell would be load them on a Mark 12 and check the programming. 

I say this because the Mark 12 was the most advanced and all of the series was backwards compatible. And each version of IRIS Business Basic had its own quirks. So it would be easy to tell which Mark it came from. 

For LU's, think of them as directories. Location was where physically on the drive you wanted them. This is old school because back then where a file was located made a difference on performance. The rule was big files on the inside so low numbered location and small on the outside higher location. This was due to seek time fast close in on the disk and slow on the outer part of the disk. 

I have yet to find an intact machine or parts of one anywhere. 

I don't know how kosher it is to ask about a copywritten program like UniBasic is on the net. I know it a very expensive program, and I don't think they have demos to play with. If the information is critical this is the only way you will get it off the tapes. Doug Chadwick (LinkedIn) is the UniBasic pro.  You can get the number from their website

UniBasic is owned by Point 4. they are still operating, and still do the occasional convert from IMSBasic another conversion program. It's what I used to convert all of our point 4's. Finding them is almost impossible. 

They now make point of sales equipment. 

The [IRIS] R7 is an odd problem because the last version of IRIS was 9.2. Stopping that far back would be a big conversion problem. Maybe the PDF is old??? Converting the old point 4 ISAM file system to anything is going to be a challenge without the old SCO Unix. Yet it will be fun. 

When I searched for converting IRIS to ISAM, Larry Irwin popped up with LinkedIn with his resume saying he converted IRIS ISAM to C-tree ISAM then to SQL. His story is possible because he work of a medical facility, and Fiscal, another VAR, sold lots of point 4's to the medical field. 

Tim

PS here's my story if your interested:

I started with a point 4 back in 86 after leaving the army where I worked on Pdp-11s. At home one night my mother, the lab manager/owner, was in a panic. They could not boot their computer and asked me to look at it. It was a Point 4 Mark 6. 

It was being cantankerous and I found it to be the power supply that was causing the problem. After my repairs I was hired as the tech support. By this time, Point 4 was not a functioning company so I searched for anyone associated with point 4 and found John Hurst, a former Point 4 design engineer. He taught me to program in IRIS 6 at that time. He also helped me amass the almost complete documentation of Point 4 equipment. (Sorry it's long gone. Twenty years in the past.) 

I also found a dealer that still dealt with Point 4 equipment in New Jersey. They helped me convert to a Mark 12 and upgrade the memory, tape, and hard drive and OS to IRIS 9. 

My boss always had the dream to interconnect all of the doctors and laboratory together. And so that's what John and I did from scratch. Then we ported it to different labs in Texas. 

By the way I am in Norman Oklahoma. That was all 20 years ago. The lab and software were bought by Dow Corning and we operated a billing service for a while after converting the billing software to IMS Basic. After the corporation sold, the billing and software went by the wayside and I moved on. 

Retired, I started making shadow boxes and missed the old Point 4 days, so I started looking for point 4. The current owner of Point 4, Don Byrden (or Burden), told me he destroyed all of the old stuff a year ago, and sent me to a lot of people who might still have a piece of the old equipment. 

In searching for a point 4 I found only 2 leads. Bruce at Wild-Hare.com is one and http://daystarcomp.com Daystar was the second. 


Another person who might like to get involved is Darcy Sanchez (daystarcomp@earthlink.net) at daystarcomp.com. No email but I talk to him over the phone and he seemed to know more than I did about the old point 4. Phone (626) 967-6604. 


He thought he had a Mark 8 in storage. When I talked to him he was very knowledgeable, but he talked a good game, I just don't know how good of a game. 


Your best bet is Don short of Bruce's manual which he has the users copy for MT Copy. MT stands for mega tape. Let me know if I can help more


__________________________________________


Independently, it appears that Adrian Cory reports on LInkedIn working with a Point 4 Mark 12

__________________________________________


I programmed on one of these in the late '70s

I worked for a small company called Automated Funds Transfer Services (AFTS) that specialized in devices to read MICR, the special typeface used on checks (cheques), thus enabling automated reading.  My big project was to develop a system for creating check printing masters, which had previously been done manually.  Every time someone changed a phone number or moved, a new master had to be created, but by keeping the information in a database it was easy to make the edit and spit out a new master.

I've often described IRIS as "BASIC with database extensions", and it was interesting writing a fault-resistant system in, well, BASIC.  At one point in development, I asked our office manager to sit down at a terminal (ADM-3A) and 'just start pushing buttons'.  When she couldn't crash it or get somewhere where she couldn't get back out, I said, 'Ship it!'.

It was also a social experience: the system I had written replaced twelve people with special typewriters, with four people with ADM-3A terminals.  I recall having some qualms about that, but recognized that 'progress' (whatever that means) wasn't going to be halted by my philosophical concerns, but my paycheck would.

Read more at http://marc.info/?l=classiccmp&m=146274086507064&w=2
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Tim Carlson

http://microtechm1.blogspot.com/2016/05/larry-irwin-on-point-4-iris.html

[insert references from phone conversation (link not public) around 5/6/2016]
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David Weeks

Field Service Manager/Technician
Dynamic Concepts
September 1986 – May 1988 (1 year 9 months)18 Journey, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656
Maintain over 100 computer systems, in CA, running on an Iris Operating System, or Bits Operating System on DG/Point 4 computer systems.

Field Service Technician
D. H. Minicom Inc
1984 – 1986 (2 years)Los Angeles, CA
Maintain DG/Point4 systems in Orange County and LA areas.


Hi, AJ yes I did work on the Microtech, Star Technologies system, there where many of those around back then, I even sold one to a customer on my own. That was a very long time ago, had to give it some thought. I have a Radio Shack TRS80 that still works, that my father had purchased new, from many years ago. I have a core memory stack board from a Keronix computer also. I have connections to some really old computers if you are interested. David
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Rob "Enum"

(See this full discussion in the comments of this YouTube Video)

Our company used a POINT 4 mini and IRIS Ver 7.3 for 11 years. This brings back many memories. IPL was "Initialize program load" or start the system. A company called " Educational data systems" wrote many of the early POINT 4 utilities before IRIS and later ported them to IRIS

I used to love the command "PE" which was PORT EVICT. That command would dump any user off of the system. If you knew a worker was in a menu they shouldn't be in or just to have some fun and dump them off the system you could EVICT them. 

IRIS was a great operating system, very stable and flexible for the time. 

Somewhere around here I have an IRIS ver 7.3 and ver 8.1F manual around here. I also have sales brochures for the mark 6 and the Supermini mark 12 (32 bit machine) 

I do wish there was a way I could adapt the 168 MB 8" Fujitsu hard drive out of our old Point 4 into a modern computer to see the data. I still have the old hard drive sitting on a shelf at work. Ever hear of hooking one of these to a modern pc? 

I still have old backup tapes here I think. I'm looking for those. one thing I did was locate our programmer and author of our old programs we used to use on the minicomputer, i'm waiting to see if he accepted my friend request on facebook. If he's willing to talk about the software and programming in IRIS I can see if he's willing to help.  I KNOW he would be a HUGE source of knowledge on IRIS IF he remembers anything because he switched careers entirely. 

I used to play with "Stylus" which was a word processor that was not very good. I'm still looking for our old backup tapes too. I really appreciate letting me in on this project. It's fun to go back in time and see how we did it then. Worked pretty darn good too. 

I remember when I found out first Point 4 mini was not actually a genuine point 4. The CPU was made by a company called "Ardent" the hard disk controller was made by some other company I remember the word RIANDA on another board, turns out The only board that was a genuine Point 4 was the tape controller.

The enclosure had a large badge on the front that said POINT 4 Data Corp so i always thought it was genuine point 4. I remember back in about 1994 or so Point 4 was trying to drum up sales on their own and a rep from Point 4 came out to see if we wanted any upgrades (memory, lotus cache, larger hard disk etc) and he looked inside the computer and got visibly upset when he saw all of the other brand boards in the cabinet. He was asking me who sold us this system because this is not a genuine point 4 computer. I informed him the company that set us up with this computer went broke 10 years before. 

Then we hooked up with a company in Portland Oregon called "Allphase" computers that specialized in upgrading older point 4 compatibles. They set us up with a genuine Point 4 Mark 4E which was 1/2 the size of the first one but it was WAY faster and it had "unattended backup" capability where it would do backups without me having to stick around after work to do them. We used that one for another 5 years Then we went to a DOS system, then Windows and it's been boring ever since.  I always had a soft spot in my heart for the old NOVA compatibles. 

Some other anecdotal information if your interested, Our business is a tire and automotive repair shop outside of Seattle WA, and our first computer system in 1984 was the point 4 clone with 6 terminals  and four printers. We had another store that was connected using a 2400 Bps modem which was very fast back then, The entire system was over $50,000!! One time our power supply blew up and a new one was not readily available. Our hardware guy named Fred Butts took a power supply from an AT IBM PC and adapted it to work on the Minicomputer. Fred was a genius.

Another interesting thing I remember was when Fred was working on our system one night and he was "Upgrading" our memory board when something went terribly wrong when he started the system. The Lotus cache memory board somehow fried the CPU board. I remember him holding the still smoking board saying " I just blew up a $4,900 board" He had to drive home 20 miles at 1:00AM and get another CPU. We never did get to use the Lotus cache memory :(

Back in about 1985 the Federal Way WA fire department had TWO Mark Twelve super-mini's  Mirrored together for their 911 system. If one croaked, the other took over.  That system had over 64 users on it and Fred told me it ran for 6 years straight and they never had to fall back to the other computer. That system had the big Fujitsu EAGLE hard drives. 

Just some other memories / ramblings from a Point 4 / clone user. I am not a programmer but I was always curious about the inner workings of the system. 

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NOT:

Raleigh Plesko
PRESIDENT
MICROTECH BUSINESS SYSYTEMS, INC.
February 1984 – February 2006 (22 years 1 month)
MARKETING , SALES, FINANCIAL, COMPUTER MANUFACTURING AND PRINTER/NETWORK INSTALLATION AND REPAIR.

November 8, 2014 - Wm. Raleigh Plesko

I was owner and president of MicroTech Business Systems, Inc.  A small local computer sales and service company in Valparaiso, Indiana.  I had no affiliation or business with the company, Microtech Systems.

We custom built installed and serviced our own MicroTech PCs.

My company closed in about 1989,  I regret that I can not help you.


Best wishes,

Raleigh Plesko

2 comments:

  1. I first encountered RDOS systems in 1983. Followed quickly by IRIS systems, then Altos Xenix, SCO Xenix, SCO Unix, SCO OS5 - then Linux: Caldera, RedHat, Debian and now Ubuntu...

    We only had RDOS on the Nova's - where the language boot vs. the OS IPL brought up the multi-user aspect.
    We switched to Point4 IRIS systems and got them from Minicom and DTR for the most part. Got a few from Delta Data Systems as well. So we either had Minicom or MTCopy utilities to deal with for backup software and had QIC-24, magtape reels or those odd tapes shaped like a house (5 sides - think they were called MegaTapes) - Dennis Peattie and Chuck(?last name) were the DSP gurus who would help us deal with moving to new hardware -- pack the LU's, back them up to tape, boot from tape on new system, DSP a bit, restore to a new system, DSP a bit, re-boot from disk -- and voila!

    We used DSP quite often to adjust the headers of polyfiles when they got out of sync causing them to not open when requested... screwed up the timestamps... mainly due to how sensitive the systems were to power fluctuations. - had to have in-line vs. stand-by if you wanted them to stay up in sketchy power situations... Also used it to recover things in Point4's Electronic Office System... ouch... :)

    We still have our system logic for Practice Express written in dL4/dXport - the descendant of IRIS Basic (configured as a CGI) from Dynamic Concepts. So - we're now in a LAM[dXport] stack! Fully browser-based medical practice management system.

    We're currently figuring the in's and out's of changing to a Single Page App (SPA) using a full LAMP stack with AngularJS, Bootstrap, et.al. in the toolset. (quite a change from working with Televideo and Wyse terminals on Mark 3/4/5/9/12 systems...)

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  2. Thank you, Larry, for this contribution of fantastic detail!

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