ICL had arranged a hands-on demonstration of the new Personal Data System (a relational system developed at Sputhampton) largely for our benefit; attendees were: R.Stratton, L.Burnard, S.Hockey (OUCS), S.George (QMC) C.Massey (SWURCC) and D.Doulton (Southampton).
There was a preliminary briefing session on PDS concepts - tables, fields, etc. The system manages to give a full relational capability without the jargon. It is used entirely interactively. The user defines one or more tables, which have names and fixed attributes. Each attribute is defined by name and value (possible values are integer, decimal, character string, date and century date) . Checking rules may be specified to validate data further on input. At present all input is interactive, but plans for bulk loading of data were murmured about.
The command syntax is quite simple to use and, after some initial problems with the computer (a 2903 pretending to be a 1902) three of us were able to get a reasonable impression of the system in operation. It seemed flexible and intelligble to the naive user, in most important respects. We all were able to create and update tables without difficulty, and to make some simple enquiries. There was of course no way to investigate the performance of the machine when more heavily loaded.
There was some discussion of facilities we felt to be lacking: chielfy more sophistication in its handling of character sets, more flexible sorting options, more sophisticated conditionals and a macro facility closer to that of Data Display. Compatibility with IDMS was also mentioned as an important requirement. ICL are not of course in a position to give any firm dates, or even weak ones, but around the end of this year it might be worth complaining about the product's non-availability on VME/B again. Meanwhile, there is an excellent manual, and the product is running on 2903 and ME29.