VISIT REPORT L. BURNARD

Strand Palace Hotel

ICL CUA Presentation on CAFS-ISP

6 April 1982

CAFS-ISP represents ICL's first step towards machine architecture capable of supporting "fifth generation" processors and so its launch was associated with a certain amount of quiet ballyhoo. Speakers included a person from the DOl, the charismatic d'Agapayeff and even R. Wilmott himself. d'Agapayeff held up a shiny metal box the size of a postcard and said that the Japanese were about to flood the market with similar articles which would have the processing capability of a PDP-11 or two and that the computer industry had better watch out. The home computer of the future, he also opined, would be programmed in something like Prolog and you could forget your BBC Basic. Wilmott produced a number of curious statistics about such things as the productivity of workers in the information processing industry and the numbers of terminals per square foot of office space, and drew some rather forced analogies with the Agricultural Revolution before assuring us that ICL were indeed investigating Prolog for internal use. The great thing about CAFS (of course) is that it makes prolog-type programming feasible on a more than experimental scale, and thus opens the way to all sorts of startling innovations in natural-language processing, text searching and database query languages. The chief drawback of CAFS is that (as a result of Wilmott's otherwise admirably ruthless rationalisation of ICL's product range) it will only ever run on S-series processors. Despite much talk of co-operation with Universities (all of which so far as I know have P-series processors) therefore, our only hopes of getting a toe into this particular hot bath at present seem to be to wait for the X25 interface to CAFS devices promised for the future, unless of course we can get a new processor …

After an excellent lunch, two current CAFS-800 users were wheeled on to report their experiences: one being W.H. Smith who use it for their 70 Mb mail order file, and the other being Thorn EMI TV Rentals whose representative said "the CAFS concept is a basic means of getting at the grass roots information", thus testifying at least to the excellence of the lunch. Hamish Carmichael (ICL) then gave more precise details. CAFS-ISP would be a standard product, supplied as a. hardware module additional to the standard DCM and connected via standard DCU2s. A reading rate in excess of 1Mb/sec was claimed, while a dual 2988 with its full complement of CAFS drives could access 80+ gigabytes, be they standard IDMS databases recman files, relational tables, text files or (a CAFS special) "self-identifying format files". This capability arose from the integration of CAFS into the standard IPA jigsaw puzzle, of which only one piece now remains to be revealed.