Strand Palace Hotel, London


30 November 1983


This was that rare occasion, a CUA -sponsored meeting at which no-one was after ICL's blood With characteristic low cunning the company first put up an odious marketing person to draw such offensive remarks as the audience could muster (chiefly "What about TP?" and "When?") and then lob them over to Hamish Carmichael to be dealt with after lunch Mr Gershon (for it was he) is much addicted to the use of ACL (Audible Capital Letters) and so we were repeatedly told that CAFS-ISP was now offering a real End User Capability at a Highly Competitive Price; he also kept referring to it as the Product of the Decayed" which can t be right, even if Vic Maller has left the companyAs regards price however, it is depressing to learn that we could (now) buy a whole DSC complete with CAFS for the cost of the add-on DFC CAPS module i.e £35k.

The next speaker was Roger Hare, an equally paradigmatic Man from West Gorton, who acquitted himself well in the extremely boring task of detailing the history of the CAFS-ISP field trials, including such minutiae as the number of bugs and the dates each was cleared Instructively, we were told that there had been over two hundred (sic) bugs in Querymaster (variously abbreviated throughout the day as QM, QRYM and QYRM) and about half a dozen each for VME 8.10, IDMS350, DDS650; one (one) hardware failure had required a change in the CAFS microcode Of the nine field trial sites, one (one) had gone live - the day before the meeting by an odd coincidenceAll had had ample evidence to justify the performance claims previously made for the systemSeveral technical queries were also handled by this speaker, mostly to do with the impact of CAFS searches on concurrent TP systems, which is predictably pretty dire.

Lastly before lunch, Peter Drake of Southern Water spoke briefly about the working party on high level interfaces to CAFS, in which we are also involvedHe did little more than outline the history of the group, express gratitude for ICL's helpfulness in setting it up and promise that the Report would be finished by January.

The lunch was high on protein, but low on flavour and I spent half of it in the pub with some policemen I learned from S.George (QMC) that their CAFS would be used if at all as a means of supercharging existing IDMS databases, that they were very worried about concurrency problems and that installing VME release 8 was a pig I also ingratiated myself with one Ian Turner, whose title is Marketing Innovation Manager within UKD Marketing and who is, significantly, a Kidsgrove Man This means that he is willing not just to countenance but even actively to support the "Death to the Dictionary" heresy This maintains that CAFS should be accessed via the low level RSI rather than via the baroque orthodoxies of Bracknell Man Consequently we are now on the list for field trials of PSAM, RCI, RSI, Textmaster and ANONP (another non-nameable product).

After lunch we were given a tantalisingly brief account of progress on the Inland Revenue's COP (Computerised PAYE) system The purpose of this is not just to catch up with Paul Griffiths, but also to provide a national facility for each tax office to be able to translate names and addresses into National Insurance numbers Eventually it will use 47 2966s with 18,000 DRS terminals accessing about 250 FDS 640s (Laughter) The first of its 47 regional systems went live in October The interesting aspect for us is that they use a purpose-written interface to the ISAM RAM, using the RSI, thus giving the lie to Bracknell Man's assertion that everything must be done via the Dictionary.

The next speaker, from Nottingham Borough Council, had enjoyed his lunch rather too much to make any very intelligible criticisms of Querymaster, particularly as nearly everything he complained of was a direct consequence of trying to use a 1960-style database of flat files as if it was an IDMS system and also of behaving as if CME was a real operating system instead of a transition aidAnother speaker from Southern Water (which is the one site to have gone live with CAFS) gave an impressive account of their field trial experiencesThey had used QM (QRYM or QYRM) on a 105 Mb database and even in this cumbrous software environment could report vast performance improvements.

Finally, two ICL speakers Andrew Hutt (on behalf of Bracknell Man) and Hamish Carmichael (on behalf of the human race) summarised the state of play. Hutt asserted that QM without CAFS could search 250 records a second, and 4000 with it Carmichael, who is much better at PR, proved that a 2966 with CAFS could read at one mile an hour as follows. The upper limit for one 2966 is six CAFS units, giving you a total maximum database size of 121 gigabytes, i.e roughly the equivalent of 5 miles of library shelves. This would, he claimed, take about half an hour cpu to scan the lot. Hutt said how happy he was that at last ICL had made CAFS an integral part of the company's development plans; Carmichael said how happy he was that further developments were already underway at Kidsgrove (i.e not Bracknell) and even non ICL software houses. This oblique reference to ANONP clearly augurs well for our early involvement with the RSI, an impression confirmed by Turner's interest in our proposed packaging of an SPSS interface using PSAM.