The Display Industry Association, which is promoting the development and use of AlphaWindow terminals, has released its AlphaWindow Software Architecture roadmap, a set of specifications enabling hardware, toolkit and application developers to build compatible and interoperable products from its headquarters in Palo Alto, California. AlphaWindow (alphanumeric) terminals give users access to windowing functions that are […]
The Display Industry Association, which is promoting the development and use of AlphaWindow terminals, has released its AlphaWindow Software Architecture roadmap, a set of specifications enabling hardware, toolkit and application developers to build compatible and interoperable products from its headquarters in Palo Alto, California. AlphaWindow (alphanumeric) terminals give users access to windowing functions that are traditionally associated with graphical environments, without the need for graphics technology. The Association claims AlphaWindow will enable any character-based application to run in a conventional, mouse-based windowing environment without the need to modify code, and, it believes, at a fraction of the cost of many graphical-based systems. A window manager on the host system creates the definition of a window for an application, while the terminal itself performs the windowing operations. Some implementations – where a window manager and multiplexor are present – will enable different applications to be accessed in different windows on the same screen: cut and paste between applications is supported. The Display Industry Association envisages different terminal emulators being able to run in different windows on the same screen. In the past, some terminal manufacturers have developed proprietary solutions to the problem of adding windowing functionality to character-based applications, but these have tended to all by the wayside. The Association roadmap includes a description of the protocols supported by AlphaWindow terminals, an application specification describing the protocols emitted by a compliant application and an application programming interface that describes the C language interface to he application specification. The documentation costs $95. The specifications will support toolkits that include, for instance, the ability to create different looks and feels, such as OSF/Motif, Windows or Open Look. The Association is currently talking to firms such as Boulder, Colorado-based XVT Inc, whose interface-independent technology can produce a range of different front-ends for applications, including Apple Mac, Windows and Motif. In addition, it says manufacturers of multi-port boards are considering incorporating the window manager as a whole into their firmware products. Although AlphaWindows terminals are primarily suited for Unix – Santa Cruz Operation Inc is supporting the specifications under its Unix – they will work with any operating system which can do multiplexing. NCR Corp’s Applied Digital Data Systems division, which is readying its own AlphaWindows terminals, will be doing an implementation for Pick, according to Vinny Luciano. Display Industry Association vice-president Steve Jones – also managing director of UK Unix communications software specialist JSB Computer Systems Ltd, Macclesfield – says his company is talking to Digital Equipment Corp about support under VMS. Main users of AlphaWindow terminals are expected to be the mid-ranking clerical and administration staff of organisations that have several tasks they need to perform using different applications. Microvitec Plc is currently readying a colour AlphaWindow terminal for an August release, priced at UKP750, which supports standard personal computer keyboards and Microsoft Corp mice. Wyse Technology Inc’s Link subsidiary has black and white and colour offerings waiting in the wings, Cumulus Display Systems Inc will have its terminal out within three months and NCR-ADDS will begin volume shipments of its product later this year. Of the top terminal manufacturers, only IBM Corp (the biggest) does not yet support the AlphaWindow effort, though it does market JSB’s AlphaWindow MultiView Mascot product and the Display Industry Association says that it is continuing discussions with it on the subject.