GUI For PICK Solved

Years ago, even before I graduated from BYU in Computer Science, my first computer related job involved the PICK operating system. Very fortuitous, as it turned out, for it lead to a long term position at ADP Inc, now an 8 billion dollar company in annual sales. The PICK system is a marvel and that is why it is still very much alive and active in the world of business computing. Today it is called a MultiValue NoSQL type database system. There are multiple flavors, all based on the “Microdata REALITY” original: Reality, CoRA, NorthGate, jBase, and Universe are some varieties that I have used.

Originally, MultiValue systems used character based terminals and, later, PC based terminal emulators for the user interface (UI). With the advent of Macs, PC’s, and then the web, it became a little embarrassing from a marketing perspective for companies with MV systems to continue on with character based (green screen) interfaces. Most MV systems are extremely robust and efficient so they end up running a lot of intricate business processes on the back end. Over the years MV legacy systems grow to such complexity that it is cost prohibitive and almost impossible to replace them with “modern” relational databases and GUI systems, which, when compared to legacy MV systems tend to be “all hat and no cattle.”

ADP tried to replace their MV systems (CoRA) several times by re-writing it into a 3-tiered GUI system — and failed. Eventually, they punted and developed “Web Suite” which simply overlayed a graphical screen directly on top of existing character based screens. This allowed them to continue with all the old underlying software and architecture and introduce a somewhat graphical look and feel. Ingenious really, but not as capable as a modern GUI should be. Lipstick on a pig really, but good enough.

All companies with MV systems have struggled in a similar fashion because MV systems do not have a built in communications layer that works seamlessly with internet based communications. My current company, Columbia Ultimate, has also searched for a good solution to this problem. Finally, after all these years, the problem has been solved. A company called Bluefinity International has created a product called MV.Net that lets MV/Pick communicate on the network in the native way: using the telnet protocol. The end result is a browser running a Silverlight (C#) based GUI that talks directly to the MV back end. It works beautifully and, yes, MV programming is required to separate the obsolete UI code from the business logic code — not a minor task, depending on how many functions are moved over — yet it’s doable and at the same time tends to simplify MV systems significantly.

The problem in the MV/Pick world that has existed since Windows 95 has finally been solved in a quality way.

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