The Development Revolution, Has it Passed Us By?
by Frank Clark, Amdahl Airline Solutions Group
Copyright © 1995, Amdahl Australia Pty Ltd.
Have you noticed the dramatic changes in software development that has taken place over the past ten years? Ten years ago, we all aspired to having a dumb terminal on our desks. Today, there are a multitude of tools available for all stages of development. CASE tools aid in research, design and documentation. PC workbenches make coding and unit testing a breeze. And automated testing tools have taken much of the agony out of systems testing and quality assurance.
Unfortunately, if your target platform is TPF, you probably feel like you have been left out in the cold. In fact, you will be hard pressed to find a commercial tool that handles any phase of the TPF development life cycle with the ease and comfort that our C++ brothers have become accustomed to. Over the past 10 years, most of us have adopted some new tools to improve our productivity and the quality of our products. Structured Programming Macros have improved our coding techniques, TPF Database Facility has
improved the reliability of our data handling, and CMS/TPF has improved the quality of our code. But, for most of us, these products have not significantly altered our development environment.
A survey of development tools available for other platforms will lead some to think that the "Development Revolution" has passed us by. Ironically, the one single attribute of our industry that is the most compelling for many of us - the small development community - is also most responsible for our exclusion from the software development revolution. Simply put, the cost of development combined with the limited number of potential customers has discouraged vendors from investing the money required to build the tools.
Fortunately, improvements in workstation development tools, operating systems and processing power are coming together to make it more feasible for vendors to address the lack of modern TPF development tools. These changes, combined with the dedication of a few individuals are helping to modernize and revolutionize the traditional way we do things. In 1995, we at the Amdahl Airline Solutions Group released the Personal Assembler to aid in the development of Assembler programs on PCs. This software provides Microsoft Windows users a functional equivalent of the IBM High Level Assembler. Alone, this tool allows programmers to code and assemble their programs independent of the mainframe and therefore bringing us closer to a more advanced development environment.
In the true spirit of innovation that has been characteristic of the Airline Solutions Group since its foundation we are proud to announce that this year we will release Personal TPF for Windows 95 and Windows NT. Personal TPF was designed with flexibility and adaptability in mind. The product provides a layered architecture with a TPF system services layer at the top level and a System 390 software emulation at the lower layer. All standard utilities e.g. program loading, trace and device emulation have been incorporated to provide a TPF compatible test system. This tool runs on 486 and Pentium class workstations without the need for specialized hardware. Our offering is considerably different than competing products in that it is intended to provide a modern alternative to VPARS and CMS/TPF test systems. Together, the Personal Assembler and Personal TPF products will provide an integrated Edit/Assemble/Test environment. Personal TPF is intended to meet the needs of corporate developers, out-source providers and individuals while requiring a minimum amount of setup and maintenance. A high level of compatibility with TPF, a flexible database scheme and multiple language support makes this achievable.
Personal TPF provides compatible system services with TPF4.1. The system is fully configurable and existing keypoints, face table, program loads and pilot loads may all be used without change in the Personal TPF environment. Using components from your existing TPF system eliminates the enormous amount of work that would otherwise be required to define and maintain a TPF system.
The initial release of Personal TPF is intended to provide the equivalent of a single processor with a single instruction stream and a single subsystem. Simple ALC type terminal/printer emulation is provided. A future release is expected to provide standard subsystem support. Additional device emulations will also be provided in the future.
Personal TPF supports a three level database scheme. The lowest level is the read-write database which is used exclusively by a single test system. This database is typically stored on the workstation. The next level, is a read-only database which can be shared by any number of users. The highest level is a host systems database. The host system is only accessed whenever a needed record is not available on either of the lower levels.
This tiered database scheme has a number of advantages. Firstly, only records which are accessed need to be on the PC and/or LAN databases, greatly reducing the database size. Secondly, accesses to the host system are minimized because only the first test system which access a specific record retrieves it from the host. Once retrieved, it can be stored on the shared read-only database for use by other test systems. Thirdly, when a host is available, there is no need to load an initial database, records are simply downloaded as needed from the host. Lastly, each user has full control over their read-write database, without interfering with other developers.
The only database required is the read-write database. Personal TPF can be configured to run with or without read-only and host databases. Users without access to a host system can load the initial database either from a capture, or from a combination of Auxiliary, E-Type and Pilot loads.
The initial release of Personal TPF will provide point and click instruction and macro trace capabilities as well as source level trace for programs assembled with the Personal Assembler. The next release of the Personal Assembler includes several enhancements to tightly integrate the assembler into the Personal TPF development environment and will ship during the second quarter of 1996.
While only a few installations have been using C as their preferred TPF application development language for some time, it appears that a larger number of users have either recently made this decision or are seriously considering it at this point. This move to C only exacerbates the problems inherent in our current development methodology. Without the development tools now customary on other platforms which support C, we are only realizing a portion of the benefit that should be gained from the switch to a higher level language. The initial release of Personal TPF will include run time support for C programs. In the near future, we plan to offer a C compiler as an add on to the Personal Assembler product. This compiler will allow us to provide a complete C development solution.
This is a question that comes up regularly. As individual test environment requirements and preferences will vary considerably, the answer is not simple. Several factors come into play such as the amount of memory that will be required to load your system's globals, the number of concurrent ECBs you will be creating and the amount of I/O your testing will involve. A modest environment for testing typical agent entries will probably require a 486/66 PC with 12MB of memory, 100MB of available disk space and Windows 95. By using a shared, read-only database on a LAN the disk space requirement can be reduced. Users with more extravagant requirements will want a Pentium class processor with additional memory. Windows NT users will require additional memory as well. Any Windows supported video is acceptable, however Super VGA is strongly recommended. If you would like to discuss more specific requirements, you are welcome to contact me directly.
Availability and Pricing
Beta testing of the Personal TPF product is expected to begin in the first quarter of this year. Naturally the general release date will follow some time later in the year. As of this writing, product pricing has not been set. The Personal Assembler product is generally available. Anyone wishing to receive additional news related to Personal TPF may email a request to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include "Personal TPF News" in the subject of your request. There is also a forum on the product active on the ASG Web Server http://www.webventures.com/asg/ . If you have specific questions please feel free to contact me directly.
Frank is currently involved in the development of Personal Assembler and Personal TPF. He may be reached via email at Frank.Clark@amail.amdahl.com or via fax at +61 3 9662-9397.
Personal Assembler and Personal TPF are trademarks of Parthenon Development.
Microsoft is a registered trademark, Windows and Windows NT are trademarks
of Microsoft Corporation. IBM is a trademark of IBM Corporation.
Pentium is a registered trademark of Intel Corporation.