Calling for [Point 4] IRIS programmers

Ian S. King isking at
Sun May 8 15:54:21 CDT 2016

On Sun, May 8, 2016 at 1:31 AM, Microtech Dart <microtechdart at>

> Hi, all.  It's been a while since I've discussed anything here.  We've made
> a lot of progress re-constructing a couple of Point 4 machines (as much as
> one can without the actual hardware), yet still need some help from a few
> knowledgeable folks in this 35+ year old OS.  It was built on the DG Nova
> foundation, but made by Educational Data Systems, which became Point 4, for
> their Point 4 machines.  So, it doesn't exactly "just run" on SimH Nova.
> We've been in regular contact with Bruce Ray, who is a true expert in all
> Data General and related systems. He has already helped us TREMENDOUSLY.
> But other than Bruce Ray, are there any other folks here on this forum who
> may have had any IRIS programming, either on the Point 4, or another system
> of similarity in the late '70s to early '80s?
> I've hunted down a handful of people so far on LinkedIn and scouring the
> internet, and only a few of those have responded.  But I just thought I'd
> make a shout out here. A small handful have kindly responded, with either
> limited recollection or availability, or both.
> In addition to Bruce, those who have contributed so far include David
> Takle, and one of the original Point 4 IRIS designers, Dan Paymar.
> We've added a LOT of new content and progress to our
> restoration/re-creation of what is turning out to be TWO distinct Point 4
> IRIS systems.
> Stop by our site if you like, and especially review the directory page
> "Understranding IRIS":
> Does anyone here have anything to add, or IRIS/Point 4 documentation that
> could be helpful here (other than what we have at
> ).
> Thanks all, I always appreciate the fantastic feedback here.
> -AJ

Very cool!  Yes, I programmed on one of these in the late '70s, and I've
casually Googled for info about it many times, with no success.  So it's
great to hear that someone has dug up some info on it and I'm not just

I worked for a small company called Automated Funds Transfer Services
(AFTS) that specialized in devices to read MICR, the special typeface used
on checks (cheques), thus enabling automated reading.  My big project was
to develop a system for creating check printing masters, which had
previously been done manually.  Every time someone changed a phone number
or moved, a new master had to be created, but by keeping the information in
a database it was easy to make the edit and spit out a new master.

I've often described IRIS as "BASIC with database extensions", and it was
interesting writing a fault-resistant system in, well, BASIC.  At one point
in development, I asked our office manager to sit down at a terminal
(ADM-3A) and 'just start pushing buttons'.  When she couldn't crash it or
get somewhere where she couldn't get back out, I said, 'Ship it!'.

It was also a social experience: the system I had written replaced twelve
people with special typewriters, with four people with ADM-3A terminals.  I
recall having some qualms about that, but recognized that 'progress'
(whatever that means) wasn't going to be halted by my philosophical
concerns, but my paycheck would.

So there's my two cents' worth.  Thanks for sharing this, it brings back
some interesting memories....  -- Ian

Ian S. King, MSIS, MSCS, Ph.D. Candidate
The Information School <>
Dissertation: "Why the Conversation Mattered: Constructing a Sociotechnical
Narrative Through a Design Lens

Archivist, Voices From the Rwanda Tribunal <>
Value Sensitive Design Research Lab <>

University of Washington

There is an old Vulcan saying: "Only Nixon could go to China."

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