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Remembering TurboDOS

I just discovered this awesome TurboDOS site.

When I started work in 1984 the office computer system consisted of a Northstar Horizon running TurboDOS feeding about half a dozen serial lines connected the dumb terminals. The terminals were green screens. We were running Wordstar and Supercalc and Dbase. When the system was updated in around 1986 the terminals were colour and I was literally hopping around the room in excitement - I thought that was so cool. Great to see this fantastic site!

I fired off an email to congratulate the webmaster (not heard back yet). I include a snippet of the email I sent here:

Back in 1984 I was an electronic engineering graduate with the ink still wet on my degree certificate, and went to work for a company called Seiscom Delta United who had an office ten minutes from my house down the old Rusham Road industrial estate in Egham. Seiscom were an oil exploration company and their entire office was powered by a Northstar Horizon with a Z80 co-processor board running TurboDOS. I remember the startup screen quite clearly. We were running Wordstar, Supercalc 2 and Dbase (forget which version now - maybe 2 and later 3).

When I left the company in 1987 they were still quite happily running everything on TurboDOS. However, I think we were on Supercalc 3 by then and the terminals had gone from green screens to colour, which I thought at the time was the coolest thing since sliced bread!

We had similar setups in out satellite offices - there was a Northstar running TurboDOS in our Khartoum and Lagos offices - running the standard app suite I already mentioned. We also had them out in the field - yes TurboDOS code has been running in the scrubs of Sudan and the mangrove swamps of Nigeria!

Sadly Seiscom doesn't exist any more, and I'm pretty sure that old hardware was thrown in a skip (ouch) along with all the manuals (there were shelves full of them I seem to remember).

The remarkable thing is how much we did with so little hardware resources in those days. With 64k addressing limits and 4MHz processors (Z80A) and dumb terminals we managed the accounts for a complex operation that spanned multiple continents, we kept an inventory of the thousands of pieces of equipment involved in seismic exploration (including all vehicles and scientific equipment), and wrote and stored all the documentation, invoices, business letters, proposals and plans. Quite incredible really.

I should probably add Seiscom had at least 100 employees in the UK (most of whom worked in the field overseas). We also had several ongoings exploration prospects in Sudan which comprised offices, workshops, warehouses, and a number of 'parties' or exploration camps out in the field. We had extensive operations in Nigeria and a smaller operation in Tanzania. So, not a small company - all running off a few Z80s clocked at 4MHz.

They really were remarkable times.