Impulse by Computer Concept

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Zarchos
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Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by Zarchos » Fri Aug 14, 2015 2:42 pm

This replacement of Arthur looked very promising.
2 days ago I read an article in a Risc User mag, and I was wondering what happened to it.
Was it all vaporware or was there actually something coded ?

paulb
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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by paulb » Fri Aug 14, 2015 2:49 pm

This did come up before, with some details from someone who worked at Computer Concepts.

I'm not sure davidb heard anything more about it when he inquired further on the topic, though.

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davidb
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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by davidb » Fri Aug 14, 2015 3:20 pm

As far as I can tell, there was actually software written, so it wasn't all vapourware. :) Apparently, there may be stuff on some old hard drives at Xara.

I had an e-mail exchange with Charles Moir about it which has now pretty much dried up, although I did get a brief response when I sent him a link to this Digital Antiquarian article, so I imagine he doesn't have a spam filter rule just for me. :lol:

I'll see if I can ask him for permission to republish some of the things he told me, perhaps as an interview. I suggested to Bryan Hogan that he would be a good candidate to give a talk at ROOL. I don't know if anything happened about that.

Edit: "ROOL" should be ROUGOL, of course. #-o
Last edited by davidb on Sat Aug 15, 2015 12:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by Zarchos » Fri Aug 14, 2015 3:28 pm

MMhhh I don't find much info but thanks for the links.

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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by Zarchos » Fri Aug 14, 2015 3:30 pm

davidb wrote:As far as I can tell, there was actually software written, so it wasn't all vapourware. :) Apparently, there may be stuff on some old hard drives at Xara.

I had an e-mail exchange with Charles Moir about it which has now pretty much dried up, although I did get a brief response when I sent him a link to this Digital Antiquarian article, so I imagine he doesn't have a spam filter rule just for me. :lol:

I'll see if I can ask him for permission to republish some of the things he told me, perhaps as an interview. I suggested to Bryan Hogan that he would be a good candidate to give a talk at ROOL. I don't know if anything happened about that.
It would be great.
Not losing everything Acorn related, preserving as much as possible while possible is good.

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davidb
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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by davidb » Fri Aug 14, 2015 3:42 pm

Zarchos wrote:MMhhh I don't find much info but thanks for the links.
No, there's nothing in that article about Impulse. I sent him a link to that article because Computer Concepts had dealings with Atari at around that time and he had some interesting/amusing anecdotes about Jack Tramiel. :)

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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by poink » Fri Aug 14, 2015 5:11 pm

Vaguely remembering reading this in Acorn User, I believe that bits of the Impulse Operating System ended up in Impression. One of the indicators is that Impression has very non-standard error dialogs, has unique implementations of things that later software got from the OS, and, of course, one of the modules that's loaded by Impression is called Impulse...

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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by paulb » Fri Aug 14, 2015 6:06 pm

poink wrote:Vaguely remembering reading this in Acorn User, I believe that bits of the Impulse Operating System ended up in Impression. One of the indicators is that Impression has very non-standard error dialogs, has unique implementations of things that later software got from the OS, and, of course, one of the modules that's loaded by Impression is called Impulse...
Yes, I remember the dialogue anecdote, too. The Impulse module was some kind of inter-task communication system that CC tried to get other companies to adopt.

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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by davidb » Fri Aug 14, 2015 11:49 pm

I found these files on an old ADFS disk. They're in Impression and text format, so I did a rough conversion of the Impression files to PDF files - see the second archive for those.
Attachments
ImpulsePDFs.zip
Impulse documentation in PDF format files.
(193.7 KiB) Downloaded 68 times
ImpulseDoc.zip
Impulse documentation in Impression and plain text formats.
(86.95 KiB) Downloaded 47 times

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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by poink » Sat Aug 15, 2015 2:57 am

paulb wrote:Yes, I remember the dialogue anecdote, too. The Impulse module was some kind of inter-task communication system that CC tried to get other companies to adopt.
Yes, I suspect that the anecdote is accurate in that Impulse II is a development of the Inter-Process Communication system from the Impulse operating system; which I imagine had rich IPC as a core feature.

Reading the documentation that davidb managed to dig up, seems to support that view.

As well as containing many references to limitations caused by RISC OS, it generally sounds more like an late 80s/early 90s microkernel pitch (I've read way too many :lol:) with the talk of capability based security, calling methods on remote objects, network awareness, transparency, automatic use of computers on more than one network to as gateways between the two etc., than a method of implementing things like mail merge.

Why would you even consider something as fine-grained as capability-based security when the OS provides a syscall to enter supervisor mode, which allows you to read and write any bit of memory you like?

A particularly striking bit in respect of it being an very much influenced by then fashions in operating system design is "when ABI II is in use, our applications will become completely general-purpose servers which do nothing more than service requests to manipulate their objects".

ABI II being a "3D User-Interface Management System", the naming of which raises the question as to where the original ABI is...

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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by paulb » Sat Aug 15, 2015 11:33 am

poink wrote:Why would you even consider something as fine-grained as capability-based security when the OS provides a syscall to enter supervisor mode, which allows you to read and write any bit of memory you like?
I guess you wouldn't provide that syscall in a capability-oriented operating system. :wink:
poink wrote:A particularly striking bit in respect of it being an very much influenced by then fashions in operating system design is "when ABI II is in use, our applications will become completely general-purpose servers which do nothing more than service requests to manipulate their objects".
This isn't too far removed from stuff like COM on Windows or, at the more exotic end of the scale, something like Taligent. If you consider the idea that an application exposes its open documents, it can also resemble something like Plan 9 or the Hurd.

I was recently looking at the L4 microkernel family and various implementations are quite widely used. Indeed, Fiasco.OC is an "object-capability" variant of the L4 specification. So none of these ideas are particularly absurd, although people might argue that it has taken twenty or so years to refine the implementation of them.

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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by poink » Sat Aug 15, 2015 6:27 pm

paulb wrote:If you consider the idea that an application exposes its open documents, it can also resemble something like Plan 9 or the Hurd.
Yes, it reminded me of both.

Although, what I've just realised about the headless server thing is that, under RISC OS, the headless servers would still have to be Wimp Tasks, which just adds to the impression that Impulse isn't a good match to RISC OS, not least that it's defining its own IPC primitives over, often very similar, RISC OS Wimp_Message primitives.
paulb wrote:So none of these ideas are particularly absurd
Oh, absolutely. none of the ideas are absurd, at least not in terms of a rich set of IPC primitives for an Operating System.

They're just extreme overkill in terms of a protocol to allow Impression to do mail merge, especially as it doesn't specify how Impression actually talks to a database.
paulb wrote:although people might argue that it has taken twenty or so years to refine the implementation of them.
Perhaps, although, I'd argue that most of that progress wouldn't have been necessary for CC to have made Impulse into an excellent OS.

Couple of examples, L4's success in demonstrating good message passing performance for microkernels is entirely unnecessary if CC had gone for a monolithic or Plan 9 hybrid kernel. Work like EROS's demonstration of safe, unprivileged memory paging services, is entirely unnecessary if you don't allow unprivileged users to implement their own paging services.

*edit* finally noticed the formatting!
Last edited by poink on Wed Aug 26, 2015 9:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by helpful » Wed Aug 26, 2015 3:05 am

davidb wrote:I'll see if I can ask him for permission to republish some of the things he told me, perhaps as an interview. I suggested to Bryan Hogan that he would be a good candidate to give a talk at ROUGOL. I don't know if anything happened about that.
Could have sworn I replied to this before, but it appears not...

I did email Charles inviting him along to ROUGOL but never got a reply :-( so if you do contact him again please point him in my direction!

Bryan.
RISC OS User Group Of London - http://www.rougol.jellybaby.net/
RISC OS London Show - http://www.riscoslondonshow.co.uk/

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davidb
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Re: Impulse by Computer Concept

Post by davidb » Wed Aug 26, 2015 10:51 am

helpful wrote:Could have sworn I replied to this before, but it appears not...

I did email Charles inviting him along to ROUGOL but never got a reply :-( so if you do contact him again please point him in my direction!
I'll try!

Meanwhile, I started a thread about alternative operating systems to cover Impulse and other enigmatic mysteries from history. ;)

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