Per year the lowest temperature on Earth: Incredible Jack

1983: the first call in the history of cellular, almost started a nuclear war (by mistake), published by the spreadsheet Lotus 1-2-3 for the IBM PC… a Lot has happened in that year. But I’ll tell you about one program for the Apple II, released in 1983 and forgotten already after a couple of years.

The program was called the Incredible Jack (the Incredible Jack), developed its small Business Solutions from kings Park in new York. The exact release date of this program could not be established, we only know that it happened 18 months before the release of her killer, AppleWorks.

Incredible Jack, like Lotus 1-2-3 that combines the functions of several programs. And was the world’s second largest integrated software product for microcomputers.

If 26 September 1983 Lieutenant Colonel Petrov, first discovered signal about the launch of 12 Minuteman missiles aimed at the USSR (the signal, as it turned out, was false), did not pay in its report attention to the suspiciously small number of missiles and would be followed by retaliation… Archaeologists of the distant future would have a chance to learn about Incredible Jack more than we know today.

Drafting business document in 1983

Jack got into the field of view of the computer journalists of 1983 and sparked their interest. I wrote about it, which is a word processor, spreadsheet, and database on one drive in one program. Actually all was much more modest. He lost almost all text processors on the market and absolutely all spreadsheets and database management systems.

Indeed, over the 5 years of the personal computer industry writing programs for them have turned into the most rapidly growing sector of the national economy of the developed world – on a tiny patch of memory the first half of the 80s the market leading companies have managed to deploy the most masterpieces.

There was already a wonderful word processors (WordStar, for example) and spreadsheets (VisiCalc and the same Lotus 1-2-3), and database management system (DB Master), in each of these categories, as in the primitive jungle, there was a fierce battle for success and survival – but everyone of these masterpieces, for all their undoubted virtues and talents, was a common flaw.

Each of these masterpieces has turned the Apple II, Commodore or IBM PC computer in a single program. When the RAM 64, or even 128 kilobytes, the use of at least two programs at the same time could not speak. One single program – and that with great difficulty did his job, it was a miracle.

But life is life. A typical business document of all time is crossing the streams of diverse information. The text of the calculated data, addresses, reference data,…

When each program takes up the entire computer as a whole, the creation of such a document becomes extremely challenging.

Imagine: in a word processor, you type the first few paragraphs, and here you need to insert some numbers, the source data for the calculations which you have, but they are in the database, they need to extract.

And compute – a database for personal computers in those years were not able to calculate. For calculations you can write your own program (you will not believe, but almost every first users in those days knew how to program) or resort to using spreadsheets.

And the data type to text back to a word processor. Once again, in a few paragraphs, to meet the challenge which is not included in the responsibilities of the word processor.

You propose to organize the process differently? To make in advance a draft of the document to identify locations that require calculations, database calls to select the desired data in the database, all count… But not every business document is born as he takes in a large and unfriendly world.

In addition, no matter how organize workflow, if the computer per unit time may engage in single (but good), without numerous shutdowns and inclusions of several programs is not enough.

Business document example. You can find lots of other examples. The essence of the problem clear, I think.

Requires a small addition: how do you imagine switching from program a to program B? As in the first versions of the iPhone OS (then iPhoneOS)?

No. It looked like this:

  • to save all changes;
  • to quit a program A;
  • to remove it the disk (floppy) from the floppy disk drive;
  • insert a floppy disk into the drive and load it;
  • to start the program B.

Many of the rows in the list actually was not one action but a whole group of activities, often requiring attention and concentration, and sometimes of mind.

What incredible incredible Jack?

You guessed it. The guys from kings Park in new York (their names, fate, Hobbies, and other useful things – all this is unknown) did exactly what is taught today in all the business schools of the world: the most successful software product is the solution to some problems faced by potential users.

Perhaps this was taught in the early 80’s, and the guys could respond to this “message”, that’s why the company was called Business Solutions Inc.

Steve Arantz, published in the November issue of Creative Computing in the 1983 review of the programme, said the most important thing:

It’s a word processor, spreadsheet, and database ON a SINGLE FLOPPY disk!

This was an incredible Incredible Jack. Incredible Jack (of all trades), as printed on the voucher, allowing a 75% discount to obtain a copy of the program, instead of the deceased along with the original floppy disk. Flexible 5.25-inch floppy was very vulnerable.

The English idiom “Jack of all trades” translates into Russian as “handyman”. An incredible handyman? Would you buy a program with the same name? I today – no. But in 1983, perhaps, the name couldn’t stop me.

If Incredible Jack really was embedded spreadsheets and DBMS, this might be the end. But it was much more interesting. They weren’t there. Even by the standards of that time, a spoiled semi-intelligent offices and works’AMI with millions of useful features.

In other reviews mentioned unintelligible “spreadsheet functions, but without the traditional grid cells”, “print function of e-mail addresses”, “manage files”. Still, as something very important, it was reported that the program is written in UCSD-Pascal, and is very progressive. “BASIC but still very powerful, because it invested a lot of money”.

Supplied program Incredible Jack was textbook, 138 pages. I have, therefore, (though anyone did not know) it is possible to reconstruct features Incredible Jack. Archaeologists envy! If each shard or chip scallop natives of the past centuries have applied a detailed manual…

The autopsy will show

According to the authors of the program, most users are used to working with texts, calculation and check of the records of three different programs. And JACK, as this program is called (at home) in the manual, to cope with all these challenges alone.

Program functions – word processing, calculations, and “store and retrieve records”. No spreadsheets or databases.

Word processing (creating, editing, and all that) – that’s understandable. But, and this is the innovation of JACK at any point of any text, you can create a “field”.

The field is created whenever the user enters the colon. On the screen there are some gaps and the caret “‸”. This is the border of the field. But remove the colon available for the regular use of stock characters, the authors JACK and not steel. Sign inserts can simply be erased and the field will disappear.

The field name is the word preceding the colon. In free text, alas, it is not too convenient. Therefore, the field names can be changed to whatever is appropriate, reflecting their purposes, in terms of the computational part of the program. To do this:

  • position the cursor anywhere between the “:” and “‸”;
  • go to the section Footnote (part of the screen below the text), using the commands Control-F and carriage return;
  • type in the Footnote field name, for example PRICE.

If this field is “variable”, whose value the user will input myself. If the field value is computed from values of other fields, in a Footnote, you enter the formula to calculate it, for example:


Everything is clear, Yes? Just in case “translate”: if the product prices (PRICE) and quantity (QTY) is more than 500, the amount to be paid (to PAY) equals the product of minus 5 percent (discount), otherwise it is equal to this work.

The number of spaces between “:” and “‸” set the maximum size of data in the field.

In the Footnote of our example must be defined in the following fields, it will show something interesting:

code>PRICE: ‸2 –
QTY: ‸–

The number after the caret symbol determines how many digits after the decimal point should be output on the screen and in the printout. This is the “something interesting”. You’re not interested, right?

Automatically calculations in the text are made only after you enter the formula or modify it. For conversion you need to dial the same Control-F and press carriage return.

If you enable the Lock mode, all text will be invariant, except for fields, but in response to any change in the values of all calculated fields will be recalculated without additional guidance. Text-this mode is not too practical, although can be used (the time is a time for throwing stones and gathering them).

The form is the same text in which the names of the fields decided to ask directly in the text, and at the end create a shape to “lock” it, including the immediate response to the change of any value in any field.

Forms are used not only for calculations. They have a much more important function: registering and displaying “records”. Almost database there is a field with a unique (within the form) the names, there is the possibility of extracting not all records, which meet the criterion specified formula (e.g., PRICE>125 AND QTY>100). Output records in sorted order, JACK offers several sorting algorithms.

It’s not all written in the user guide, but I liked the approach the unknown fathers JACK – very creatively, intelligently and carefully. Then people have not forgotten how to think…

About the fate of JACK

In may 1983 Incredible Jack 1.0 was on sale for $ 179. Plus sales tax in the state of new York in 1983 – of 7.25% of the price.

The program is compatible with the Apple II Plus (with the installation of the Language Card, circuit Board that increased the amount of the RAM to 64 kilobytes) and the Apple IIe (without any change), furthermore were required to have 2 or more drives for 5.25-inch diskettes.

In November 1983, JACK has already sold over $ 129 plus sales tax.

In 1984 came the Incredible Jack 1.1, the set of functions added generation of graphs and charts (in Lotus 1-2-3), and in November of the same year, Apple Computer introduced to the market AppleWorks for the Apple II, and from the Incredible Jack is now only a few of the articles on the pages of ancient journals, well-written and detailed guide and is… now more and this article.

On the lowest temperatures on Earth

Of course, I didn’t mean the entire history of our planet. You never know what the weather was here three or four billion years ago – I have not lived then.

21 July 1983 in Antarctica, at Vostok station, was recorded the lowest temperature on record: -89,2 ºC. This value remains a record these days.

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