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July 10, 1991

MSE FROM ISRAEL WANTS TO TEACH THE WORLD A MAGIC WAY OF DEVELOPING APPLICATIONS

By CBR Staff Writer

There is a movement born at the Israeli Computer Defence Research Centre more than a decade ago whose work is just beginning to be seen via Israeli companies raising their profile in the UK. Last year Sapiens Ltd introduced its eponymous computer-aided programming tools for IBM mainframes, this year it is the turn of MSE Ltd to unveil its computer-aided programming tools, called Magic, for the personal computer and workstation market. Both share a common approach to generating applications, and in the past in Israel Magic has been described as the mini Sapiens, although as Alex Hill, managing director of MSE UK Ltd, based in Wembley, Middlesex, points out Sapiens could equally well be described as the major Magic.

Same stable

The reason it is worth mentioning that both Magic and Sapiens come from the same stable, is that neither product conveniently falls into an established software category. Both are application generators, computer-aided programming tools, but they are not fourth generation languages. There is no procedural language involved in any conventional sense, no code is written or compiled, there are no linkage editors and although there are similarities between this computer-aided programming approach and object-oriented programming, neither company is completely comfortable with the parallel. Yohai Shaked, marketing director of MSE Ltd, says that Magic is object-oriented to the extent that it uses objects that can inherit properties, but explains that to describe the approach as object-oriented introduces the idea of compilers, languages and linkage, whereas Magic is table-driven. The Magic product is five years old and MSE has sold 80,000 licences for it in the MS-DOS world. However, the product is relatively new to the UK – it arrived two years ago but is still not well-known. It is targeted at professional developers who can create robust local area network applications dealing with millions of records and gigabytes of storage. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the Israeli computer industry tried to interest the rest of the world in ingenious hardware developments – universal emulators designed to mimic not just mid-range IBM mainframes but multiple machines on the same CPU, emulations of IBM Corp’s System 36 on the Intel 8086 and suchlike – but on the whole, apart from the OEM deal struck by Elbit Computers Ltd with Nixdorf Computer AG on the Anat, which in Nixdorf colours became the 8890 IBMulator, the outside world on the whole was not interested. Things have been relatively quiet on the Israel front of late, but you can’t keep good computer scientists down for long, a flood of new Jewish talent long experienced in performing miracles with derisory resources is pouring out of the Soviet Union, and Israeli computer companies are beginning to poke their heads above the parapet again – but this time the benign invasion is being led by inventive software companies that reckon they have something to teach the rest of the world.

Katy Ring reports on the latest arrival.

These applications are developed by simply filling in tables. But it struck MSE that there is more scope for this sort of powerful tool in the Unix and VAX/VMS market than in the MS-DOS world. And so the company decided to position itself to compete with Oracle Corp and Ingres Corp. Hill believes that the Magic front end tool is up to mixing it with such well-established products but sees that it stands no chance in promoting its own database as part of the package. So the architecture of Magic has been restructured to comply with SQL interfaces and communicate with Oracle, Rdb and C-ISAM files as well as with its own relational database. Magic has two main modules – the design module and the run-time module. The developer works with tables: menu tables, data dictionary tables, and program dictionary tables. When these have been filled in, a built-in screen editor defines on-screen and printed reports and the application can then run.

Documentation This simple approach leads to gains in development time, and in maintenance time as

all documentation is generated automatically. Magic is currently available for MS-DOS 3.1, Novell Inc’s NetWare, OS/2 Standard, Unisys Corp BTOS/CTOS, VAX/VMS and Santa Cruz Operation Inc Unix System V. Any application developed in one environment can be transferred to any other supported environment without change. Furthermore, Magic can be used to develop applications in such a way that the screen code, application code and data management code can be processed in different places. In other words Magic applications support client-server computing across DECnet and TCP/IP. The one obvious drawback that Magic has is that it does not yet support standard graphical user interfaces such as DECwindows, Motif and Windows 3.0, although Shaked says it will within the next 10 to 12 months. Prices for the system range from UKP700 for MS-DOS to UKP3,300 for Santa Cruz Unix and DEC VAX/VMS.

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