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  1. Technology
July 24, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

Unix System Laboratories Pacific Ltd has just held its 6th annual System Software Technology Seminar in Tokyo to a packed audience, indicating the growing interest in Unix. The two-day programme featured presentations from five Unix Labs and Bell Labs researchers. The keynote speech was given by Dennis Ritchie, who filled the audience in on the latest research programmes underway in the AT&T Bell Labs, and in particular described the Plan 9 operating system which attempts to apply to a new Unix environment the newer concepts of distributed systems, interactivity and user interfaces, which have attracted interest since the development of Unix to a new Unix environment. The other speakers included Greg Clark, a technical manager at Unix Labs Pacific on intelligent streams input-output processors; Dale DeJager, vice-president of AT&T EasyLink Services who presented the AT&T Global Messaging Services in actual use; and Donald McGovern, vice-president of distributed computing and desktop systems at Unix Labs, who talked about the Unix System V Desktop. Unigram-X Tokyo had the opportunity to interview Dr J Wayne Hunt, the Director of C++ Software Systems at Unix Labs. This division is a relatively new one at Unix Labs and is run as a sub-business, which gives Dr Hunt as the manager of a team of developers and product managers, direct profit line responsibility for a number of tools including C++, the Documenter, the S Statistical package and the Toolchest. Unix Labs sells a C++ source licence for $25,000, although this price is likely to rise soon with the release of new version 3.0. In the US all major hardware vendors are resellers of C++, and so are a number of key software vendors, who have added libraries and tools such as debuggers, browsers and tools on top of the Unix Labs-supplied source code; these include Sabre Software, Glockenspiel and ParcPlace Systems. The formation of a resellers group, the C++ Resellers Alliance has provided a means for feedback from the resellers and their end-users to be incorporated in future enhancements of the product. Dr Hunt describes C++ programming as a grass-roots movement that has spread through the enthusiasm of end-users and programmers in vendor companies, much like Unix did. In the US there are estimated to be around 100,000 C programmers – these are the population target for the spread of C++. The key feature of C++ as compared with C lies in two object-oriented features: the syntax and semantics to enable modelling of the real world through the definition of objects whose interface with the outside world (other objects and actions) is defined separately from its implementation (internal representation of the object), and the support of the concept of inheritance, the ability of a class of objects to inherit attributes of other objects in a hierarchical fashion. Use of C++ permits greater levels of re-use of modules of code when developing systems, thus reducing investment and ensuring higher productivity of development. Studies at AT&T and General Electric Co Inc found that subsequent changes to an object-oriented system written in C++ were easier because the parts to be changed and the effect on other code could be isolated more easily. Dr Hunt ventured that C++ was the most expressive of object-oriented languages, compared with object languages that are better known to researchers in Japan, such as SmallTalk and Common Lisp.

Sigma Systems

Another development of note in the US market is the prospective appearance of object-oriented databases; Dr Hunt sees this as a race between small companies such as Ontologic and Object Design with original object-oriented technology, and relational database companies exploring the release of object-oriented databases for a new market. In Japan, Sigma Systems, now a company carrying on the work into programming tools inherited from the Sigma Project, has been focusing on C++ as well. In Japan the number of C programmers has not yet reached critical mass according to Unix Labs, although it is growing fast as in the US. Most large-scale

application development is still done in Cobol. However Japan’s studious attention to what is happening in the US market plus need for the types of systems for which development in C++ is especially suitable – such as transaction processing and expert systems for control applications – combined with the new-found marketing energy of Unix Labs Pacific guarantees that C++ will get more attention here. – Anita Byrnes

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