Re: [unrev-II] Augment/NLS license for port to Squeak/Smalltalk?

From: Paul Fernhout (
Date: Fri Jan 21 2000 - 20:07:13 PST

From: Paul Fernhout <>

Eric Armstrong wrote:
> Marcelo Hoffmann wrote:
> > There is a question whether it would make sense to reverse engineer
> > the code, or more likely, incorporate the lessons into new code that
> > is architected and engineered with more flexibility.... and here I am
> > truly out of my element....
> I'm inclined to believe that is the ideal option. Implementing in Java
> creates a system that will run on most anyone's computer. Using XML as
> the basic data system stands to simplify some of the coding and provide
> much of the required functionality, as well.

You both make good points.

I definitely think we can come up with a good new integrated system
without using Augment/NLS.

I've been working on my own knowledge storage system for years based on
ideas similar to those in William Kent's book "Data & Reality",
implementing it mainly in Smalltalk and now Python (with earlier
versions in C/C++, Pascal, Lisp, and Forth).

I've also set up a very experimental prototype DKR in Zope and Python.
which includes a news product called Squishdot
that looks like Slashdot.
(all this using existing open source products).

However, I just thought it would be very much fun to be able to use what
Doug has been using for all this time. If it were only a small amount of
work to port it, it might be an interesting task to get it running on
top of Squeak.

It would be interesting for two reasons:
* to completely understand all the concepts Doug is talking about (I
believe he said it takes a weak just to show all the things the current
system can do), and
* for historical reasons -- to provide a way that future generations
would be able to access Doug's working environment and even maybe
thoughts (if somewhere down the road his own Augment database is made
available to others.)

Historical reconstructions can be very useful. For example, I used to
live within walking distance of Iowa State in Ames, IA, where the first
digital computer (Atanasoff/Berry) was created. They have a project to
rebuild one for historical purposes:
My next door neighbor in Ames was one of the initial reconstruction team
>From that site: "Built in 1937-1942 at Iowa State University by John V.
Atanasoff and Clifford Berry, it introduced the ideas of binary
arithmetic, regenerative memory, and logic circuits. These ideas were
communicated from Atanasoff to Mauchly, who used them in the design of
the better-known ENIAC built several years later." So, Mauchly at the
University of Pennsylvania got to reinvent the computer with DOD funds
(badly, using base 10 adders) and John V. Atanasoff and Clifford Berry
couldn't get continued funding and went off to other things (as
practically no one recognized the value what they had done).

And while I'm on the topic of people not getting credit, of course you
all know who invented radio, AC current, vacuum tube amplifiers,
fluorescent lights, and discovered x-rays? Probably not who you heard
about in school -- it was Nikola Tesla!
The world is not kind to many true inventors. (By the way, he was born
in Croatia.)

If the Augment system does not use DEC20 assembler, and just uses some
small number of consistent commands operating on a well defined
consistent data structure (or structures) then I would think I (or
someone else) could cobble together something to read in Augment
datafiles and provide an Augment-like front end to them running under

If Boeing were willing to open source the code, I still think something
could be learned by looking at it in detail. However, probably the same
thing could be learned by studying the technical publications and user
manual. Of course, the more that Augment is reverse-engineered, the
shakier the legal grounds if the resulting OHS/DKR is successful and
Boeing decides they would like to assert IP rights. So, that reason
might be enough to avoid looking at Augment/NLS.

-Paul Fernhout
Kurtz-Fernhout Software
Developers of custom software and educational simulations
Creators of the Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator

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