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Doug's Mailbag: Your Favorite Dead or Defunct Companies and Products, Part 2

We continue sharing some of your responses to your favorite companies and products that aren't with us anymore:

My favorite defunct product is the Texas Instruments TI-99\4A.  When I bought mine in 1982, all the store demos (TI-99\4A, commodore, etc) had "Donkey Kong" on them and the TI had the best graphics.  Once I got it home and opened it up, I found the manuals to be very well written and easy to understand.  They made learning BASIC a breeze.  Imagine my delight when over the summer I found a program on the Internet that not only emulates the TI-99\4A on the PC, but comes with the TI's most popular games and applications.  Once again, I get to play "Tunnels of Doom."
- Neil

My favorite defunct product was Cullinet's CULPRIT report writer. This was a no-compile report generator that would read IDMS natively, and had sophisticated (for its time) sorting, control breaking and page setup -- all the benefits of a custom written COBOL program without the coding or compiling. Interestingly, it was the same product as Cullinets EDP-Audtior. They just renamed and repackaged it with a few different modules and charged you twice! Now how's that for a business model!

Anyway, if you look at modern report generators like SAS, COGNOS,etc, they can all trace a little history back to CULPRIT. It was a great tool.
- Frank

There are many -- how about good old DBASE III? Empires were made on that product. I used the multi-user version on a Novel Netware LAN in the mid-1980s to run a system that tracked requisitions, purchases and deliveries. Despite all the features, the application was pretty doggone snappy.

This recollection also brings back memories of a DBASE clone called Clipper. It could produce a compiled DBASE III application or Paradox.

That takes me to Novell Netware, version 2.x. After using IPX for years, Microsoft came out with their network and file servers that brought the  death of Netware.  The dedicated server in 2.x was reasonably snappy.  And with a centralized lock manager, multi-user applications were possible.

Of course, I'd be remiss in not citing Visicalc. Lotus 123 owes its origins to that program. Many lessons in licensing were learned from that program.
- Lee

My response will quite definitely date me  to before your time.  I was working with GSI, an oil exploration company in Dallas, when they bought the rights to the transistor from Bell Labs in Houston. This led to the formation of Texas Instruments in Dallas. As I was an electronics tech --GSI moved me over to TI at the planning stage -- I still have (in storage that is for sure) one of the first Computer units that TI built. I even wrote a math program that would convert acoustic signals to Fourier transforms that could work on the "cracker box". This was the early 1950s and is a far cry from the unit I am now using. Needless to say, I assembled this unit myself and am still using a Microsoft Windows XP Professional x 86 OS.

I loved my Color Computer from Radio Shack. I used it to teach myself basic programming and to add titles to my video tapes.

I bought an external SCSI disk for my Amiga. I can't remember if it was 5MB or 50MB, but I do remember it was UKP500 ($800 or so)!

You could also get an expansion card that would make it emulate an IBM PC -- amazing stuff.

I miss WordStar. I typed my high school senior year papers using WordStar on an IBM PC with a RGB monitor and 2 5-1/4 floppies. I don't think it even had a hard drive and printed it on an 8-pin dot matrix tractor feed printer that printed about 1 page an hour

Anyway thanks for the article, it was fun remembering the first PC in our house.

I would give an honorable mention to FoxPro, the end point of the evolution of the xBase database world.  At its zenith, there were thousands of enterprises around the world running screaming high performance, stable enterprise systems with it, largely DOS/Novell based.  The Soviet army ran on it and that says something.  I've worked with some of those programmers, and they were wizards.

IMHO, Microsoft bought it to kill it so that it wouldn't compete with MS Access, which, at the time was a poor nascent substitute.  They "improved" it by dragging it into the OO world.

Don't get me wrong, I've known many great Web programmers over the years that swore by ColdFusion, based on FoxPro, but all I can think of is the untold millions spent by companies that had great complex systems that needed to be entirely rewritten.

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Posted by Doug Barney on 03/19/2010 at 1:17 PM


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