The Evolutionary Series of Tools and Applications; a Portfolio

The Evolutionary Series, 1987-1997 and currently 2012-2015

The Evolutionary Series includes the series of tools and applications built which interpreted the vision of “interactive hypermedia, information modelling and management and visual browsing”; which employed Open Systems Unix/X11 Windows/TCP-IP, the Object Oriented Paradigm and Object Oriented Technology - which facilitated, generic design and user-driven evolution.

The principal elements of the evolutionary series of tools are: The HNS Browser 1986; The GPE 1990; Media Language 1991; GARDEN 1992; “Paris” 1993; “Magic Browser” 1994; and “IMP FW” 1995/6.

Screenshots and Working Applications

Screenshots have been captured from the working applications as they were developed and are static.

Working Applications (some of these) are available by arrangement.

Active and Interactive

The static screenshots do not convey what was - at all stages of the development of the tools and applications - the essential elements of: active and interactive displays and the positive user experience - reinforced by high quality animations and very quick and rewarding response to selection of displayed elements.


Screenshots are included here from the tools and applications

  1. [[The HNS Browser, 1987]]
  2. [[Touch screen POI: York College, 1987]]
  3. [[Library ACCESS, Touch screen POI: The Leeds School of Medicine Library, 1987]]
  4. [[The GPE, 1990]]
  5. The Network Editor, 1991 [NED][Browser Building Tool]
  6. [[The Media Language, 1991/2]]
  7. [The SMILE Portfolio: ‘supporting multimedia interactive learning environments’ 1991]]
  8. [[The Media Language, STILE ‘supporting textiles interactive learning environments’ 1991]]
  9. [[The Media Language, ‘The Spider Phobia Program’ 1991*]]
  10. The Media Language, ‘The Victorian Periodicals Browser’* for The Schools of English University of Leeds and Manchester Metropolitan University 1991
  11. [[Pharmacology Learning Application, Department of Pharmacology Leeds School of Medicine, TLTP Funded 1992]]
  12. The Media Language, ‘The University of Leeds Science Park Browser’ 1992
  13. The Media Language, ‘The CLCV Project Browser’* 1993/4
  14. [[GARDEN, 1992]]
  15. [[GARDEN; ‘EFC - The Environment Foundations Course’ 1992]]
  16. [[GARDEN; University Library ‘ACCESS’ 1992]]
  17. [[GARDEN; ‘Wine &edit; Spirit Educational Trust Browser’ 1992]]
  18. [[GARDEN; ‘IMPARTS’ for Leeds General Infirmary, European Community Initiative 1992]]
  19. [[GARDEN; ‘VUIS Vascular Unit Information System’, Leeds General Infirmary 1992]]
  20. [[Concept Demonstrator of the 'Multimedia Patient Record', GARDEN version1993]]
  21. [[Concept Demonstrator of the 'Multimedia Patient Record', Media Language version1993]]
  22. ’PARIS’, 1994 [Borland Delphi] OO HTML Document Author &edit; Browser, Microsoft Windows
  23. ’The Magic Browser’, 1994 [Eiffel OO] HTML Document Author &edit; Browser, Microsoft Windows
  24. ’IMP FW’ Concept Demonstration, 1995/6 [Java OO Personal Information Modelling Tool]
  25. ’Frameworks’ [HTML5/Java/Scripting] Personal &edit; Enterprise Information Modelling Tool, currently 2012/2103

Key Support

There have been key elements of support without which this programme of work would not have been possible. I would like to list them here. The fact is that the proposals for the funding of the original vision and then based on the first concept demonstrator ‘The HNS Browser’, made to conventional academic funding sources, did not succeed and the key support at every stage was from IT Industry.

In receipt of applications for major funding for an Information Technology project from a Lecturer in Human Anatomy and not from a Department of Computing Science, both the Nuffield Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust nevertheless suspended disbelief and indicated their interest in funding my proposals. It was only a the last hurdle that they pulled away - when, against their advice to nominate a post-doctoral fellow in computer science to employ an expert systems package - I insisted that in order to realise my vision, I would need to employ a games programmer to create new software. Where my idea was to harness the computer-based active, interactive and visually stimulating elements of computer games. As a Lecturer in Human Anatomy proposing to employ a games programmer to create new software that would realise interactive hypermedia was certainly a stretch of credibility!

It was IT Industry that picked up the vision and supported it.

  1. Compaq Computers: The Portable Compaq Computer enabling the ‘HNS Browser’
  2. Raymond Evans IBM Education UK: enabling me to play with the new ‘GUIDE’ and ‘Hypercard’ (but these did not enable the vision)
  3. Ian Brackenbury IBM New Technologies Group Hursley Park UK : enabling the employment of novel open systems object-oriented technologies and games programming
  4. Vic Whiting Philips Electronics UK: emerging desktop colour displays
  5. Graham Lovell Sun Microsystems UK: enabling state-of-the-art distributed multi-user computer on the network

It was the support from Ian Brackenbury and his team at IBM UK at Hursley Park in 1990, which was the significant breakthrough support which enabled me to establish the umbrella initiative: “The Information Modelling Programme” at the University of Leeds.

I was given a name to contact at IBM UK and I called on the telephone a dozen times over 6 weeks. No answer: until one day one of Ian’s team called me (telling me that he had just returned from a ‘fast-track’ briefing at IBM USA where ‘multimedia’ had been earmarked). He asked me who I was and that he needed to find out what someone who left him so many messages wanted!

I outlined my vision. Ian asked me to meet him outside Kings Cross Tube Station where he would be en route the next day - so I caught a train from Leeds and met him and his two colleagues. I pinned him against the railings; coincidentally, my description of my vision was exactly according to their IBM USA Briefing and I was issued with a challenge to get a (big) grant application in within 24 hours - which I did. And the funding was granted. Brilliant. And so I was able to realise my ambition to truly explore what I believed to be the key: “Interactivity” and to employ a gifted computer games programmer to take the vision forward.

It was short project: just 12 months. Short projects within a potential cycle are in my view the best type of project: short time frame, small team - with renewal and evolution dependent on deliverables that can be evaluated and best of all: by end users. We delivered the goods: ‘The GPE’ - a high quality concept demonstrator of open systems (Unix/AIX/X11/TCP-IP) object oriented (C++) hypermedia on a high resolution (IBM RT) workstation. This funding provided the platform for the following programme of work 1991-1996 in which we demonstrated ‘The GPE’, and where e.g. The Department of Textile Industries at the University became excited at what we showed them, we were able to proceed to the next stage of development (The Media Language): using the pure OOPL “Eiffel’ and focusing on enabling the analysis of a domain with domain/subject experts and to create browsable hierarchical ‘maps’ of the domain providing access to displayed “Chunks” (of multimedia information) assembled into an Index (itself, browsable) .

THE FUTURE 2013/2014

’Frameworks’, Current HTML5, Java OO Personal & Enterprise Information Modelling Tool - a framework of 3 Tools/3 Modules for personal and enterprise information modelling &edit; management and data modelling and visualisation (e.g. personal modelling of personal digital stuff which ends up all over the place including in the cloud!; project building and management; intranet building and management).

Please contact Peter Ward for more information