Pick, Universe, Unidata resources

by Will Johnson

(fHdc) Overview of resources for computer environments: Pick, Universe, Unidata, mvBase, mvEnterprise, D3, Revelation, OpenInsight, Reality, Ultimate, General Automation, Cache, OpenQM and JBase marketplace.



Written 2010 by Will Johnson for Fast Forward Technologies
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A selected list of resources on the internet related to the Pick operating system, and it's clones Universe, Unidata, mvBase, D3, Revelation, OpenInsight, Reality, Ultimate, Cache, OpenQM and JBase.  All of these together are also collectively referred to as "Multi-Value" systems, a term coined by Gus Giobbi, past editor of Spectrum magazine.  These systems never made many obvious inroads into the largest companies, but are often found in small to mid-sized companies.  This is generally because Pick systems are cheaper to get started, and easier to maintain. Within larger companies, they are generally found only when the company has acquired a smaller rival.  And then only until the data can be extracted and transformed, although depending on complexity this can take several months, or in a few cases years.

The Pick operating system is named for it's co-creator Richard A "Dick" Pick (d. 19 Oct 1994), who created it in 1965-67 along with Don Nelson.  The Pick operating system was originally specialized for generalized storage of elements in a database.  They called it a generalized information system. (Source: Donald B. Nelson, Richard A. Pick, Kenton B. Andrews, "GIM-I, a Generalized Information Management Language and Computer System," afips, pp.169, 1967 Proceedings of the Spring Joint Computer Conference, 1967)

In the Pick Operating System, all the data fields are variable length, this in the world of the 60s and 70s when the competitors were all still using fixed-length fields.  Each data file can have an associated dictionary, which defines but does not restrict the data fields.  The dictionary does restrict report output, but has no effect on BASIC programs access and update, which ignores the dictionary whether present or not.  The data fields are all stored in ASCII format in the files.  Typeless BASIC is the programming language, and there is an as-needed report generator, which has been given various names by the different Pick vendors over the years : English, Retrieve, UniQuery, etc.  Programmers must transform field content in BASIC using conversions, but also the dictionaries can have embedded conversions for the use of the report generator.  There is also a procedural language called PROC from which RPL was developed.  Although PROC exists on almost all Pick implementations (not on Prime Information), RPL was only installed on a relatively small number of systems, usually just those sold by SMI of Chicago, who had either created or greatly expanded it.

The first Pick licensee was Microdata which began selling systems in 1974 under the Reality brand.  The second was a New Jersey company called The Ultimate Corp which began selling Pick systems in 1979.  Ultimate was started by Ted Sabarese who had been a Microdata dealer.  Starting in 1981 a dozen vendors jumped on the bandwagon when the licensee price fell along with the price of microcomputers.  This Pick implementation is referred to, in the industry, as R83.  You can see a rough draft at the complete time line for Pick and Pick-like systems at my article Pick Operating System People  There is a hyper-truncated "History of Pick" video made by Pick Systems in 1990 loaded at this link on YouTube.

I am a Pick / Universe software developer, specializing in collaborative software, social media, Javascript, and PHP.  I am available to answer your questions by telephone, or to work on your contract software development needs. I am an expert in Pick BASIC programming, and also in developing your websites. Contact me at fft2001@aol.com
Discussion Sites and Lists

Blogs and Wikis
  • Ladybridge has a version of the Pick Operating System, available for free trial of the commercial product, or free download of a personal version (which has limitations) available at this link.  During the installation, when it asks you to enter a license number, you type in Personal at that point, and it will load a personal-use version.  That link however I noticed, has some sort of session id attached to it, so I'll also give you instructions for how to navigate from the main page.  Start here at openqm.com, in the left-hand panel click on Sales and Downloads, when the next page comes up, click on Sales and Downloads again.  I know that makes no sense, but when you do it will open a sub-menu when you will see and click next on Current Downloads.  You will then see a page of the versions for Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Mac, etc.  Click on one of those and the download will start.
  • A popular 4GL associated with the Pick Operating System is System Builder, which was merged some time back with Unidata, then with U2 under IBM and now apparently is part of Rocket Software.  There is a Wikipedia article about System Builder which provides a web link where you can download it as a trial/personal edition. At one time there were other 4GLs that did not gain the traction that System Builder did, these were BlackSmith, The Programmer's Helper, Forge (by Chandru Murthi) and Wizard (originally developed by Ken Simms).  It seems like BlackSmith, The Programmer's Helper and Forge are now defunct, but Wizard can be purchased at this link.
  • Revelation Software has a website at this link where you can download an evaluation copy of OpenInsight 9.2.  This incorporates O4W which is a web authoring tool that can enable web sites to be created using OpenInsight's native data and also several flavours of Pick and SQL.  The package also includes a number of data connectors that enable develoeprs to use the OpenInsight GUI design and reporting tools against Rocket Software's U2 (OpenInsight for U2), TigerLogic's D3 (OpenInsight for D3) and several flavours of SQL (The SQL connector).  At the time of writing, other Pick connectors are in production.   
  • Rocket Software the new owners of the U2 products has (as of 27 Feb 2011), a free Personal Edition of Universe 10.3.10 for Windows for download at this link, and a free Personal Edition of Unidata 7.2.7 for Windows for download at this link.
  • Accuterm, an intelligent terminal program with scripting abilities by Pete Schellenbach at Asent, has a free developer's version.  It includes a smart program editor called WED.  I've never used that, so someone else will have to review it for me. It also includes a way to present your Pick data on the web.  I review that among other Pick-to-Web solutions in my article Getting Pick data onto the Web
  • Does Visage have a free download of some kind?
User Groups
  • I've already mentioned above about the U2 Users Group (U2UG), for Universe and Unidata users.
  • There are, spotted around the country, also Pick Users Groups, although some of these have disbanded, for example the San Francisco group aka Northern California Pick Users Group, no longer meets, however apparently the Seattle group is still active. I think Jonathan has a list of the still existing active groups.  There is also a Pick group on LinkedIn.  (I refuse to add Google Groups users groups or Plaxo groups.  If they can't figure out how to have a website which is open and free, they don't deserve to be recognized.)
  • I received an e-mail in Nov 2009 from Revelation Software inviting me to attend a meeting of the San Francisco area Revelation User Group, so I assume this is a real group that has regular meetings.

Trade Shows
Once a year, there is a show called International Spectrum.  Sponsored or at least named for the magazine below, at which all the major Pick-like vendors show up.  This year 2011, that show is going to be at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida from 4 April through 7 April.  You can sign up for it by visiting http://www.intl-spectrum.com/conference/2011

Other Media
I know of the following mass-market books (as opposed to vendor manuals) which cover Pick, sorted below by publication date.  There are even more books at my article Books on the Pick Operating System. Each of the below, is a link to where you can buy this book on Amazon

Brian Leach has four privately printed books on Pick available for sale at

Rocket has all of their manuals online at:
The only magazine that covers the Pick / Multivalue marketplace is International Spectrum, and they don't cover anything else in their magazine.  There is a newspaper that also covers the Pick / Multivalue marketplace called DBTA - Database Trends and Applications, but they also cover other databases like Informix, so the Multivalue segment is only a part.
Starting in the 1980s Pick Systems began publishing a book called "Pick Hits", which listed several hundred pages of software application vendors.  The first printing I remember was a smaller red book about the shape of a Reader's Digest, but a bit thicker.  A few years later, I purchased a large grey book about the shape of an encyclopedia.  I got rid of both of these copies over a decade ago, and now that I'm a historian, I wish I would have kept them.  Many articles could be created out of them today.  Pete Schellenbach of AccuSoft recently sent me yet another edition.  This is a large red covered spiral bound edition. which states copyright 1988 and inside a forward by Dick Pick states : "In this fifth printing of Pick Hits, we briefly outline more than 1,500 vertical applications, as well as nearly 200 horizontal applications and productivity tools.... we have included listings for Pick dealers, programmers and consultants... training centers, user groups and Pick licensees."

Editors and Tools
John E Treankler is the author of a word-processing program called the Jet Word Processor.  Orginally starting life as WordMate for the Microsoft computer.  John formed his own company and sold the product as Ultiword, Documentor, JET and "The Works". WP-IN, WP-OUT, DOC-IN, DOC-OUT, JET-IN, JET-OUT.
JET-IN had a corresponding output routine called JET-OUT.  The part that I miss however was called JET-EDIT which was a full-screen code editor.
Evidently Dave Weaver also had a full-screen editor that he sold, but he passed away a few years ago, so I'm not sure where the code is now.
There is a product called mvToolbox which has an enhanced list processor as well as a full-screen editor, macro generator, and split-screen code comparator.  They have a nice Power Point technical presentation at this link, which describes the major parts of the system.  The other Power Point general presentation on their site doesn't work.
Doug Averch of www.u2logic.com/tools.html has an editor called "XLr8Editor for real U2 programmers".
From Brian Leach, you can download a copy of mvDeveloper for free.  This is a Windows program, but requires that you have UniObjects installed locally as well.

Other Miscellaneous
There is a list of software vendors at dmoz at this link
"Unidata" at http://search.abc-directory.com/unidata

See Also