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I > ICL  > Quattro


Savvas Sidiropoulos recalls:
I "met" my first Quattro in 1988 when I joined the ICL subsidiary in my country. As I had experience in CP/M systems programming, I was immediately handed over all the systems documentation and a system to work on that. I worked with this system until 2000. I was recalled to do a validation for the year 2000 problem for several customers. I was amazed that the humble Quattro met all the validation rules for years, dates and 29th of February rule.

Quattro had a networking system, called Q-net. A daisy-chain form of network that was slow but reliable. We were specializing on real time Point of Sales systems development, selling ICL's terminals. Each Quattro could have 16 terminals connected. I was called to design a system that could handle 70-90 terminals using Quattro and Qnet. There were better and larger systems from ICL that could do that but the distributor decided we could not afford a new product line for a single customer.

Officially, the machine could take 20 or 50 Mb disks, which eventually were small for POS applications. Of course it could accept larger diskcs (SCSI) which we added when they became available. The format utility on the Quattro was mainframe grade. Took the best part of a day for a 50Mb disk. Writting all bit map combinations for each byte in every sector, reading and comparing, reallocating bad sectors and all that. The Quattro ran CDOS which in version 5.1 was very well compatible with MS-DOS. Actually it supported ALL MS Dos functions and even a few of the well known and much used BIOS functions.

One of the most interesting experiences I've had with the machine was when I adopted MSDOS Kermit (generic version) to run on the Quattro and provide a communications infrastructure for a large network of sites.

I still have my original system donated to me by the company when the product was retired. Still has it's 150Mb disk and terminal


Simon Schoonens reports :
This was an amazing machine - it allowed us to release a 4 station multi-user multi tasking vertical market application sofware suite as early as 1985! - Being an ICL 'traderpoint' dealer we made good money from the hardware allowing us to sell the software cheap and therefore get a foot in the door with our clients. We could expand the machine with extra memory cards ($1000A a piece for 512K!) We made over $300A per terminal! The printers we used were rebadged OKI printers. Very reliable!. Once we had the 'proverbial 'foot in the door' we could expand and expand.

Later our experience with Concurrent CPM allowed us to continue with IBM compatibles as a version became available from Digital Research as Multi-User DOS and so we had a 10 workstation system on IBM compatible as early as 1987, long before Windows was available. Truly a great machine. The operating system was very reliable a truly 'protected memory' op/sys. While other companies were struggling with trying to make 'dos' muti-user through a network we kept on selling. It took until Windows XP came along before we found someting as reliable. WOW - THANK YOU ICL


David Handerson adds :
I used one of these ICL Quattro PCs everyday at work. In fact they were in the showrooms until 1997!

A bit of info you might like to know is that on the top left hand side of the PC on the back (looking at your inside diagram) just above the power cord connection there was a small rocker switch. This was used to reboot the PC. Reboot UP (pressing the switch in at the top) would boot from the floppy disk. Reboot DOWN (pressing the switch in at the bottom) would reboot the PC from the Hard Disk.

We also had some machines that were fitted with a 50mb Hard Disk (presumably these were replacement hard disks bought at a later date?) We once had the hard drive replaced in the 1990s at some point and the 20 Mb was replaced by a 50 Mb!


Simon Reed's memories:
When working for MGB Computer Services, an ICL trader based in Hemel Hempstead, this was one of the ICL boxes we worked on.  They ran Concurrent CP/M-86 which was far superior to that noddy PC-DOS rubbish that was taking off for some reason.  There was a second version of the Quattro that could handle six terminals.

We put together a system for Perrings Home Furnishing where each store had one ICL PC Quattro.  Attached to each Quattro was:
- four terminals (scattered around the store) each of which had an automatic cash drawer, bar code reader, card swipe and multi-function printer including history roll, receipt printer and A4 order confirmation printer;
- one OKI ML193 132 column printer loaded with continuous stationery for running off back office management reports;
- a modem for sending nightly feeds to head office mainframe ledgers.
This box ran a bespoke sales order and purchase order processing system we wrote in CIS COBOL.  Perrings had customer loyalty / charge cards and the system handled the account management too.
Something like thirty peripherals used by four concurrent users off one tarted-up RAIR Black Box.  To this day I have never understood how the IBM PC caught on.  Marketing, I suppose.

When preparing for the original demo to the DP Manager and Senior Programmer for Perrings, they were waiting in a sales room while one of the development team (Dave Gingell?  known as 'teddy bear' to the female dstaff because of his hairy chest) went and fetched the Quattro.  As he entered the room the door handle went up his sleeve and he stopped dead ... the Quattro didn't.  It landed on its corner and the case warped.  Every card in the box shattered or snapped.  The sales bod was gutted and the DP Manager got up to leave.  Highlight of my career: I said "Hang on", ran downstairs and fetched the development machine.  In front of them I swapped the hard disks over, powered up the dev box and loaded the demo.  The DP Manager was gobsmacked.  His response?  "Where do I sign?"  He never watched the demo.

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