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Fourth gen language aims for fifth decade

The new TransAction moves Transact apps to new platforms and supports 3000 implementations, too.

    HP 3000 development partners have demonstrated their resourceful habits many times during the platform’s four decades of service. Now a 30-year-old language and its unique architecture on MPE/iX are getting refurbished to move away from the 3000 — or continue an MPE life with an up-to-date library.

   The Transact/3000 product was developed in 1977 by David Dummer of Imacs, offering a product that was among the first rapid development tools (RDTs) for the platform. HP picked up the product in 1981 and sold it, along with several report writers, as the Rapid family of tools. A few thousand 3000 customers adopted Transact over the next decade or so, making Transact a Fourth Generation Language — or more accurately, a “three and a half GL,” according to ScreenJet’s Alan Yeo.

   4GLs, as these solutions have been called, delivered a faster way to create applications than third-gen languages such as COBOL. Speedware and PowerHouse are other choices either working on 3000s or embedded inside 3000 apps.

   Yeo’s firm has been working with Dummer for four years, through investigations, coding and tests, to create TransAction, a software suite that includes a new Transact Function Library. That library is in production use at more than 30 former HP 3000 installations, part of ScreenJet’s footprint for the Transact to COBOL T2C solution.

   The newest solution eliminates Transact’s lock-in to 3000 and MPE/iX, Yeo says. While the installed base has dwindled to a few hundred sites — HP forced Transact off its “strategic” list in favor of another product — Yeo said that the small target market still warranted the work.


“It’s a complete re-write of Transact into TransAction, for what we all have to admit is a tiny niche market,” he said. “Well, those of us who have worked in the 3000 aren’t afraid of niche markets.”

   The software stands on the shoulders of ScreenJet’s work to deliver T2C, Yeo added. TransAction supplements the Transact Function Library with a compiler and a run-time version, software that allows Transact code to be moved to HP-UX and Linux. A Windows target version of TransAction “can be supplied when required,” Yeo said.

   Dummer said the product eliminates the migrating customers’ effort of putting Transact code onto other platforms. “How much simpler for these users if the application source could be kept as Transact on the migration platform,” Dummer said. “The result was the creation of a prototype of a compiler and transaction engine that made full use of the existing Transact Function Library.”

   TransAction is made of a compiler which generates a file containing a high level process code instruction set, plus a transaction engine which performs the application instructions from the file. “The transaction engine fully supports the various Transact process control structures such as LEVEL, PERFORM, DO and RETURN(n),” Dummer said.

   The Unix/Linux versions also use an OS Module to tap the native functions of the new target platforms. The Module interfaces with tools such as AMXW from Speedware, MPUX from Ordina-Denkart, Intrinsix from Resource 3000 partner Allegro Consultants, and Transport from TransforMix. These allied tools give HP 3000 sites access to new-platform functionality through MPE/iX commands and intrinsics, to make migrations less complex and deliver payback sooner.