Framework – travel back in time
Why look at Framework?
When I owned my first PC, having to switch between different applications, all with different interface commands became frustrating. Framework solved that, by integrating multiple business applications into one package, with an early ‘windows’ frames look-and-feel and with a common interface and commands.
Remember that this was before Microsoft’s Windows operating system took hold. It was also before the Internet’s World Wide Web; before fibre or broadband connections; these were the days of MODEM dial-up subscription services.
This is a look back to that pioneering application and a guide to experiencing it today.
Framework was launched in 1984 and was the first integrated office suite to run on the PC 8086 architecture with the DOS operating system. To put this into perspective, the Microsoft Windows operating system only became prominent from version 3 which was released in 1990. This meant that the ‘windows’ used by Framework had to be written as part of the application – in it’s time a revolutionary thing for DOS users who were accustomed to the unfriendly cursor-blinking command prompt.
Framework was the first all-in-one package to run on any PC platform. It was preceded by a few months by its close rival Lotus Symphony, however Framework was created as a single windowing workspace representing a desktop that could manage and outline ‘Frames’ sharing a common underlying format, rather than ‘plug-in’ modules with a similar look.
The Frame types included containers which could be filled with other frames such as word processor, flat-database, spreadsheet and graphic frames. In addition, there was e-mail and communications functionality, including connecting to CompuServe. Remember this was before the Internet’s World Wide Web, so each online service (such as CompuServe) had it’s own dial-up telephone number that your MODEM could call. Framework allowed you to configure your MODEM settings, with a default of 1200 bits per second!
Later versions of Framework included a frame type that could hold compiled executable code and one that could be handled by separate applications running on the host operating system. Framework had a built-in interpreter, the FRED (Frame Editor) computer language, which was based on Lisp.
Framework could be considered a predecessor to the present GUI window metaphor as well as integrated interpreters. Framework’s spreadsheet program was superior in its day, offering a true 3D capability.
A quick Framework history
Robert Carr and Marty Mazner founded the Forefront Corporation to develop Framework in 1983. In July 1983, they approached Ashton-Tate to provide the capital and to later market the product.
With a team of six other people, Robert Carr and company released the original Framework. The product proved successful enough that in 1985, Ashton-Tate bought the Forefront Corporation a year sooner than planned. The original team, then working for Ashton Tate, continued to enhance the product producing Framework II (1985), Framework III (1988-1989) and finally in 1991, the last Ashton-Tate version, Framework IV.
Ashton-Tate didn’t aggressively market Framework, seeing it as a competitor to its popular dBASE database product. It failed to gain more than a fraction of the market share. This was pre-Microsoft Office and Lotus 1-2-3 was capturing most of the spreadsheet market.
After a number of setbacks with Ashton-Tate’s flagship product, dBASE, Borland bought Ashton-Tate and later sold Framework to Selections & Functions, Inc. They are still selling Framework (versions IX and X) although their website has no pricing information.
Travel back in time and experience Framework today
Get Framework III
Firstly, you need to download the Framework III software. This can be downloaded from Vetusware, a fantastic place to find abandoned software from yesteryear. Unlike today’s bloated office applications, Framework’s files are about 2Mb in total. In case you are wondering why I am focusing on Framework III and IV, it’s simply because version III on Vetusware is easier to run.
Before you can download the file, you need to register on the site. Remember to use a unique password and not one you have used on other sites.
The file you download is a zip file. Unzip it and save the contents in a directory. For the purposes of this I’ll assume you unzip into c:\temp\fw
Framework was written to run on the DOS operating system, not Windows. Therefore you need to run DOS. To achieve this, use the DOSBox application that provides an emulation environment to run DOS applications in.
DOSBox can be downloaded from here. Install it.
- Run the DOSBox application.
- DOSBox opens two windows. In the top DOSBox window, enter ‘mount c c:\temp\fw’ (without the quotation marks). Note that this assumes you saved the Framework files in this folder structure and on the c drive.
- Enter ‘c:’ (without the quotation marks).
- Enter ‘fw.exe’ (without the quotation marks).
- Framework will now run. Enjoy !!
- If you need help within Framework, press F1.
Note – DOSBox will capture your mouse when you click inside the display window (and you have autolock=true set in Dosbox.conf). Simply press CTRL-F10 to release the mouse.