Inforex 1300 Systems

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Inforex Inc. corporation manufactured and sold key-to-disk systems in the 1970s and mid-1980s. The company was founded by ex-IBM engineers to develop direct data entry systems that allowed information to be entered on terminals and stored directly on disk drives, replacing punched cards and keypunch machines which had been the dominant tools for data entry since the turn of the twentieth century.

Background Information[edit]

Key-to-disk systems were systems that took data entered by users from keypunch-like keyboards and held the information on a hard disk. The information was then transferred from disk to 1/2 inch tape for processing on the user's mainframe equipment.

At the time data gathering in large scale for processing on a mainframe computer was a labor intensive expensive endeavor. For example a typical sales order might go through the following steps:

1) Order written on contract, collected by the salesman. 2) Order transferred to paper order sheet (unusually with multiple carbon copies) transcribed by the salesman or a secretary. 3) Order sheet, after verification and approval passed to the Data Center for entry into the computer system for processing. 4) Order sheet, transferred to by a keypunch operator to a card or multiple cards for processing. 5) Order card(s), verified by a second keypunch operator (by essentially punching the card a second time) to verify accuracy. 6) Order card read by computer. 7) Parts ordered, equipment purchased.

The same tried and practiced methods were used to bill the customer, record customer payments, and pay outgoing expenses.

The advantage of key-to-disk systems over card punches was the ability to see the entire content of an 80 byte card on a monitor to edit and correct mistakes.

A major and unique advantage of the Inforex Key-to-Disk-to-Tape system allowed an operator to directly read, edit, and write back, any single tape record directly onto the original 9 track output tape, in that tape records' original position in the tape. This capacity would allow for quick corrections to minor keying errors.

The 1301 Key to disk system[edit]

The original processor had 4 registers with one register being 8 bit (used for data) and the other three being 12 bit (used for data manipulation and addresses). The commands for the processor were 8 and 16 bits. The original disk was 800 kilobytes. The original system had 2k of non-volatile magnetic core memory. The final version of the 1301 had 12k of memory. The system supported 8 keystations.

A unique advantage of the Inforex Hardware Design involved generic printed circuit cards to which were soldered a variety of very basic integrated circuits. These IC's were inter-connected on the opposite side of the pc board by pinpoint soldering of enamel coated wires, from point to point to point. These wiring networks were complicated and intricate. They were initially soldered together by Computer Numerical Controlled systems. Repair and correction for circuit design errors were handled mostly by field office personnel up to the point of 30 to 50 wiring changes on a single board. Larger circuit design changes were handled by the factory and their programmed assembly systems.

The 1302 Key to disk system[edit]

This was an expansion of the 1301 system. The biggest difference was that the system could support 16 key stations (in 2 banks of 8 stations) and 12k of memory.

The 1303 Key to disk system[edit]

The 1303 was a total redesign of the 1301 system with a new backplane. The disk drive was 2.4 megabytes. The processor address bus was now 16 bits and the instruction set consisted of 8, 16, and 24 bit instructions. Core memory was increased to 24k. Additional capabilities were added which included a communications card, which allows the system to send data using a 300/1200/2400/4800 baud modem.

The company also made model 3300 max-edit data entry and model 5000 for high volume data base management. These used 5 platter "washing machine" style hard drives.

The company developed one of the first distributed processing systems, the model 7000.

All components of the system, except for the printers and monitors, were made by the company since third-party OEMs were not yet available.

In 1978 Inforex filed bankruptcy due to the inability to market the 5000 and 7000 product lines profitably. They were eventually purchased by Datapoint. However, Datapoint ran into financial hardships in 1985 and sold the company to Recognition Equipment in Dallas, who had a competitive product and converted Inforex's customers to that product. In 1988 Inforex's headquarters were closed.

Inforex's headquarters were in Burlington, MA just around the corner from DEC (Digital Equipment Corp). They had sales and service offices throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, UK, and Japan.

Here is a link to an advertisement for employment at Inforex