PAFEC – August 1991

I’m still looking for the photographs of the Warwick University Rent Strike of 1983. I’ve not managed to find them yet, as it involves going through a cabinet in a cupboard in my younger daughter’s bedroom to find them, which first of all involves tunneling through the masses of teenage detritus she keeps in what we laughingly term a bedroom. You can rarely see the bed (or the floor.)

But I did find these photographs, which are interesting historical documents in their own right. (OK, they’re interesting to me, and me only, probably.) They show the middle office of the 2nd floor of what was PAFEC’s Stapleford premises at 39 Nottingham Road in August 1991. At that time, I was the Product Services Manager and was in the process of building a team from the remnants of three others involved in porting the company’s software, as well as having been given the publications department.

One of the goals we wanted to achieve was to introduce more professionalism into what the company was doing. One means of  making sure this happened involved getting the Support Services Division (which my team was part of) through an ISO9001 audit against TickIT. As part of working through this, we realised (pretty quickly!) that we needed to be far, far better in how we organised our working environment. The first photograph shows the scale of the task we faced. The team covered the whole of the 2nd floor – so we had two other offices that didn’t look too dissimilar to this one.

PAFEC Product Services Office - August 1991

Key to photograph

  1. Back of two Sun ‘shoeboxes’ – at this point in time, they would have contained either 70 or 140 Mbyte SCSI disks and one of them would have had a cartridge tape unit.
  2. A PAFEC DOGS menu card – though probably for one of the options, like DOGS NC, from a superficial view of the colours used on it.
  3. Uncontrolled media – probably containing DOGS source and object code. You can also see piles of it in the open cabinet behind my desk. Part of the process of getting through the audit was to eliminate most of this from the offices (and keep it in a fire safe in the computer rooms in Strelley and Stapleford, where it belonged.)
  4. Our Sun SparcStation 1 workstation.
  5. Our Harris MCX workstation.
  6. The console for the Data General mini computer we had in the office, running the now long defunct AOS/VS operating system.
  7. A Tektronix graphics terminal – probably a 4111.
  8. A Prime PT200 terminal, connected to the customer support database and contact management system.
  9. Boxes containing various revisions of SunOS 2.x, 3.x and 4.x for Sun 3 and Sparcstation hardware.
  10. The back of one of the Sun 3/50 workstations we had in the office. Out of picture to the left would have been our second 3/50, a diskless 3/110, a Sun 386i and a Whitechapel MG-1.

The other offices would have had a number of Apollo workstations (DN3000s  and earlier models), Vaxstations, DECstations, an IBM PC RT (6150) and a HP9000/400 workstation. A range of graphics terminals (Tektronix, Sigma, Westward, Datapath)  would have been capable of working through a Gandalf switch with the “heavy lifting” minicomputers in the machine rooms at Stapleford and Strelley, including Prime, Vax, Data General, HP, Norsk Data, Bull and Harris.

The second photograph shows my desk (you can just about see it in the background of the first photograph) after we’d finished our clear-out. Neat and tidy – with not a piece of uncontrolled and unlabeled media in sight.

PAFEC Product Services Office - My desk, August 1991

We got through the audit later on that year, first time. The quality of the processes we were following improved beyond all recognition and we started to deliver software, not in jiffy bags, but in the type of packaging that the rest of the industry was capable of doing. Which meant that we started to get the right software to our customers, first time, rather than second, third or fourth time. Quality went up, costs went down and the company (after the false hopes we had for the 3D CAD market were past) started to recover with our later diversification into electronic document management software.

39 thoughts on “PAFEC – August 1991

  1. Hi Tim,
    Interesting to see – it’s been a while since I’ve seen computers that chunky! Though I still remember my ZX81 with a warm glow…

    I have a separate question that I wondered if you could help with. I was originally accepted onto the OU postgraduate diploma in psychology (as I think you were). Now I would like to transfer to the OU psychology degree (for various reasons I think this will be more useful to me). I have just called OU credit transfer to ask if I can transfer credit from my original degree in English in order to do this, and they told me I had to complete the diploma courses first and only then could I apply to change to the degree. This contradicts what the Learning Advisor I previously spoke to said, but the lady at credit transfer was quite insistent – though she did also say I should talk to the faculty. Just wondered what they told you? Sorry to clog up your comments with this!
    Best wishes,
    Libby

    1. Hi Libby,

      That contradicts what I and a couple of other friends have done! What they’ve let me do (I applied to do this last December) is transfer the 75points of free choice from my 1985 degree (there is a time limit for this, but provided your degree was later than about 1971 you should be ok). With DSE212, DXR222, ED209, DD303 and DD307 making up the compulsory diploma courses, all you should need to add is SD226 to find the remaining 30 points required.

      I’m mystified why the credit transfer people think otherwise … I’d do as they advise and talk to the faculty.

      Tim.

  2. I think your problem may be that credit transfer is intended for the transferring of credit from outside the OU. I was intending to do something similar and the way to go appears to contact the faculty as you’re intending.

    For instance, if you look at the post-2015 psych criteria you MUST do L1, yet if you go through the credit transfer route you don’t have to so. Only realised that a few months ago when I was putting the L1 psych courses into my timetable for what should be the final year of my psych degree.

  3. Hi Tim,

    Nice to reminisce a little there. PAFEC gave me my first step too as a sandwich student (1986) and then as my first post-grad employer (1988) and despite the slightly chaotic picture you paint I found myself spoiled by the high level of quality and professionalism I was exposed to in my first software job. For a very long time after that the realisation that not everybody does it so well continued to haunt my decision to move on! I was working on the DOGS-NC team with Nick …. (aaahhh, what was his surname?) and have immensely glorious memories of boozy lunchtimes, esp with my long-haired Yorkshire metal mental mate Mark M.

    Happy days, so thanks for the slight reminder there!

    Will

    1. Hi Will,

      I think you mean Nick Marlow! You’re absolutely right – it was a great place to work and there were some extraordinarily talented and dedicated people employed there.

      Tim.

  4. Hi Tim

    I too was a sandwich student at Stapleford from Summer 1988 to summer 1989. Your pictures certainly look familiar. I worked with Mike Brandt and his team on, IIRC, LIONS, ARK and later porting software to other platforms. My main workstation was an Apollo. I have a few pictures of our office somewhere. I’ll see if I can find them.

    Cheers

    Kit

    1. Hi Kit,

      I remember you working there too. I’d be very interested in any other PAFEC photographs or memorabilia you may be able to share here – I have very little left from that time!

      Tim.

  5. Hi Tim,
    I worked for PAFEC as a ‘sandwich’ year from summer ’84 (I think) to ’85. I started out in Strelley Manor and moved to Stapleford in summer ’85.
    Strelley was a Georgian manor house which PAFEC rapidly outgrew. I started in a bedroom but was soon put at a desk in the old stable block. We sat in the stalls at desking around the sides with industrial grade carpet on the cobbled floor. In the summer it got really hot and stank of 200+ years of horse wee.
    We moved to Stapleford (an old car-parts factory)which had an all-glass wall down one side. The design worked well for an open=plan factory but failed with a set of small, closed-in offices, where there was no air conditioning. It reached 115F summer of ’85 in the offices, with desks too hot to touch without blistering… good times.
    I went to PAFEC from an Ergonomics degree course to assist with the UI layout for DOGS, DOGS-NC and lastly SWANS (the 3-D modeller. But after a few months I was asked if I wanted to be a programmer. I was given a Fortran listing and 1 hour to explain what it did. I succeeded and was a Fortran programmer the next day working on Calcomp printer functionality. Happy days and the basis of my IT career over the last 27 years.

    1. Hi Danny,

      I spent many happy years in the Stapleford office, after spending the first couple (85-87 I think) in the stables at Strelley Hall.

      I think one of the very first jobs I had in the support department was going to Belgium to get the DOGS 3.x plotter driver working on a Calcomp (1040?) connected to a Sun 2 running Sunos 1.6 – happy days!

      Tim.

  6. Not sure what prompted me to look for Pafec today, but thought I’d leave a comment as another of the DOGS-NC team with Nick from 86 to 88. Working in the attic in Stapleford trying to sort out FANUC 6MB post processors and how auto-indexing heads on nibblers worked… A great starting place. I remember the restrictions caused by trying to work on multiple hardware platforms made some of my Fortran look wierd to say the least! Also remember the start of something (Horses?) using Ada

  7. Hi I know this will sound crazy but I am looking for a copy of DOGS to run under windows, do you have any idea where I can get one ? I was a user of dogs for many years and want to use the software on my PC again.
    Hope you can help
    Best regards
    Phil Barlow

    1. Hi Phil,

      As far as I know, DOGS was never ported to run under Windows. It’s successsor, PAFEC phase 2 was however. A version of DOGS, based on the 3.1 release did run on IBM PCs under DOS. There were a number of versions of this including one given away for free in its thousands – Free PC DOGS. Sadly, I don’t have a copy nor do I know of anyone who does. You’d probably also need a PC with a 5.25 inch floppy drive if you could find a copy somewhere too.

      Let me know if you do manage to track a copy down – it would be interesting to see it in action again after all these years.

      Tim.

  8. I have a copy of super PC dogs but despite all my efforts I cannot get it to run on my PC which runs Windows XP. I run dogs in dos windows but there must be conflicts somewhere which i am struggling with. my copy was a beta test version on 31/2 discs.
    Do you know if Pafec phase 2 is available and where I could get a copy. would the files from Dogs be imported to that software ok. Thanks very much for your response
    best regards
    Phil Barlow

    1. Hi Phil,

      From what I remember, Super PC DOGS required a dongle plugged into either the serial or parallel port (can’t remember which) to work. Also, it relied on various DOS extenders to ‘break’ the 640k limit (which the free version didn’t need). I suspect you’d have little chance of getting it to work on a more modern windows XP machine sadly – even under a DOS shell. As for PAFEC Phase 2, it was certainly able to import DOGS drawing files but as to who owns the rights to this software today I have no idea. The company which eventually bought PAFEC in the late 90s, SER, went bankrupt at some point, presumably taking the DOGS and Phase 2 software with it.

      Tim.

  9. Sorry to be a nuisance but so far I have installed dogs and set it up and it runs and loads superdog programme but gives me an error message when I try to retrieve or create a drawing. it says “file error number 2011 sorry someone else is using the public file” if I can crack this I am in. any ideas ??? I feel it is something from windows but i may be wrong
    PHIL

    1. Sounds encouraging!

      I’m not 100% sure, but it may be looking to open the DOGS ARCIVE file, which lives in the public folder. The PC DOGS port was about the only one I wasn’t involved in, but try creating a c:\PUBLIC folder or a C:\PAFEC\PUBLIC folder (empty, with nothing in it) if one doesn’t exist on your PC. Otherwise, make sure that folder is writable and that the folder the dogs command is run from is writable too.

      Tim.

  10. Oh happy days. Can’t recall why I typed PAFEC but came across these messages. I joined Nick on DOGS NC in 84 working in the blue bedroom in Strelley. After a brief stint in the stables off we went to Stapleford. Oh the lunches – horse & jockey on a Friday with the support guys, not to mention the snooker club. Never did get over working in the attic with the turret full of pigeons. Thanks for the memories.

  11. The MD of Kimberley Communications Consultants Ltd (KCC), the late Dr Peter Johns, was a university colleage of PAFEC’s MD, Dr Richard Henshell. Back in the 1980s KCC needed to port their EMC software product MicroStripes from Sun to Apollo to access certain military markets, but were at that time unable to afford the hardware. Peter somehow persuaded Richard to allow me as KCC’s integration engineer to access Apollo machines at the Stapleford office. Daytime access soon proved to be impractical, and the port was over-running. I was given keys and the alarm code, and spent weeks and weeks working nights alone in the offices. With lengthy compile times I amused myself by reading some of the design documents for the various products, and more particularly the printer and terminal interface libraries. PAFEC were ahead of their time in what they had done, and in the following nearly 30 years in the profession, I have seen much code that PAFEC’s approach still puts to shame. I adopted the subroutine headers and 50% commenting and have used it to great advantage ever since.

    Tim’s picture above, pre Ticket cleanup, brings back some warm memories… although never as warm as DannyW’s 115F.

  12. Hi Andy,

    Thanks for your notes – and I do vaguely remember you being around!

    I’d almost forgotten about the 50% comments rule we had – but it was amazingly useful, particularly when trying to work out when certain pieces of code wouldn’t port properly – although that tended to be pretty rare due to the very restrictive FORTRAN coding standards we used. I seem to remember that even the CHAR data type wasn’t allowed until the late 1980’s in the core (DOGS) code, even though all of the FORTRAN compilers we were using were FORTRAN 77 (I think the reason for hesitation was due to quirks of the PRIME Fortran compiler, but I may be wrong …). Hollerith data types reigned supreme instead!

    Tim.

  13. Very intersting. I worked in the stables at Strelley, but remember one day sitting at the Sun Station in the photograph and when you entered a command you could feel the hard disk banging away through the floor.

  14. I worked on during holidays from university between 84 and 86 on Swans, first in the stables at Strelley and then Stapleford. Remember working on Prime and Apollo computers

    1. Swans – surfaces with a nice shape … or should it have been shapes with a nice surface? It was one of the two 3D modellers I could actually (almost!) use – Boxer being the other. I never did get the hang of the 3d wireframe capabilities in Dogs and the later PAFEC Imaginer completely foxed me!

  15. Very nice souvenirs! I’m moved. I worked (and still do) for Ibermatica, an Spanish IT company, and we were then one of the proud and loyal distributors of PAFEC.

    I spent some time in Nottingham (Strelley Hall) for training, meetings with Mr Henschell, desperate requests of new functionalities for DOGSNC, DOGS3D (I have with me a letter of Jenny Hands promising the flat pattern development capabities 🙂 ).

    It was the beginning of the CAD/CAM software an we translate manuals and those big menu cards into spanish. In fact, me sold quite a lot of DOGS licences here.

    I, personally, learnt a lot with you but, even more important than that, met a bunch of fantastic people in PAFEC. Our first contact was Mazar Choudury and our best ambassador allways was Kamran Khan.

    It has been a very pleasant surprise finding these comments here and I would like to thank all the old PAFEC guys for those funny and, seen from today, technologically naif days we shared there… 🙂

    1. Hi Javier,

      Thanks for the comments! I do remember you and Ibermatica of course. I keep meaning to write a couple more posts about my time at PAFEC – there’s more memorabilia I have that would be nice to share.

      Regards,

      Tim.

  16. Does anyone remember Alan Brown who worked for PAFEC from 1986 for several years. Last I heard he was working on documentation. He graduated from Leeds University in 1986 as I did. Slim build, dark hair, rode a motorbike, lived in Ilkeston. I was also his “best man” but have lost contact.

  17. I worked with ‘DOGS’ for a long time – around 10 years – until 1993! Produced many CAD drawings, and also did a lot of programming in the DOGS ‘parametric’ language. It was a great and fun system to work with!
    Very interesting to see posts from people who worked at PAFEC. I may well have talked with some of you on DOGS support calls!
    Cheers -Jon Wardell

  18. Pafec DOGS was brilliant when it was around in its heyday. Does anyone know where you can purchase any version of this great CAD software now for any operating system (Unix, DOS, Windows) or know of what it has morphed into today so I can purchase it. It would be a shame if this brilliant CAD software is lost and I hope it still exists for purchase in some form. If it doesn’t exist it should be resurrected by someone for resale. I have been trying to find and purchase any version of Pafec DOGS software for years without success.

    1. DOGS was awful, I presume you are being ironic. FA3.
      PAFEC changed to blue”something” in the 90’s and no longer exists. LN2. DOGS was left way behind by AutoCAD as PAFEC stuck with mainframes instead of pushing forward with PC dogs. FA40.

      1. It was blue8 (since acuqired by Northgate) – and that was only for the GIS part of the business. Prior to that, PAFEC was acquired by SER sometime around 1997.

        You’re welcome to your opinion of DOGS, but I disagree.

        Tim.

  19. That was it, Blue8. I used DOGS for 7 years at Strelley Hall then all over the country. I meant it was awful in comparison to today’s software. At the time it was the leading CAD system used by BP, ICI and many other major players.But why you would want it now apart from nostalgic purposes. There must be some 5.25″ floppies around somewhere with free PC DOGS on it. Just need to find a drive.

  20. A post above asked about Alan Brown – he used to work for me at PAFEC. I’m sure I’m connected to him via some social network or other – will have a look. I’m pretty sure he had a couple of kids (who will by now be adults!) when I last heard.

    1. Alan Brown is working with me at Intercede, where he heads up our USA customer services department. I’m CTO at Intercede, based in Lutterworth. Judy Musgrave is also working here as a tester.

      1. Hi Chris – your reply triggered me to re-read the whole thread – happy memories – we should write a book! Anyway, please pass on my regards to Alan (he used to work for me too) and Judy (who started at Pafec working on the FE product some time before I joined in 1979, and I was employee number 20!). I’m still in regular touch with Ian McKenzie (my first boss), Keith Shaw (my second) and Laurent Othacehe, and used to hear from Andy Campbell, Jason Haigh and Andy Deeley (who worked as a contractor here at Virgin Media for a while). While I’m in reminiscing mode, does anyone hear from Ian Polaine, Jim Ferris or Jenny Hands?

  21. Like several others in this thread, I’ve just been broadsided by this blast from the past. I was a student at PAFEC around ’89 and returned after I graduated for a further 6 years in the Mapping office. As others have said, the coding standards and techniques I picked up there have lasted throughout my career. I’m an IT manager in the NHS now, and still find myself thinking “how would PAFEC do this?”… the only problem being to persuade others of the merits of that long-ago culture. Someone actually said to me recently “Why do you waste time writing all these comments…” Anyway, I have some photos of the Moggies office from around that time, as well as some of Strelley and the Stapleford building and even some from the infamous PAFEC Treasure Hunts that I helped organise. If only I can figure out how to post images on this site…

    1. Hi Derek,

      If you’d like to email them to me with a few words I’ll happily put them up as a guest post on here.

      Tim.

  22. Hi all,
    In common with a number of the other posters here I too started in the NC dept in ’86 under Nick Marlow, although was fortunate to move to the SE group surrounded by some truly talented people and there I stayed until ’95. The company seemed to lose direction after that and I moved onto pastures new, but the hardcore education at Pafec was really priceless. I’m still in development today, doing mainly database work.

  23. Hi

    I think that someone must start a Wiki article about PAFEC. It is shame there are currently no articles about it. I used DOGS, PIGS, and PAFEC FE, and used to love them very much. At one time DOGS was much more capable and user friendly than AutoCad.

Your thoughts?