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A Platform Independent Graphical User Interface for Personal Computers and Workstations
1 - What Is the Dialog Machine?
The Dialog Machine is a graphical user interface (GUI) which is easy to learn, is object oriented, and is well defined, i.e. based on a formally defined user model (Fischlin & Schaufelberger 1987, Fischlin et al. 1987). The Dialog Machine is for any computer which supports at least a bitmapped graphics display, a keyboard and a pointing device such as a mouse, i.e. a personal computer as we know them today.
The Dialog Machine is based on the Modula-2 programing language (Wirth 1985, 1988). Its client interface provides the basis for highly portable programming of interactive applications, since it makes a minimum of assumptions on the properties of the underlying operating system and the hardware. Programing with the Dialog Machine, i.e. the writing of a Dialog Machine program, simplifies greatly the task of the programmer of interactive programs. The result are not only quickly written programs, but Dialog Machine programs do also behave reliably, conform to high quality standards, and are easy to use.
Up to the present implementations have been realized for the following platforms: Macintosh (Mac Classic), Atari (GEM), IBM PC (GEM, Windows 3.1 up to Windows 98, Windows NT, Windows ME, Windows 2000, and Windows XP). Unix implementations have been realized for Macintosh (Mac OS X) and Sun (Solaris) in the form of the so-called Batch Dialog Machine. The latter provides identical interfaces as the Dialog Machine (uses same definition modules), but the implementation supports no user interaction. Yet, programs designed to run interactively can still be executed easily in batch mode, thanks to the unique design of the Dialog Machine (Fischlin & Schaufelberger 1987, Fischlin et al. 1987). For more information on the Batch Dialog Machine see also the RASS (RAMSES Simulation Server) software.
2 - Features
3 - Formal Interface
To learn about the formal interface, notably all functions of the Dialog Machine see:
See also the Dialog Machine Examples.
4 - Availability
The Dialog Machine is freeware (courtesy ETH Zurich).
It comes as a part of the RAMSES modeling and simulation environment.
Download it for:
For information on the needed Modula-2 development environments for the various supported computer platforms see here.
5 - Hardware Requirements
In order to run the Dialog Machine under Mac Classic you require at least 512K of RAM and at least two 800 KB floppies. For serious work, however, we recommend of course a hard disk. The RAMSES package with which the Dialog Machine is released requires uncompressed about 17 MB of hard disk space and at least 1 MB of main memory (preferably 4 MB RAM). The Dialog Machine software is very efficient and could still be executed successfully on older, simple machines at blazing speeds, e.g. a Macintosh Plus. Small is beautiful! :-)
For the IBM PC version (under Windows 3.1 or higher) you require at least 8 MBytes RAM and a graphics monitor with at least EGA resolution (480x360 pixels) and a large hard disk.
For the IBM PC version under GEM you require at least 640 KByte RAM and a graphics monitor with at least EGA resolution and a hard disk.
As of this writing, all software offered at this site is compatible with the latest machines, i.e. on the Macintosh platform with G5 Power Macintosh systems and with any Pentium Pro based system running Windows 95, 98 or NT.
For the Unix platform all workstations or PCs running Unix offer generally sufficient RAM and hard disk space as required for compiling, linking and execution of any Dialog Machine program.
For more details on hard- and software requirements see Fischlin et al. (2006) .
6 - On the Development History of the Dialog Machine
The Dialog Machine has been designed originally by Andreas Fischlin with important contributions by Alex Itten, Klara Vancso, and Olivier Roth.
It was first implemented by Andreas Fischlin, Alex Itten, Olivier Roth, and Klara Vancso during the pilot project CELTIA (Computer Aided Explorative Learning and Teaching with Interactive Animated simulation) at the Project-Centre IDA (Informatik dient allen) at the Institute of Automatic Control Theory, ETH Zurich under the auspices of Prof. Walter Schaufelberger. At that time a lot of support and important ideas were also provided by Markus Ulrich and Ingrid Berntsen.
Later versions were designed by Andreas Fischlin, Olivier Roth, Daniel Keller, and Jürg Thöny. Substantial improvements towards correctness and robustness of its implementation were made by numerous authors such as Jürg Thöny and Dimitrios Gyalistras from the Systems Ecology Group under the direction of Andreas Fischlin. All happened at ETH Zurich.
The two IBM PC implementations (under GEM respectively Windows) have been developed by Daniel Keller (Project-Centre IDA), Jürg Thöny, Thomas Wegmüller, and Fabrizio Giorgetta who all ported Dialog Machine software, e.g. ModelWorks from the Macintosh to the IBM PC and back several times.
Later developements has also been partly supported by two grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation.
7 - Cited References
Fischlin, A., Mansour, M.A., Rimvall, M. & Schaufelberger, W. (1987). Simulation and computer aided control system design in engineering education. In: Troch I., Kopacek, P. & Breitenecker, F. (eds.), Simulation of Control Systems, IFAC/IMACS Proceedings, 13: 51-60.
Fischlin, A., Gyalistras, D. & Löffler, T.J. (2006). Installation Guide and Technical Reference of the RAMSES Software (Version 3) For Apple® Macintosh® Computers. A Technical Systems Ecology Report, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, 48pp.
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