Coherent 4.0. (operating system) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Bradley M. Small
For many computer users the only question has been whether to run OS/2 or DOS alone or DOS with Windows. COHERENT (Mark Williams Company, 60 Revere Drive, Suite 250, Northbrook, Illinois 60062; 708-291-6700 or 800-627-5967, fax 708-291-6750) should be another option under consideration. COHERENT 4.0 is a 32-bit UNIX-like operating system for the Intel 386 or higher.
One of the strongest reasons for choosing Windows or OS/2 is that they both have the ability to multitask. COHERENT answers this need by being a true multiuser, multitasking operating system. Granted, it currently does not support graphics, but I am told that graphic capability is in the works.
For text editing, COHERENT provides MicroEMACS and elvis (a vi clone), both of which take a little getting used to if you are not familiar with them. I wasn't expecting flashy screens and pull-down menus, so I wasn't disappointed. Don't get me wrong; they are both powerful editors--they just aren't flashy.
For those who want to try programming, COHERENT provides a K&R C compiler, lex, yacc, and make utility. There is also sh (Borne shell) or ksh (Korn shell) for programming shell scripts and awk (a string-based interpreter). Best of all, they are all documented with short beginner's examples in the manual.
An operating system is of no use without applications. Although COHERENT comes with only the applications mentioned above, many additional applications are available. One of the new developments in COHERENT 4.0 is that it is COFF compliant. This means that its executable files, theoretically, will run on any other system that is also COFF compliant. This should include systems like Interactive UNIX and SCO UNIX (not Xenix) just to name two.
I checked out this claim. Pacific Micro (201 San Antonio Circle, C250, Mountain View, California 94040; 415-948-6200, fax 415-948-6296) sent me a copy of its interactive UNIX version of Common-Link (a product that will format, read, and copy from Macintosh high-density disks and DOS 720K or 1.44MB disks), and it worked under COHERENT.
If you're trying to learn UNIX or have UNIX at the office and want something similar at home, COHERENT 4.0 is a very close clone of UNIX System V It has most of the tools that you would expect to see on many Unices (the plural of UNIX). For those of you familiar with the GNU (GNU'S Not UNIX) project (Free Software Foundation, 675 Massach setts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139; 617-876-3296), Mark Williams is currently finishing the port of both the GNU (ANSI standard) C/C++ 2.3 compiler as well as the GNU tools, a selection of programming, development, and general file-manipulation tools. Mark Williams will be making the compiler and the tools available for $49.95 each and the source to the compiler available for $99.95.
One other service worth mentioning is the Mark Williams Bulletin Board. On this you may read mail or news and ask questions and download updates or software packages, most of which will even include source code. It is accessed using UUCP, a mail package that comes with COHERENT. It takes a little effort to set up, but if you take the time to follow the manual, it's not that difficult.
If you have a business and your VAR/dealer tells you that the solution you need includes a UNIX operating system, COHERENT is only $99.95 and doesn't require a license from AT&T.
If you are a VAR or dealer, one of the most promising products available on COHERENT is the Acucobol-85 COBOL compiler (Acucobol, 7950 Silverton Avenue, Suite 201, San Diego, California 92126; 619-689-7220, fax 619-566-3071). Acucobol runs on over 520 platforms, and its programs are portable unmodified. Acucobol's Golden Access disk contains a catalog of applications arranged according to the vertical markets that they target and the companies that provide them.
So, do you need COHERENT? Well, it probably won't replace your DOS, Windows, or OS/2 system, but if a UNIX-like solution is what you need and you don't want to pay a lot, ask your VAR or dealer if COHERENT can be your solution. Of course, if you prefer, you can contact Mark Williams and order it directly. COHERENT comes with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.