Overview and History of the Comet System

Overview

For many years, Comet has been recognized as a top-performing system for business and commercial software applications. The words are repeated again and again. Solid. Reliable. Fast. Flexible. Efficient. Dependable.

But, what is Comet? Simply stated, Comet is an exceptionally versatile computing environment for business and web applications. Some might refer to Comet as an “application server.” Designed for Windows PC’s as well as Microsoft and Novell networks, Comet includes a multi-tasking runtime component and a high-speed database engine. It certainly makes sense, then, that Comet serves as the platform for a large library of established software applications.

Comet is very flexible. It can run as a standalone system, in a local area network, in a wide area network, and on the Internet. One of Comet’s notable strengths is its remote application processing, which is accomplished with CometAnywhere and/or eComet.

In a network setting, Comet is a true client-server system, offering software for the file server as well as the individual client nodes. The current client-side product, Comet2002, runs on Windows PC’s (including Windows XP). Signature currently offers two current server-side products: CometServe32 runs on Windows servers and CometServeNLM runs on Netware servers.

Comet is also a respected software development platform. Application programming for the Comet environment, for packaged applications as well as customized systems, is done using Signature’s Internet Basic compiler language. Database exploration and reporting is enhanced with two powerful tools. The Reporter is a report program generator, and C•VIEW is an advanced data mining tool. To assist in the configuration and management of a Comet system, Comet includes a full suite of utility programs.

A Bit of History

In the early 1980’s, the founders of Signature Systems began to develop system software for personal computers. Their goal was to create a true multi-tasking, multi-user system that would run in conjunction with Microsoft’s Disk Operating System (DOS). This was an ambitious project, considering that at the time, such systems were available predominantly on larger, vastly more expensive minicomputer platforms.

Soon, Signature unveiled the first version of Comet, which included both software and hardware products. The software component was a multitasking runtime system that could support both foreground and background processing tasks (up to 100 per system). The hardware component was a terminal adapter board that connected multiple data entry terminals to the PC. Imagine an Intel 386 machine with 40 terminals connected to it and you’ve got the picture.

Signature effectively brought minicomputer-level technology to the personal computer. In fact, many of the early Comet users were former minicomputer users themselves. This was the era of downsizing, and Comet was more than ready for the task. New Comet users were often surprised at how fast Comet was. Tasks that had taken hours to complete on their minicomputer were being finished in minutes on a Comet-based PC.

Networking and Beyond

As local area network technology emerged in the mid-90’s, Signature Systems added the appropriate features to Comet. Porting Comet’s database engine to a Novell server created Signature’s first client-server product, CometServeNLM. Later, Comet’s database engine was ported to the Microsoft networking platform, and CometServe32 was born. By this point, it was obvious that the multi-user nature of a Comet system was being accomplished with multiple nodes on a network rather than data entry terminals, and the terminal adapter board was discontinued.

Signature then built a new version of the Comet runtime system based on the Microsoft 32-bit Windows standards. Comet2002 supports earlier Comet applications (including the ones that were ported from the minicomputer world), foreground and background processing (up to 100 tasks per system), and also includes GUI programming features such as:

·        dialog boxes

·        windows

·        radio buttons

·        check boxes

·        list boxes

·        edit controls

·        picture pushbuttons

·        bitmap images

·        tree controls

·        tab controls

·        sound

·        pop-up menus

·        toolbars

·        keyboard accelerators

·        graphical printing features

Signature has always recognized the value of remote application processing. The company’s CometAnywhere software was built to run existing Comet programs, without modification, over wide area networks and the Internet. This is an ideal way to run business-to-business and intranet applications.

Extending the Comet Product Line

Signature developed Comet2000 and Comet2002 to enhance the links between Comet applications and Internet services. The base level includes the Winsock gateway, which provides the power for Comet programs to communicate using any Internet protocol. The most common example is Comet applications that send e-mail via the Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP).

The base level also includes the Comet Fax Driver, a software gateway that lets a Comet application program send a fax via an internal Class 1, 2, or 2.0 fax/modem.

For web-based applications, such as business-to-consumer and e-commerce systems, Signature created its patent-pending eXtended Active Pages (XAP) technology and the eComet Extensions. An eComet host system runs multiple concurrent XAP programs, communicates with web browsers, and can access to the organization’s Comet database. In short, eComet is a complete Internet application server.

In the database arena, the Comet ODBC Client Gateway provides the power for Comet applications to access databases that are compatible with the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) standard. For example, Internet Basic programs can read and write data in Microsoft Access databases, SQL Server databases, and other ODBC data sources. This gateway offers excellent expansion opportunities for existing Comet applications as well as eComet applications.

The Comet Serial Gateway is a software extension that lets a Comet application program communicate with an external serial device via the PC’s serial port.

Signature Systems continues to develop system software for emerging platforms and applications. The Comet runtime system now supports up to 999 tasks per system. The Internet Basic language continues to evolve to meet the needs of the worldwide group of Comet application developers. The Comet database engines and interfaces continue to be enhanced, and the Comet runtime system is being expanded for the application needs of future Comet users.


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