Commodore PET and dongle

picture of Commodore PET and security dongle

SuperClerk user manual

picture of SuperClerk manual, precursor to ABC accounts

MicroClerk user manual

picture of MicroClerk manual, written for the Commdore 128 computer

How it all started

The very first program Chris Hicks wrote (about 1977) was Payroll calculator for use in-house. SuperClerk was our first commercial software package. Launched in 1980, this All-in-One small business solution combined full ledger accounts with a simple database, spreadsheet, wordprocessor; and with Notepads, calculator, typewriter function, addressbook, alarm clock, etc, etc. It sold for £999.

SuperClerk ran on the Commodore PET computer (with 360k floppy disks). It relied on the excellent Business ROM (from JCL Software) which added a library of business related commands to the BASIC language. To stop illegal copies being used, SuperClerk needed a "dongle".

Commodore UK Ltd were impressed by SuperClerk, and they paid JCL Software and ourselves to produce a cut-down version for them to sell under the name MicroClerk for their new 128 Computer. As soon as the product was completed, Commodore USA had a management change and the new boss decided not to sell business software; as far as we know there are thousands of MicroClerk packages still sitting in a large warehouse... (we got paid anyway)

 

 

picture of Chris, creator of ABC accounts and payroll, back in the day...

Chris Hicks circa 1980

ABC1 and ABC2 packages

picture of ABC version 1 and 2, DOS ABC accounts

 

 

ABC4 and ABC5 packages

picture of ABC4 and 5, both still DOS versions of ABC accounts

By this time, 1984, the IBM PC was becoming popular and so we sat down to rewrite SuperClerk for the IBM PC. The first step was to produce our own business programming language; this was done with Keyboard Productions Ltd and an American Company called APC; using the brilliant MegaBASIC language (a truly outstanding product, way ahead of its time).

The new product was called ABC and launched in 1987 with retail price of £149. About 10,000 copies were bought by DIXONs to be bundled with the AMSTRAD 1512 PC - still with 360k floppies), and versions were also produced for USA, South Africa, Australia, Holland, France, Belgium, Germany and licensed to distributors in those countries.

ABC version 2 was basically ABC1 repackaged by our Distributor (ABC Systems Ltd in Sutton). We fell out over the fact that they ceased to pay us for the packages they were manufacturing and selling.

Our programmer, Paul Southcott, was working on ABC3 which had networking features for experimental testing by a few users only. But he suddenly left and -- illegally -- took the source code and our customer list with him and repackaged ABC3 as "his own" product called ABC-Plus. This didn't end well. After his UK company TreeRiver Ltd went bust, he moved to Alderney in the Channel Islands and continued to sell the same product under the name AE Office (Alderney Enterprises). We hope he feels pangs of regret for his crimes of software piracy, and misuse of our customer mailing list.

We released a new version of ABC in 1990 -- that was ABC4 with recommended retail price of £295. Add-on Modules were produced for ABC4 by other companies, including WorkSheets, Invoice & Statement Design, Sales Order Processing, Purchase Order Processing, Vehicle Maintenance, and of course Payroll. Updates for ABC4 were produced over the years, the final one being ABC4.009. A proper network version of ABC4 was released in 1993, and proved very robust and troublefree -- until Windows95 came along......

ABC5 was largely rewritten from scratch to make it work well under Windows 95 and 98, and to make it Year 2000 compliant. It was released in December 1998. ABC5 was updated regularly until 2005, and it works well under Windows XP. But not as easily under Vista or Windows7, 8, or 10.

ABC6 package

picture of ABC6 - the current version of ABC accounts

The Current version is ABC6 -- a Windows version of ABC, with a modern MS Office user interface (licensed from Microsoft). This can automatically import all data from earlier versions. With the internet growing in importance in the way we communicate, it is possible that future bookkeeping software will look and behave in a very different manner. Just be assured that our products will always stay a year or two behind that cutting edge of technology.

If you are using any older version of ABC (or even one of its copies) you are invited to upgrade to the latest version of our software; we will even give you a discount.

Chris Hicks is still working on the updates and support for ABC