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Micros and Workstations LAN-Linked at Dolby Labs.

Dolby Laboratories, a major designer and manufacturer of electronic noise-reduction systems, has boosted the productivity of its executives, managers, engineers, technical writers and secretaries with a local-area network linking sophisticated text and graphics processing systems and microcomputers.

"An Ethernet-based Xerox 8000 network, incorporating Xerox 8010 Star and 860 information processing systems and Northstar Advantage and IBM PC microcomputers, permits users at all levels to work on a wide range of text and graphics projects," says Michael Ham, who's the MIS manager at the firm's San Francisco headquarters.

By utilizing an appropriate professional workstation on the network, the company's executives and managers can type and send their own memos via electronic mail, its engineers can interactively design and print schematic diagrams, and its technical writers can create illustrated user manuals and other documentation.

"What's more," says Ham, "our support staff--who have largely been freed from performing such activities--are using various stations to more efficiently handle a growing volume of routine tasks. So we've been able to support increased business without adding personnel." Sales Totaled $17 Million

Dolby Laboratories is a privately held manufacturer of noise-reduction systems used throughout the recording, motion picture and consumer stereo industries. Founded in 1965, the company today has 200 employees in its San Francisco and London facilities, and sales of more than $17 million annually.

According to Ham, users typically employ the network by writing the text of many of their documents--including proposals, manuals, system documentation, journal articles and detailed meeting agendas--on the Advantages with WordStar, and then transmitting the text to an 8010 Star information processing system. At the 8010, a user can reformat the text, enhance it with a variety of typefaces and sizes, and merge it with graphics created on that workstation. The document can then be routed via the network to a laser printer that produces either a finished publication or camera-ready copy for typesetting.

"Because the preliminary work can be done on the Advantages," says Ham, "the network increases the productivity of the more-expensive 8010 and 860 information processing systems. For us, the speed and flexibility we now have in creating larger documents are some of the primary benefits of office automation."

Ham notes that, when necessary, the network enhances users to easily transfer files to one another, and to transmit files to the 8010s or 860s, where the files can be combined into a single document and prepared for printing. Moreover, files can be downloaded from those machines to the microcomputers, if further modifications are needed. Equipment Located on Two Floors

Dolby Laboratories' 8000 network links a wide variety of equipment distributed throughout two floors of the firm's headquarters building. More than 750 feet of one-half-inch Ethernet cable carry data to the network's devices at a rate of 10 megabits (about 300 typewritte pages) per second.

The network's hardware includes three 8010 and three 860 information processors, a laser printer, a file server with 80 megabytes of disk storage and a communications server. The communications server links the Xerox devices with 35 microcomputer via a Rolm DTI data terminal interface.

To make the most-economical use of the laser printer, most correspondence and routine documents are printed on 12 Diablo 630 daisywheel printers linked to the Advantage micros. The 860 processors are linked to dedicated 834 printers with sheet feeders.

In addition to their role in the network, the microcomputers communicate with a newly installed IBM System/36 via an IBM Series/1. The Series/1 serves as a protocol converter and a communications system for sending telexes.

Before installation of the network, Dolby Laboratories' office automation system consisted of two stand-alone Xerox 850 information processors and Z-Word word-processing software on an IBM System/34. Most routine correspondence and other documents were handled on Selectric typewriters.

"Although this arrangement served us well at one time," Ham says "our growing publication requirements were outrunning the capacity of our word processors, and were increasing the time-consuming and costly steps of production and typesetting. At the same time, the aily workload of our secretaries had reached the breaking point. They were being given stacks of reports to type, even though their time was fully allocated. We needed a way to streamline our production of documents at all levels."

After an assessment of the available office automation systems, Ham and Dolby President Bill Jasper selected the 8000 network in October 1981, primarily because it supported the 8010 workstation and the 8044 laser printer.

"Taken together, the workstation and the printer were in a class apart," says Ham. "No other hardware we looked at could produce typeset-quality documents that integrated both extensive text and sophisticated graphics. Moreover, the network enabled our users of CP/M and MS-DOS-based microcomputers to transmit files to any workstation, or to a file server accessible by any station on the network."

By June 1982, all the network's components were in place, including the 8010 systems. Among the busiest users of the workstations are electrical engineers, who use the system to write the documentation for their designs and to create reports for checkpoint meetings. Circuit designers and draftsmen also use the 8010 to interactively create schematic diagrams and technical drawings. These graphics are transmitted via the network's cable to the laser printer, which can print them on 8-1/2 by 11-inch sheets at a rate of 12 pages per minute, or produce them as transparencies for presentations. Typefaces Changed Quickly

Ham himself uses an 8010 professional workstation for virtually all in-house system documentation. After keying in the text, he can use the machine's "mouse" to move a pointer to any spot on the screen in order to mark portions of text that need to be changed to boldface, italicized, or printed in a distinctive typeface or size.

To select a formatting or type-style option, Ham simply moves the pointer into an "icon" at the right edge of the screen and presses a button on the mouse. The icons are either boxes with brief descriptions or simplified pictorial representations of the unit's various functions. With few exceptions, the text as it appears on the screen is identical to that on the page produced by the laser printer.

Once the text has been formatted and its type styles created, Ham can use the appropriate screen icon and one of the 8010's function keys to file the text in the system's 10-megabyte disk storage or to transmit it to the file server or to the printer.

Ham points out that simple graphics can be developed on the workstation, and stored or printed in much the same manner. A draftsman, for example, can create a schematic diagram by using the pointer to select from a number of graphic options--including solid, dotted or dashed lines of various widths, or pre-dawn graphics such as arrowheads or rectangles. The pre-dawn graphics can be moved about the screen, enlarged, or scaled down. If an illustration is to be combined with text, the system will automatically rearrnage the text to make room for it. Users Gained Self-Sufficiency

"With the capabilities provided by the 8010," says Ham, "users are more self-sufficient than ever before. In all but a few cases, it's now possible to produce a polished document without the aid of a secretary, a graphic artist, a production person or a typesetter. And whenever a document does require the attention of another person, it's simple to transfer it to that person on the network."

As for the future, Ham says, "The network system in our headquarters will allow for the growth that should come as we survey our applications and find new ways to more-effectively communicate electronically."
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Communications News
Date:Jul 1, 1984
Words:1266
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