Late 1980’s Software For Digital Signage (Thx @ScalaInc)

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

As we continue our Software Holocron and unearth more history about the early days of the industry we have been finding (and of course have been sent) some interesting early photos – forgive us for continuing to say but they all make an absolute mockery of all the Minkus Minkus patent trolls out there.

Shown above, courtesy of Scala / SignChannel’s Jeff Porter is a picture from the late 1980’s taken in an Esso petrol (for American readers this is an Exxon Gas) station in Norway of a TV set hanging above the cash wrap promoting things on sale at that forecourt / convenience store.

Jeff reminds us that at the time (definitely pre-World Wide Web and pre-Internet) 1200 baud modems were about as fast as you could get then.

He explained by email “when your Scala ‘Master’ would call the ‘Player’, it would literally dial the phone number of the player directly, and hope the modem answered”.

New content was then downloaded in the background while the ‘Player’ continued to play the existing content on the TV screen.

Jeff tells us that he first got hooked on the concept of Digital Signage when he was head of R&D for Commodore. He tells us “I met a funny Norwegian guy named Jon Bøhmer. He had this killer program called Scala for the Amiga that he had developed in Norway, It was amazingly simple to use and produced the slickest looking multimedia”

That product was called InfoChannel and we believe that it was the first software for digital signage, mind you, the actual term ‘digital signage’ – a term usually attributed to John Kirkpatrick wouldn’t actually be coined until some years later!

Whatever you think of the current day Scala, there is no doubting that at the time they were once thirty years ahead of their time!


6 Responses to “Late 1980’s Software For Digital Signage (Thx @ScalaInc)”

  1. Neil Farr Says:

    Ahhh, Commodore, I remember the days!

    In 1993 we (my previous company – Comunik8 ltd) released ‘Checkout TV’ using Scala on Commodore Amiga 1200s with a 14.4Kbps modem and a VHS player + Genlock… Midlands Co-Ops had 20″ TV sets on top of poles around the stores and of course between the checkouts showing a variety of vidoes, Ads and Gardening/Recipes.
    Scala’s Infochannel software was perfect for displaying content which could be easily updated and was TV quality so fitted with the rest of the content. In fact, we used Scala a lot for interactives too.

    Thanks all for sparking off the memories – just found the old photos too (will try and get them to Adrian).

  2. Barnaby Page Says:

    I don’t know if you acquired the aka.tv archive along with the domain, but if so have a look – back in 2004-5ish Bill Collins wrote a piece on what he reckoned was the oldest installation of digital signage in the U.S. Frustratingly I can’t recall the exact context but I think it might have been at a truck stop, or something like that.

  3. Phil Austin Says:

    I installed Scala software into Lunn Poly travel shops in1997. Scala powered rear projection window displays and multiple in shop CRT screens throughout a series of high profile retail travel shops.

  4. Barry Thurston Says:

    Minkus Sminkus! There was a Lovely bloke called Wolfgang Mandler selling InfoChannel from “Digital Vision AS” (Scala before it became Scala) to Hotels throughout Norway back in 1987, a number running on modems somewhat slower than 14.4, four years before Scala UK was founded. I also remember Comunik8’s Co-op offering and very good it was too. Hi Neil!

    Another Amiga based DS offering at that time was Limelight from Chris Fulton at Future Software. It even had the ability to set the display up to compensate for bezel gap on any configuration of video wall. Really necessary in those days but I never saw it in any other offering.

  5. ANON Says:

    pre-web yes, pre-Internet I don’t think so

  6. Neil Farr Says:

    Hi Barry! Thanks, I remember working with you guys back then. Hope you’re well!

    Hi Phil, didn’t realise it was you that did the Lunn Poly Shops! That was a good install.

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