LPA was formed in 1980 to exploit the results emerging from the logic programming research team of Prof. Bob Kowalski at Imperial College, London, which, among others, included Brian D Steel, Clive Spenser, Diane Reeve, Phil Vasey, Paul French and Jonathan Briggs, all under the directorship of Keith Clark and Frank McCabe. Since then, LPA has continued to develop and market advanced software tools and is a leading supplier of commercial software products and solutions in the areas of Expert Systems and Artificial Intelligence.
LPA's initial product was micro-PROLOG which was the world's first Prolog system for micro-computers and implemented on many small micro-computers at the time. LPA's current software range has evolved and now includes advanced Prolog compiler systems, VisiRule, Flex expert system toolkit, Prolog++, the Flint fuzzy logic toolkit, ProWeb Server and various GUI and data mining tools. These are available on Windows and the Web, and allow developers to build, test and deliver both complete applications or embeddable, intelligent components.
The Early Years
In 1983, while still employed by Imperial College, Brian D Steel successfully ported Frank McCabe's 8-bit, Z80 CP/M based micro-PROLOG to the 16-bit IBM PC, running MS-DOS; early the following year, a second version was released, micro-PROLOG 3.1, which made use of memory segments to increase the space available for programs and data. Shortly after this, Brian moved to work at LPA full time.
In 1985, LPA released first version of "PROLOG Professional", an interpreter introducing meaningful variable names, and increasing space for programs from 64kb, to 640kb on the IBM PC, and up to 800kb on other models. Soon after, a second release as made, offering for the first time, double-precision floating point arithmetic. Others at LPA were working on compiler-based implementations of Prolog for DOS, the Apple Mac and Unix.
In 1989, work commenced on a brand new 32-bit compiler engine, dubbed "386-PROLOG", to run on MS-DOS with the help of the Phar Lap DOS-Extender. The first working version was released internally to the LPA development team on 2nd November 1990, a year to the day after the first lines of code were written.
The Second Decade
In 1991, the 32-bit DOS-PROLOG was released. This was to be LPA's first Prolog system based on the Edinburgh syntax, rather than the previous Lisp-like micro-PROLOG variant, and had been engineered to be highly compatible with the then standard, Quintus Prolog.
In 1992, the core 386-PROLOG engine was ported to Windows 3.0, initially with a rigid dialog-driven environment. The new 32-bit WIN-PROLOG ran through a 16-bit front-end application, which used a home-built "thunking" layer to run the 32-bit code with the help of a Microsoft library called WINMEM32.DLL.
In 1993, LPA licensed Flex to ICL as part of their ProcessWise range of process modelling tools. ProcessWise WorkBench was used by many large institutions to model their business processes and workflows. Also in 1993, LPA began STAR, a 3 year DTI-funded collaborative research project with ICRF and LHASA UK in the area of risk analysis and carcinogenicity. Its aim was to take a mixture of different toxicological and related data types of varying degrees of accuracy and draw conclusions about the hazard or risk that it represented.
In 1995, the Open University adopted Flex as the basis for, "T396: Artificial Intelligence for Technology". This popular course ran until 2006 and taught AI and Knowledge-based systems to engineers.
In 1996, work commenced on a fully 32-bit version of WIN-PROLOG, eschewing the previous hybrid 16/32 "thunking" model and WINMEM32, and instead building the system around the Win32 API that exists to this very day. The final hybrid version (3.310), and first Win32 version (3.610), were released in at opposite ends of 1997.
In 1996, the DTI awarded LPA a Smart award to develop ScaffoldIT, a tool for building dynamic documents and intelligent web sites. In 1998, LPA was awarded a follow-on grant to further develop the tool to generate complex personalised documents such as policy schedules, legal contracts, complex proposals on the Web. The results formed the basis of the ContractExpress product range from Business Integrity Ltd. which is being used by many of the world's leading law firms.
In 1998, LPA released DataMite, a Windows-based data mining tool and an associated toolkit.
In 1999, LPA released its Agent toolkit and associated TCP/IP library.
In 1999, LPA undertook a major overhaul of its software, to eliminate any possible instances of the much feared "Millennium Bug". A future-proof, "Y2K-safe" date/time format was designed and implemented within the 386-PROLOG engine, and changes were pushed through the many toolkits to ensure the software would not fail as the date rolled round to 2000.
The New Millennium
In 2000, LPA started two new collaborative projects both funded within the DTI Management of Information program. Frisc was to harness the best experts' skills in fraud detection, and in detecting anomalous claims and new fraud variants, in order to enable insurers to regain control of claims costs. Rems-ST aimed to develop counter-measures to retail staff theft, by harnessing industry expertise with leading-edge AI technology, knowledge management techniques, and internet services. Also, in 2000, LPA commenced work on Forfait, Forest Fire Risk and Hazard Assessment: A Holistic Approach, funded under the CEC IST Programme.
In 2002, LPA released WebFlex, a web-based version of the expert system toolkit, Flex. This is still being used to deliver online expert systems and advice within many different projects.
In 2004, LPA annouced a new graphical charting tool, VisiRule, which lets people draw their decision support systems, rather than have to engage programmers to write code for them.
In 2008, LPA implemented additional automated testing facilities to help validate and audit VisiRule charts and their outcomes.
In 2011, LPA developed an interactive viewer facility so that end-users could see the VisiRule chart when answering the generated web-based questionnaire.
In 2014, as LPA's Technical Director and Chief Software Architect, Brian D Steel acquired the IPR to the 386-PROLOG system he'd designed and built over the preceding 25 years, rebranding it as "BDS-PROLOG".
In 2014, LPA and EMDS Consortium announced plans to incorprate VisiRule into EMDS, Ecosystem Management Decision Support, a leading application framework for knowledge-based decision support for environmental analysis at any geographic scale.
In 2014, LPA announced a major upgrade to the VisiRule run-time and deployment system to better support mobile devices and graphical viewing.
In 2018, during a summer of intense work, the 32-bit BDS-PROLOG engine was successfully ported to the 64-bit Intel X64 platform, smashing through the 2Gb memory barrier of 32-bit applications and enabling huge amounts of data to be processed. Development of the 32-bit and 64-bit versions continues in parallel, with both systems sharing the identical set of features and functions, and with complete code compatibility.
In 2020, despite the pressures of the COVID-19 crisis and various lock-downs, LPA remained actively in business, both working on bespoke projects, and developing its core products. Version 7.1 of BDS-PROLOG was released in November, marking the 31st birthday of the 32-bit system, and the second birthday of the 64-bit system.
Customers and Associates
LPA customers include: InferMed - who have developed AREZZO, a leading-edge decision support tool used to provide decision support to front line clinical specialists, and MACRO; Valdis Krebs from OrgNet - who has developed InFlow, a powerful social network analysis package, PDT who have developed SPECIFY4IT, a Process Engineering for Software Development.
Various academic papers have been published which feature VisiRule and other LPA products covering a wide range of areas from Visual Modeling, Medical Expert Systems, Legal Expert Systems, Legal Jurisprudence, E-learning, Decision Making, through to manufacturing and waste management. A full list is available from LPA.
LPA software is also very popular in education throughout the world and forms the basis for many courses in AI, Expert Systems, Knowledge Representation, Decision Support Systems and, of course, Prolog.
Copyright © 2021 LPA Ltd
All rights reserved