The ICON workstation and LEXICON file server were originally designed by Cemcorp, the Canadian Educational Microprocessor Corporation, specifically for use in Canadian schools. They were first produced by Burroughs then took the name of Unisys when Burrough and Sperry merged to form Unisys.
Up to about 20 diskless workstations got everything off of the central file-server. They ran QNX, a flavour of Unix operating system with optional GUI shell. The workstations offered a graphical interface including windows, pick-areas, and a tracker/cursor that responded to the user through manipulation of a trackball located onto the keyboard. Two versions of the GUI interface were available, called Ambience and ICONLook, as well as a file manager called House.
The Lexicon were 80186-based servers. They contained 1 or 2 8-inch floppy drives and a 70 MB hard disk. Standard programming languages (Basic, Pascal, Fortran, C) came from Watcom. A word processor and a spreadsheet were also available.
However, the LEXICON-ICON systems were very expensive and suffered from a lack of educational software. They were replaced with IBM PC and AT systems and were quickly forgotten.
There were also Icon II and Icon III computers, see the link section for more information.
More information from John Bridgman:
The ICON was originally designed as a courseware authoring and delivery tool intended to let teachers implement their own lessons and share them with other schools and classes, using a hypertext model similar to the (future) WWW but based on NAPLPS (Telidon) graphics rather than HTML and embedded bitmaps.
The "any teacher can create lessons" model was rejected by the Ontario MOE in favour of courseware they funded and controlled, and the hypertext project was cancelled before the ICON shipped, leaving only the Watcom language interpreters, the native QNX command-line interface, and the Cemcorp-developed text editor.
The fileserver originally had a 10 MB hard disk and a single 5-1/4" floppy. The Ministry requested a 5 MB hard drive but we felt that was too small. As soon as larger drives became available (70 MB unformatted, 64 MB formatted) we switched to the larger drive.
About half way through the original ICON production a floppy option was added to the workstation to meet a "checklist" requirement somewhere (in the US, I think) but very few were actually purchased.
|BUILT IN LANGUAGE||None|
|KEYBOARD||Full stroke keyboard with function keys and numeric keypad|
|RAM||384 KB - 1 MB in ICON-II second version|
|COLORS||Monochrome blue and white or 8 colours (at least) display|
|SOUND||Speech synthesis system|
|SIZE / WEIGHT||Unknown|
|I/O PORTS||Parallel printer connector, video port|
|BUILT IN MEDIA||None in the ICON workstation.
5.25'' floppy disk drive + 10 MB hard disk in the file server
|PRICE||About C$2.500 (ICON workstation)|