US 5280583 System and method for performing interlocution at a plurality of terminals connected to communication network

ABSTRACT – A plurality of work stations each imparted with a multi-window control function are interconnected through an integrated service digital network (ISDN), wherein control communication route is established among a plurality of stations between which interlocutory communication are to be performed. The work stations transfer control commands by way of the control communication route in accordance with operation by users under the control of an interlocution control program to thereby establish or disconnect a logical communication route between designated application programs of the work stations. So long as the logical communication route is established, the application programs can execute data processing in cooperation with each other. In that case, identical change of display in the windows corresponding to the application programs, respectively, takes place in the work stations. User can perform conference or document edition processing by designating the position of data of concern by a pointing object while conducting conversation by using a telephone set installed at the work station.


The present invention relates in general to a joint information processing system. More particularly, the invention is concerned with an electronic interlocution system in which a plurality of terminal apparatuses (also referred to simply as terminals) are interconnected through communication channels and in which data communication is carried out between or among the terminals to perform information processing jointly in cooperation with one another while the users of the terminals perform voice interlocution through telephone sets.


In connection with a prior art data processing system or terminal apparatus of the type which has a data processing capability, an information processing program which has excellent interaction characteristics and is capable of outputting data which is easy to understand visually was at one time premised on the dedicated use of the program for the individual. A computer system using such program is described in detail in Seybold, Jonathon, “Xerox’s `Star`”, in the Seybold Report Media, PA: Seybold Publications, Vol. 10, No. 16, (1981). However, this computer system is not equipped with any function which allows a plurality of users to make access simultaneously to the same data constituting a document, table and the like and which can reflect the results of the processing as performed onto a display on a real time basis. Although electronic mail is described in the publication cited above as one function of the system which allows the same data to be utilized by a plurality of users, electronic mail is a system in which a plurality of users cannot make access to the same document or the like simultaneously but only at different times.

On the other hand, in a communication between persons at remote locations, the telephone has been made use of among others. The telephone system is advantageous in that reactions of interlocutors can be transmitted straightforwardly on a real time basis and in that voice information is used which is very easy to understand. However, the inability to handle other than voice information in such a system presents a problem. Experience shows that even a fact which can be readily understood through the medium of a simple picture is difficult to understand when it is to be elucidated through verbalization. In other words, if a memorandum or document can be made use of in the course of conversation a mutual understanding of the information being discussed could be promoted significantly.

From JP-A-62-53084, such a system is known in which two terminals each equipped with a telephone set are interconnected through a communication channel, wherein the same images are displayed on the display devices of both terminals, respectively, together with a cursor inputted in one terminal and a cursor inputted from the counterpart or partner terminal to thereby allow a conference to be conducted by viewing the displays.

When each of the terminals is provided with a multi-window display function in the system mentioned just above, it is possible to generate simultaneously on one and the same screen both a joint use window for displaying the same document in at both terminals through inter-terminal communication and a local window for displaying a document or data to be used only in the one terminal. In conjunction with the communication system including the multi-window terminals mentioned above, there is known an approach, as proposed in JP-A-63-67958, according to which the positional information of the local windows is mutually transferred between the interconnected terminals so that the user of the terminal can know the state of the display on the screen of the partner terminal. With this arrangement, the user of one terminal can command the partner to displace a local window when the former desires to explain the content of a document or other data generated in an area of the window dedicated for joint use which is however covered by the local window in the partner’s terminal.


It is an object of the present invention to provide an electronic interlocution system including a plurality of terminals or work stations each imparted with a multi-window function and interconnected to one another and which system can enjoy much improved information service performance. With the invention, it is also contemplated to provide an interlocutory communication method carried out by using the electronic interlocution system mentioned above.

Another object of the present invention is to provide an interlocutory communication system in which a given one of the terminals or work stations can participate in a plurality of interlocutions (or conferences) simultaneously or selectively.

A further object of the invention is to provide a joint information processing system in which the users of a plurality of terminals or stations interconnected through communication channels can individually prepare data while conducting an interlocution in parallel by referring to the information for joint use, wherein the prepared data can be added to the joint information to thereby improve the efficiency of the interlocution.

In view of the above and other objects which will be more apparent as this description proceeds, it is proposed according to a general aspect of the present invention that in a communication system including a plurality of stations each having a multi-window function and connected to a communication channel system, a control communication path or route is first established between a plurality of the stations among which the interlocutory communication is to be performed, and then a logical communication route is established among those of plural application programs (processing programs) of the stations which are to be executed jointly. Parenthetically, the application programs interconnected through the logical communication route are herein referred to as interlocution object programs. In work station incorporating multiwindow function, a plurality of application programs corresponding, respectively, to a plurality of windows generated on the display screen can be caused to run selectively or in parallel to one another, wherein the results of the processings executed by the individual application programs can be outputted to be displayed in the associated windows, respectively.

In the system according to the invention, when data or a command is inputted to the interlocution object program in one station, involving a change in the content displayed in a window on a display screen of the station as the result of data processing, the data or command mentioned above is also inputted to the interlocution object program of other station(s) by way of the logical communication route (the entity of which is same as the control communication route or path mentioned above), whereby window displays of the same content are generated in all the work stations interconnected by the control communication route or path. When the logical communication route is disconnected, the interlocution object programs resume ordinary local processing of application programs capable of running on the associated stations, respectively, wherein data or a command supplied to the application program is prohibited from being transmitted to other station(s). For realizing the establishment and disconnection of the control communication route and the logical communication route as well as transmission of data or a command to another station and distribution of them to the interlocution object program of the one station, there is provided an interlocution control program in each work station according to a teaching of the present invention.

One interlocution control program can control a plurality of the interlocution object programs, whereby a plurality of windows on the display screen can be made to participate in the interlocutory communication in an arbitrary manner. Further, by providing a plurality of interlocution control programs for each station, it is possible for a given one of the stations to participate simultaneously in two or more interlocutory communications.

According to another aspect of the invention, the user of one station can communicate with the user of another station by selecting a display generated in one window on the display screen, while locally executing a document create processing by using another window, wherein the document thus created may be affixed to the interlocution object window or alternatively the local window can be changed over to the interlocution object window. Thus, the joint information processing can be performed with significantly improved efficiency.

The foregoing and other objects, advantages, manner of operation and novel features of the present invention will be understood from the following detailed description of the preferred and exemplary embodiments of the invention when read in connection with the accompanying drawings.



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