VMI Communications & Learning Systems, Inc. was a Canadian-based company, focused on customer analysis, training, and statistics. Their history included delivery and management of set-top ratings boxes (think Arbitron or Nielsen TV ratings services) to provide statistical reporting back to their clients.
When VMI learned that Prudential Insurance was looking for a solution to provide training directly to over 2000 insurance providers across the country, their sales team reached out and landed the contract.
Using their experience with "dial-home" styles of hardware and communications, VMI sourced the Memorex VIS as an affordable hardware platform. Their engineers modified the firmware within the VIS to better suit their training needs, and re-branded it as the VIEWTEL System.
This wasn't just a simple change of the brand sticker on the VIS, though: additionally, the firmware was altered in that the message shown on the boot screen was different and refers to the console as a VIEWTEL System.
If a standard VIS disc is inserted, an error is displayed on-screen. Only the Viewtel-encoded discs will work apparently. Currently, the disc shown below is the only one in our collection. I am working to obtain other, sealed copies of this software for the archives.
The VMI Console in our collection came with a training disk labeled "The Prudential Learning System" (yes, the insurance company). VMI was hired by Prudential in a multi-million dollar contract, to deploy training systems to their offices nation-wide. Estimates are that over 2,000 of the VIS systems were reconfigured by VMI to be used in the prudential offices. These Prudential Learning Systems (PLS) would phone-in to a dedicated server, download any new training materials to a custom RAM storage in the VIS console, then present the trainee with his or her course for the day. The trainee's responses to the training would then be uploaded back to the server for tracking by VMI and reporting back to Prudential.
With this new-found information, it seems that VMI Communication & Learning Systems, and the Prudential Learning System, were the most-used, and most successful, experience for the Memorex VIS platform.
VMI continued using the VIS platform for many years, but ultimately moved away from the closed VIS/Modular Windows environment, to a solution that was fully based on Windows and dial-up internet architecture.
An article from COMPUTERWORLD Magazine (November 1, 1993) outlined how Prudential was partnering with VMI to provide what was believed to be "the largest private use of a 'distance learning' system" using the VIS at over 2,800 locations.
Even though I thought I'd conducted a full test on the PLS disc, I inserted it once more into the VMI console... and this time, waited for the modem to time-out (since it obviously cannot connect to the server). After a few minutes I was presented with the PLS Menu! The assumption is that each of these (10) menu selections could hold a training item for the Prudential trainee. My guess is that there are no training items remaining in RAM on this console and therefore the menu is blank. But, this is farther that I got before... more research to do!