ERTS – The Experimental RunTime System
ERTS was one of the first commercial software packages that leveraged standard PC hardware for performing cognitive experiments. Researchers could design their own experiments and collect responses to visual and auditory stimuli in millisecond accuracy. Thanks to its elegant scripting language, ERTS became one of the most popular research tools in the 90s for cognitive psychology with a about 500 research labs as customers world-wide. A large number of academic publications are based on ERTS including neuropsychology, functional brain imaging, and pharmaco-psychology. Thanks to its unique characteristics, the original ERTS product is still running in many research labs supporting cognitive experiments.
Running under MS-DOS and Win98 OS, ERTS achieved millisecond accuracy for stimulus presentation and response registration. To enhance timing accuracy even more and support custom response keys, the EXKEY-Logic had been developed to connect simple TTL-based micro-switches to the parallel port of a computer. This optional interface became an important add-on to support professional lab infrastructure for clinical trials and functional brain imaging. With the ability to bi-directionally synchronize with EEG and MRI, ERTS became a very popular software package for stimulus- or response-locked physiological recordings in the emerging field of functional brain imaging.
Areas of Application
ERTS has mainly been used by psychology departments, research organizations, and hospitals. Germany’s national research center for aeronautics and space (DLR) used ERTS in several MIR missions to study psychometric effects of microgravity.
Its reliability and ability to run in batch-mode made ERTS also the ideal platform for implementing psychometric test batteries for clinical trials An large list of classic and contemporary experimental paradigms, as well as neuro-psychological test paradigms were composed into test batteries tailored to measure drug effects in phase-I clinical trials.
The DOS version of ERTS is still available to purchase from BeriSoft Cooperation. Since the core hardware requirements are not very demanding, ERTS can still be used on today’s PCs using a DOS or FreeDOS on USB memory stick or boot partition.
Due to the disappearance of parallel ports and SoundBlaster compatibility a custom hardware configuration is required to take advantage of external keys and auditory stimuli.