Ming the Mechanic:

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Clipper2004-02-09 08:08
picture by Flemming Funch

I don't know why I suddenly thought of it. But I suddenly was wondering what ever happened to Clipper, which was a database programming compiler I used to do a lot of work in. And when I wondered whatever happened to it, and searched on the net, I found this nice history. Wow, I recognize just about all of those boxes.

I learned "real" programming languages earlier. Fortran, Algol, C, Pascal. But when it came to doing stuff that a normal business needed, they didn't do me much good. dBase did. I was running dBase II on my first IBM PC in 1983. In 1985 I was asked by an insurance company (or, rather a PPO, a network of doctors that were processing insurance claims from them) to do a simple application for keeping track of their insurance claims, which they were otherwise doing by hand. They asked me, and that was a quite meaningful question at the time, whether I thought it would be best to do it with macros in Lotus 1-2-3 or in dBase III. I was very fluent on both, and I luckily said that dBase made the most sense. Then I heard about Clipper, which was a faster, compiled, version of dBase. xBase would be the generic term for some kind of dBase clone. So, we switched to that. And what was meant to be a little parttime project for me to tinker with for a couple of months mushroomed into a five year project as the company grew dramatically, and became more efficient based on my, initially, clumsy Clipper program.

This was running in DOS on 286es. And networking was a bit primitive in those days. First it was a Corvus network, then 3Com. The Clipper version was at first Winter 85. And now, when it came to that multiple users needed to share one database, I was having a bit of a problem. File or record locking weren't available yet, neither in the networking software nor in Clipper. A year or so later it was, but at first I had to jump through some major hoops to implement the functionality of a multi-user, file-locking, error-checking, commit and rollback database system with some tools that didn't actually support it at all. But it worked. At the time the company would once in a while have Big8 consulting companies come in and evaluate what they were supposed to do. And on more than one occasion they recommended rather forcefully that they get a mainframe or at least a minicomputer, and drop this silly PC stuff which wasn't meant for this volume and kind of activity. Somehow, since I didn't know it was impossible, I convinced the management to trust that I could do it anyway, and they saved a few hundred grand in hardware costs when it turned out that I succeeded. Even Nantucket, the people who made Clipper, were shaking their heads when I explained my system of 50 workstations processing a million claims per year, stored on a database distributed over a half dozen servers. They had never heard of anybody doing anything that big with their software.

Anyway, today it would be nothing special. But then again, PCs today are close to a thousand times faster than then, and have more than a thousand times as much storage space. And dBase or Clipper would be words I wouldn't even put on my resume, as it is antiquated stuff nobody's using today. Well, almost nobody. But it is nice to be a little nostalgic.

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11 Feb 2004 @ 02:04 by Alka @ : Clipper
From my personal experience (ACTUALLY I have very little) I can safely say if you know the older versions, knowing the newer would be a cakewalk. :-).
You might not add it in your CV, but they add the value to your knowledge! :-)  

11 Feb 2004 @ 12:42 by Kent @ : DBX
It appears we have similar programming histories. A close colleague of mine wrote a stockroom program in dB3, then a manufacturing kitting module in Clipper. I learned from his code and generated multiple embellishments and modules to the above packages -- quick and bulletproof even on 286's/386's. The programs were still in use when I left the firm in June, 2000. Access? I can toy around with it, but it doen't speak "data" to me. VFoxpro is my speed demon of choice now -- and I still get to use the dB3/Clipper code socked away in the corners of my aging brain.  

13 Jan 2005 @ 12:10 by Michael Schmiady @ : Clipper
I started working with dBase III in 1985. Then I discovered Clipper and the NTII-toolbox.
I also worked with Foxbase/Foxpro and dBFast.
I am still using dbase III in the Windows DOS-Box for quick tasks.
Today's SW-tools are much too complicated, need so much computer resources and programmer's time for the same problems as in the past.
I am looking for a way to reanimate CLIPPER because there es nothing comparable.
For user's interface programming JAVA or qt / C++ can be used. But this is only a minor need when devloping applications.
I do not agree to the unefficient way of today's program development. Using so called reusable software components by the OO paradigme, there are more and more programs - a contradiction per se.  

13 Jan 2005 @ 21:22 by ming : Clipper
I was really fond of Clipper. Seemed like I could do anything with it. But then again, I feel a bit similar about PHP today.

Whereas FoxPro! I later had a job for 5 years as a FoxPro programmer. And I never stopped hating it. Fundamentally pretty much the same language, but it was hell to debug anything. Object Oriented programming the wrong way.  

25 Oct 2006 @ 14:12 by G.BADARIVISHAL @ : dbase-clipper-foxpro
I have written over 350 programmes in dbase III plus with as much tables to computerise my department's work. I am Dy.Manager-Racing, Mysore Race Club Ltd.
The reports generated are DTP compatible and Web deployable. The shear ease with which I can design, sort, use, manipulate tables to build new data with the existing data is marvellous. Though you may call me outdated in view, I still vote for xBase family when it comes to churning out user friendly, effective applications for small and medium size business requirements. It has both the FRONT END & the BACK END tied at one place.

13 Nov 2006 @ 11:14 by krishnarjun rao @ : my first love - Clipper
Dear friends,
I started one banking project in dBase III+ in 1995 and very soon reached its limits and shifted to Clipper. It is really a fantastic journey with Clipper from them to year 2005. We developed many packages using Clipper 5.2e.
Still today many of my clients are using these packages for the past eight years and they are all happy. Even some of my clients celebrate the first installation date as the birthday of their package. Now I'm working on oracle, d2k, php, mysql and Clipper. Yes,,,we create new systems using Clipper even now :)
long live clipper !!!  

2 Jan 2007 @ 08:03 by Ali @ : Help
HOw I can Write My first program with clipper  

29 Jan 2009 @ 17:53 by Niki Carmichael @ : Converting DB3/Clipper to ASP.NET
I also have old school background in xBase but not Clipper and from analyst side not programmer. I need to "take a look at the original requirements/design spec [of the DB3 Clipper solution] and then see if we can do an as-built design and try to work up an ASP.NET design for it". Any tips or insights to offer on this exercise? Thanks!  

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