Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Monday, February 9, 2004day link 

picture 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.
[ | 2004-02-09 08:08 | 14 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

There's this stupid coca cola commercial on TV. But it sort of illustrates well "being in the flow". This nerdy looking guy drinks a coke and instantly breaks out into this weird spastic dance and gets a silly grin on his face. He writhes down the street, stumbles over some guy in a Rolls and they mysteriously instantly become friends. He has another spastic rhythm attack and spills tomato sauce on a bunch of women's dresses at a party, and becomes a fashion mogul. Some other nerdy guy drinks a Coke and stumbles into his car and they parade off into more spastic coincidences.

Well, maybe it is like that. Some sort of rhythm with a life of its own takes over, and even accidents turn out to be perfect synchronicities, as you just sort of bump into things that are going the right way. Probably doesn't have much to do with drinking colored sugar water, though.
[ | 2004-02-09 16:43 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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