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Retro Database dBASE Making a Comeback?

Ok, that report is due soon, so I'm going to fire up dBASE to run some reports, export the data into Lotus 1-2-3 and summarize everything with WordPerfect--while listening to Wham! and Foreigner, of course.

Oops, my mind was momentarily transported back into the mid '80s.

Amazingly, though, one of those pioneering software products was just updated as of yesterday. Yup, dust off those old .dbf files, dBASE PLUS 8 has been released.

And, while the original Ashton-Tate version was developed for the CP/M operating system (remember those dual 5-1/4 in. floppies--one for the program, one for the data?), this new one runs on Windows 8 (yes, even the 64-bit version). My, how times have changed.

WordPerfect, of course, is still around under the stewardship of Corel Corp., but I hadn't heard anything about dBASE for quite a while. The new dBASE guardian, dBase LLC, claims it's still in use by "millions of software developers." The company was formed last year with the help of some people who formerly worked at dataBased Intelligence Inc., "the legal heir" to dBASE.

I'm not sure exactly what happened to dBASE after the astounding success of dBASE III, but, according to Wikipedia, the decline started with "the disastrous introduction of dBase IV, whose stability was so poor many users were forced to try other solutions. This was coincident with an industry-wide switch to SQL in the client-server market, and the rapid introduction of Microsoft Windows in the business market."

Anyway, the new version includes ADO support, a new UI and "enhanced developer features with support for callbacks and the ability to perform high precision math."

Pricing is $399 for the regular edition, $299 for an upgrade and $199 for a personal edition without ADO support. I wonder what those prices equate to in 1985 dollars?

UPDATE: Here's a pretty good history of dBASE by Jean-Pierre Martel, editor of The dBASE Developers Bulletin.

Any old-timers out there with a good memory? What did dBASE III sell for? And why did some of these pioneering products die or fade into obscurity, while others continue to thrive? Comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 03/20/2013 at 1:15 PM


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