dBASE and Wayne Ratliff

dBASE may be traced back to the mid 1960’s in the form of a system called RETRIEVE, which was marketed by Tymshare Corporation. RETRIEVE was used by Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Pasadena,Calif. In the late 60’s Jeb Long, a new programmer at JPL, was assigned the task of writing a program which would perform the same functions as RETRIEVE.

Back in 1973 he was a software engineer at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he developed a file management program called JPLDIS (Jet Propulsion Laboratory Display Information System) written in FORTRAN, running in a UNIVAC 1108 mainframe. He spent over 11 years at JPL, being responsible for many of the software development tasks of USA’s space program, like the Mariner and Viking missions to Mars.

JPLDIS was the precursor of dBASE, that runs in CP/M microcomputers. Latter with Wayne Ratliff, Jeb Long translated that original version of dBASE II to run in an IBM PC. All that work was been done in assembly language.

Jeb was one of the founders of Ashton-Tate and was there for 8 years. He was known as the guru of the dBASE products at Ashton-Tate, and was the architect of the dBASE language and responsible for its components for all versions of dBASE III and dBASE IV, with the exception of the initial dBASE version.

Jeb Long is an experienced software designer and engineer. Since he left Ashton-Tate back in 1990 he has been working as an independent consultant and writer of numerous technical documents, books and articles for technical magazines, and had been working for some of the most prestigious companies at the USA

From 1969 to 1982, Wayne Ratliff worked for the Martin Marietta Corporation in a progression of engineering and managerial positions. He was a member of the NASA Viking Flight Team when the Viking spacecraft landed on Mars in 1976, and wrote the data-management system, MFILE, for the Viking lander support software.

In 1978, he wrote a database program in assembly language, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Passadena, California. He called it Vulcan (after Mr. Spock of Star Trek), that was based on Jeb Long’s JPLDIS. This program was written to help him win the football pool at the office, which he marketed by himself from 1979 to 1980. Vulcan had its ups and downs and by 1980 was in what seemed to be a permanent down state.

Ratliff was born in 1946 in Trenton, Ohio and raised in various cities and towns in Ohio and Germany. He later resides in the Los Angeles area.

In late 1980 he met George Tate, who found the product worth while and entered into a marketing agreement with Ashton-Tate and renamed the Vulcan product dBASE H. Wayne had given up trying to sell copies of it for $50 each. George told him that he thought it would sell better at $695, so they made a deal and dBASE II was the result. In mid-1983, Ashton-Tate purchased the dBASE II technology and copyright from Ratliff and he joined Ashton-Tate as vice president of new technology. Ratliff was the project manager for dBASE III, as well as designer and lead programmer.

The program was renamed dBASE II because they knew that version 1 wouldn’t sell. It originally ran on a CP/M computer and then was moved over to the IBM PC.

Note there was never anyone named Ashton, it sounded better. Ashton was a maccaw (parrot) that was the unofficial mascot of Ashton-Tate.


This article gathered from here.


Neither possible to know nor remember everybody who participated this great work.

These are only the biggest milestones, great men who succeed great jobs.

C. Wayne Ratliff

Designed and programmed the first successful DBMS for personal computers, dBASE II; originally named Vulcan. Renamed dBASE II and published in 1981.  It was not only a relational database management system (RDBMS), but also was an interpreted language and would quickly spawn the “xBbase” industry.


Brett Oliver, Jim Warner, Brian Russell, Richard McConnell  …

Main architects and primary developers of Clipper and founders of Nantucket Corporation.  It was 1984 when Clipper was born. Look at here for a tale.


Tom Rettig  ( 1941-1996 )

A major guru in the dBASE, Clipper, whole xBase community. 

Small in stature, but big in heart, a friend in the truest sense. 

More about Tom Rettig.



Antonio Linares

Initiator and one of main developers of Harbour.

The starter of Harbour.

The great man who started the big engines!

He is here.


Phil Barnett

The biggest Clipper fan! 

Author of most useful Clipper utilities,  Harbour Manager, keeper of pieces and parts for years.

He and his famous and largest Clipper repository is here (archive)


A “last” note about Phil.



(Le Roy) Roberto Lopez

Founder, builder and developer of HMG, Harbour MiniGUI. 

The great man who disclose blocked doors and roads!

He is here.


Viktor Szakáts,  Przemysław Czerpak, Pritpal Bedi, …

Today Habour development is leading by Viktor Szakáts with huge collaborations and leading many components of core and contribs by Przemysław Czerpak. Some components are developed by Pritpal Bedi. Others members participate the project by sending changes to the Sourceforge SVN repository.  As 2011 Harbour development is keeping vibrant activity

They are here.