A tale about the origin of Clipper
There is a tale about the origin of CA-Clipper. Whether it is true or not, few people know, but “insiders” have said that it is not far from the truth. Here it is.
One day in a seafood restaurant in Malibu, California, an Ashton-Tate employee and a consultant friend were having lunch. They were expressing their annoyance at the fact that Ashton-Tate had not created a compiler for the dBase language.
The two thought that maybe they should have a go at starting up a new company to create the compiler. As the excitement grew and the ideas flew, the issue of a product name came up.
One of the two noticed a picture of a sailing ship on the napkin (after all this was a seafood restaurant). It was a clipper ship — a sleek, speedy, and elegant thing. That seemed to describe what they were trying to create.
What about the company name? The menu answered that question — the restaurant name was Nantucket Lighthouse.
And so Nantucket’s Clipper was born.
The consultant was Barry ReBell and the Ashton-Tate employee was Brian Russell.
Since that time there were four “seasonally” named versions of the compiler: Winter 85, Spring 86, Autumn 86, Summer 87. Very “California”…
These early versions clearly billed themselves as dBase compilers, with the Summer 87 version displaying “dBase III® compiler” on the floppy disks and documentation.
Many programmers using Clipper at the time were really “just” dBase programmers with a tool to create faster programs. So it was quite a shock to them when Clipper 5 was released. “What have they done to our language?”, they asked. Local variables? Code blocks? Tbrowse?
But there were also those of us who had strained against the limitations of the dBase language — the lack of modularity, the clumsiness, the vulnerability of public and private variables.
So we recognized that Clipper 5 was a turning point in the history of the Xbase language. No longer billed as a dBase compiler, Clipper became an “Application Development System”. A real language.
Well, maybe not as real as C, but getting there. In fact, many Clipper 5 concepts were borrowed from C and other languages. The increment operator (
++) and expression lists, for example, seem to have come from C, while code blocks may have been inspired by SmallTalk
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