Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Visual FoxPro is in 14th this month. . .

It's time for the monthly update.

The Tiobe index came out today…and VFP dropped one from last month to 14th.

Some folks who know me might think I find that a bit disappointing after it’s rapid climb to a peak of 12th this year. The truth is though, I remain very optimistic.

First, VFP is still up 7 places from last July and as long as we’re improving on the previous year I’m happy!

Yes I still do some things in .Net, and remain very excited about that product as well. Visual FoxPro though is a “data guy’s” dream language. I thought that 20 years ago,and I still think so today.

I know VFP doesn’t have the ‘cool’ factor of some of the other, newer, languages. Java seems to hold the ‘cool’ slot these days, and is enjoying a nice ride in 1st as well. However, for those of us who’ve continued to stay current with FoxPro may be discovering, as I am, that demand for our skills is returning.

The best part is, because so many of the other FoxPro developers have abandoned it, there are fewer of us competing for those new openings. As a result, the rates are going up as well.

Let’s talk a little bit about my 20 year love affair with VFP, or probably more correctly, what we used to call “xBase”.

I can still remember that first dBase gig. I’d been primarily a mainframe guy up until then, had decent COBOL, RPG and 360 Assembler chops, but this was a whole new world.

I’d learned BASIC, first on Apples, then a Commodore and actually wrote an entire academic registration system for a local school in BASIC. Like the mainframe languages, BASIC was a capable tool, but it didn’t really shine when it came to handling data. Especially large amounts of data.

dBase on the other hand, was, for the time, extremely capable at data handling. It made everything else available an ‘also ran’.

In addition, it had all the string manipulation tools most BASIC guys had come to love.

I can clearly remember thinking as I was developing that first dBase application, that if dBase was a compiled language, I’d never want to write in anything else.

Like a number of the original ‘killer apps’ from the early days, the dBase folks (Ashton-Tate) started taking their number one position for granted. Along came Fox software, and their new ‘clone’ FoxBASE+… and the guys from Nantucket with their ‘Clipper’ product. Fox had an interpreted product, Nantucket, well they’d upped the ante a bit and their product was compiled. Now, suddenly, the xbase (we called it all xBase as they all copied the original dBase, and added new features as well) folks were starting to be taken seriously.

Now we skip forward a decade or so, and while there are still several competitors, Microsoft Visual FoxPro is the standard. It’s also the only one included in the category in the Tiobe index.

It would be interesting to see where the combination of all the various ‘flavors’ of xBase would sit if they were all combined, like say Java, COBOL or “C” are.

Me, I’m just glad to see my favorite tool with an “A” rating. That it’s still in front of VB.Net, which also lags in the ‘cool’ factor by the way, although no one I’ve talked to can give me any defensible arguments as to why they’d use C#.Net instead of VB.Net.

I got a call today, on that contract I mentioned in June… seems the two guys they initially brought in just couldn’t get the job done… and now they want to talk to me again. I’ll admit I’m having mixed feelings about even considering the gig at this point, but, the recruiter has worked so hard on this that I need to at least take the call.

I’ll keep you posted as to the outcome.

Also, and old friend has taken over the reigns at and has asked me to possibly write an article or two for the site. I’m pretty excited about that! He and I have talked, on a number of occasions, about doing something together; this might be a chance for us to do just that! If you get a chance, surf on over and check the site out.

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