Monday, March 07, 2005

Free Clipper

After looking at The Basic to C Translator (BCX) the other day, I was wondering about Harbour - which I had last seen sometime ago.
Harbour is a free software compiler for the xBase superset language often referred to as Clipper (the language that is implemented by the compiler CA-Clipper). Clipper is a one of the myriad of "4GL" (Fourth Generation Language) xBase compilers that grew out of the now defunct Ashton-Tate's dBase III and dBase III plus. Ashton-Tate was bought by Borland in 1990 or 1991 (depending on which source you look at)

Clipper was also the second programming language I was trained to use after mainframe COBOL (Unfortunately I never got to really use it, but that's a different story).
Clipper's main failing was that there was never a Windows version. Richey's Delphi Box has a quote that "Clipper would be the greatest dBASE-Compiler (if it were Win-able..)"
Instead of "Clipper for Windows", CA in all it's wisdom re-designed the language from scratch, calling it "Visual Objects". Now this was a great idea in theory, because with this powerful new Windows Development tool you could do OOP (Object-Orientated Programming). If fact, if I remember correctly, you had to do Object-Orientated Design as well. This was great, but unfortunately Clipper for Windows this wasn't. All DOS-based Clipper programs had to be completely re-written to run on
Windows. This was no good. Now it appears that CA has dumped Visual Objects

Unlike Clipper, Harbour compiles and run on MS-DOS, MS-Windows, OS/2, GNU/Linux and FreeBSD. There is a variant of Harbour called xHarbour (extended Harbour). To confuse things, although xHarbour is an Open Source project, there is also a commercial version of Harbour, called xHarbour Builder.

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