Blast from dPast: The dBASE Language Handbook (1989)

In 1988, I signed a contract to write a cross-reference book under the Microtrends nameplate featuring the dialects of the programming language first popularized by Ashton-Tate’s dBASE database application development system. This was the first book to cover multiple implementations of this language—which originated at JPL and later became known as Xbase—in products that included Ashton-Tate’s dBASE, as well as Clipper (Nantucket), FoxBASE+ (Fox Software), dBXL and Quicksilver (WordTech Systems).

The dBASE Language Handbook by David M. Kalman
The dBASE Language Handbook by David M. Kalman

For almost a year I slogged through the commands, functions, and operators across seven different development platforms, guided by my editor—the inimitable Lance Leventhal—and 1,000 pages later the book went on sale with a successful global campaign. I used my earnings for the down-payment on my first home in Spring Valley, California.

Fast forward more than thirty years and the vestiges of the Xbase language products have morphed into other languages and platforms, gone but not totally forgotten. No doubt, there are still Xbase applications still running (for their lives) somewhere on the planet, and no doubt there are still entrepreneurs out there who remember the heyday of Xbase development, and keep trying to launch and relaunch namesake products.

While reminiscing about this history and taking stock of my early career, I came across the files for the book I submitted for publication. Given the spare time afforded to me by the pandemic, I decided to reconstruct and reformat the book from the raw text, and recreate some semblance of the original illustrations, which were locked into some format rendered unreadable by time.

So here’s The dBASE Language Handbook. Fortunately for me, I insisted on owning the copyright to the book, so I reprint it here for your enjoyment (but not for your republishing).


You are welcome to download the Handbook here for your personal use. All Rights Reserved.