Monday, July 16, 2007

Clipper redux

Speaking of moribund computer programming skillsets, Clipper, the old dBase III compiler, still has fans and its own website, astonishingly enough. I was a huge fan of dBase II on CP/M and the old MS-DOS systems, and made a fair living as a Clipper programmer about 15 or 16 years ago.

The combination of Perl 5 and SQLite 3.4.0 is every bit as good as Nantucket System's Clipper ever was. It's really fun to scale down a small project to human size, once in a while, instead of reaching automatically for MySQL or PostgreSQL or maybe even Oracle. Why lift a cannon when all the situation calls for is a spitwad?

Not that SQLite is a featherweight. It's already tipping over the edge to feature creep. And version 3.4.0 has got a few arcane corners of its own, like TRIGGERs and some DEFAULT options that can be specified but don't seem to have any effect.

The use of Perl 5 is predicated on simple preference — it's my favorite free programming language of all time, not only 99.44% bug free, but it has an awk-like pattern match, substitution and translation syntax so efficient it can elicit forgiveness for a learning curve as long, flat and vertical as the Great Wall of China.

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