What is Business Basic?
A Brief History of Business Basic
Business Basic is an interactive programming language developed for mini-computer systems in the early 1970s. Derived from the original Dartmouth Basic, Business Basic extended the language concepts by introducing file indexing methods which evolved into true keyed access technology similar to those methods available to COBOL programmers.
Because of its interactive nature, Business Basic affords run-time event trapping capabilities, though the character-based systems did not permit the wide range of events that modern graphical environments do. Business Basic interpreters also offer extensive diagnostic capabilities, permitting developers to resolve live problems through telephone support without constantly having to ship updates. The interpretive nature of Business Basic also enhances development efforts through permitting quick testing and debugging of code.
There are two primary "groups" or "families" of Business Basic programming language. The MAI BasicFour Business Basic is the oldest version of the language, and there have been numerous competitors over the years who have duplicated and enhanced the rich MAI language. MAI BasicFour itself continued to add features to its own language. The Data General Business Basic is the second most well-known Business Basic. Originally very similar to the MAI language, DG Business Basic and its comptetitors' derivatives has evolved into a very different style of Business Basic.
In the 1980s, Business Basic was ported from proprietary environments to Unix, Xenix, VMS, and DOS by many vendors, including Thoroughbred, BASIS International, Microshare, ProvideX Technologies, and Transoft (UK), to name just a few. Business Basic interpreters are usually highly optimized, and the programs are compiled into tokenized formats, much like Pascal programs are compiled into P-code. The more powerful Business Basic interpreters will perform complex operations for certain verbs. Screen I/O, for instance, is usually handled through use of "mnemonic" codes which tell the interpreters to position the cursor, turn attributes on and off, or to clear portions of the screen.
Other types of I/O are also usually highly optimized in Business Basic. Because Business Basic applications make extensive use of keyed file structures, it is not uncommon for applications to retrieve requested data in 1 or 2 seconds, even from large databases containing millions of records.
The file indexing schemes of modern Business Basics include multi-keyed files, which require approximately half the time to retrieve data based on secondary indexes compared to file systems which maintain external secondary indexes.
Some of the most popular small business accounting systems are written in Business Basic, and many Business Basic application OEM's offer their products through dealer networks around the world. The vast majority of Business Basic users don't even know the software running on their machines is written in Business Basic.
Although Business Basic started out as a proprietary language offered only by mini-computer vendors, each with its own variation, all modern Business Basics have been ported to numerous operating systems, and Unix is the most popular platform of choice among Business Basic vendors. But DOS networks run a close second in providing platforms for Business Basic applications, and it is usually a simple matter to port a Business Basic application from one operating system to another, usually requiring only the purchase of a new interpreter.
Some Business Basics are now graphical programming languages, and others are moving forward into the graphical environments. Several of the Business Basic vendors have also offered 4GL tools which work with their customers' more traditional Business Basic applications. Some vendors are providing links to other file systems, such as Informix C-ISAM and ODBC.
Although there are no hard figures available, it has been estimated that more than 2,000,000 computer systems around the world presently use Business Basic applications, often in conjunction with other applications. The vast majority of these installations are PCs, but mini-computers continue to be widely used, and the upper-end PCs, such as Intel's 486 and Pentium systems and Motorola's 68040 series, are being used to replace older mini-computers, often with greater performance.