Welcome!

Java Authors: Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Yakov Fain

Related Topics: PowerBuilder

PowerBuilder: Article

PowerBuilder History - How Did It Evolve?

A Canadian Perspective with an Aussi Twist

I have been asked many times by various clients, students, and the IT curious about PowerBuilder: When did Sybase develop the product and how did it evolve? I keep telling this story and answering e-mails on the subject. I am now to the point where I have decided that I should have PBDJ formally publish this story for posterity. This story is solely from my own personal perspective and I'm sure that I may have a somewhat distorted view of time and space (which keeps getting worse at my age). But anyway, here is a perspective of how life (as a DataWindow) began.

Episode I - The Phantom Product
In a galaxy, far, far away... before Sybase... PowerBuilder was developed as a prototype by Cullinet Database Systems of Boston. Cullinet was the developer of the IDMS DBMS and ADS-Online (Application Development System). IDMS was originally developed by BF Goodrich, the tire company, in London, Ontario, Canada, and sold to Cullinane (that later changed their name to Cullinet) located in Boston, Massachusetts. They had an early PC product called "Golden Gate," which proved that you could do GUI client/server application development with mainframe DBMSs. Originally DOS based, Golden Gate was then converted to run under MS Windows. Cullinet also realized that PC-based DBMSs and development tools were on the immediate horizon (1984). Cullinet had an enormous success with ADS-Online (327x-based RAD development tool) and wanted to see if a similar GUI-based tool could be developed. The main features of ADSO included RAD; real-time design, programming, compiling, and debugging; and interactive prototyping. It also used a centralized Data Dictionary, interfaced with various CASE tools, and could deploy to production from development.

In 1984, when I was the technical support manager for Cullinet Canada, Cullinet started their Personal Computer ADSO prototype, which would later become PowerBuilder. The project leader was Dave Litwack, who was in charge of the ADSO product and IDMS-DC (data communications - teleprocessing system and CICS equivalent product). Dave had a great understanding of RAD development tools and telecommunications because of his Cullinet experience. The new product was to have the same key functionality as ADSO (interesting that ORCA was basically working in 1985 in the PowerBuilder prototype because ADSO/IDMS had it), but also added a real key feature: "a smart data aware object." At that time Cullinet was experimenting with a feature called LRF (Logical Record Facility) and DB stored procedures. This object would encapsulate data handling away from the application, but would be a client piece, so there was no dependency on any DBMS.

For the first part of the prototype, Dave chose a real keen "C" programmer named Kim Sheffield. John Griffin - a friend of mine from Ottawa, Ontario - was also recruited by Dave. John was an excellent mainframe assembler programmer and wanted to cross over to C. Dave had him build the "Menu" painter. In later years, John married Julie, another Cullinet developer, and she would help rewrite the Menu Painter and add Remote Debugging to PB for EAServer.

Dave also wanted to have the new tool that was fully OO - object oriented. The C++ language was coming on strong and SmallTalk was the "talk of the town" for serious OO programmers. Dave wanted PowerBuilder to adopt the SmallTalk OO principles but make it easy for the business developer to use.

In 1985 a crude prototype was shown to the Cullinet inside circle. The product's potential was immediately expounded by senior management (one of those being Bobby Orr - the hockey legend [another good story I can tell you sometime] - who was on the board of directors of Cullinet at that time). Unfortunately, Cullinet had serious challenges for various takeover bids by different companies, including CA (Computer Associates). CA at that time had already purchased DataCom and wanted Cullinet for IDMS. CA's mentality then was to buy out the competition, sell off any non-key products, and milk the maintenance contracts of key clients. With little or no development personnel (fired), there was no overhead and all profit. In 1986, CA was successful on a hostile takeover of Cullinet. The new PC product was considered non-essential and all developers were let go (that is why today I will never buy a CA product)!

Episode II - The Little Droid that Could
In 1986, PowerSoft was developing business applications for the VAX platform. PowerSoft also realized the PC development arena was about to explode and started looking around for a leading-edge GUI development tool. They hired an independent consultant, Dave Litwack, to help advise them on exactly what they should be looking for. At that time, Gupta's SQLWindows was the only serious product. Other than that you had to get down and code "C," which was not what PowerSoft wanted business programmers to use. Dave mentioned his involvement with Cullinet and their last prototyping effort. PowerSoft approached CA and asked if they could acquire the prototype code (originally done in C). CA said that they had looked at the PB prototype and that they concluded that there was no future in it (duh) - so give us a few bucks for the code and good luck with it!

In 1988, three years after the original concept prototype, PowerSoft had the code and Dave (now hired by PowerSoft) was able to hire the other programmers who worked on the original prototype (what a fluke) as they were looking for some challenging work at that time as well. PowerSoft then christened the new product "PowerBuilder" and began to enhance the code. Since they were a business solutions developer, they used PowerBuilder internally to recode and replace their VAX products. Testing was "hands-on" and very intensive under real-world developer scenarios. To get funding for this intense effort, PowerSoft partnered with HP. HP gave them a blank check after seeing a demonstration (they are also responsible for the Tilde "O" format [~Onn] for "octal" as HP was an 8-bit machine in those days). PowerBuilder became an internal standard at HP.

At Microsoft's Redmond office, the people in charge of internal systems were faced with the same problems PowerSoft was trying to resolve - they needed a tool for business developers. They contacted their friends at HP and were told that PowerBuilder was the only up-and-coming tool they should look at. In early 1989, Microsoft purchased licenses for PB and was the second worldwide user. The "Royal Australian Air Force" was the first official user - makes me proud as I'm an Australian from Cooma, NSW.

When I was four years old my dad took me to the University of Sydney where he was using the SILLIAC I (Sydney version of the Illinois Automatic Computer) - the first commercial computer ever built (http://members.iinet.net.au/~dgreen/silliac.html) to do the stress and strain calculations on the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric power dams (largest hydro generation in the world even today: www.snowyhydro.com.au ), which is where I met the first "debugger" in the world ... but that's another story. The Snowy Hydro is still an active PowerBuilder site even today. Even Microsoft used PowerBuilder for their Inventory Management System, MS University Scheduling System, etc., and was "blown" away with its data prowess - especially this new object called the "DataWindow" (thanks Kim).

Episode III - The "Force"
In 1989 I was doing a project for the Canadian government on behalf of Revenue Canada and Treasury Board. My task was to evaluate emerging RDBMS technology and propose the top three to be recommended to all government departments. I completed that in the late summer of 1989. One of the contenders was Microsoft's SQLServer (which was a port of the release 4.x version of Sybase's SQLServer to the OS/2 platform). To verify the final benchmark results, I had a representative from each DBMS vendor drop in and tweak their environments and concur with my approach and results.

More Stories By Chris Pollach

Chris Pollach is a Senior Consultant with over 30 years experience in Systems and Software Analysis, Development, Maintenance and Technical Support, mainly in the areas of GUI Design, MS-Windows Programming, Java / .NET Programming, Wireless, Application / Web Server Design & Programming, Object Oriented Development Tools and Methodologies, Data Base, Data Communications and Network application development. He has participated in numerous technical, planning and management roles, as well as consulted and educated in these fields for a diverse clientele. He is also the owner of “Software Tool & Die Inc.” a company dedicated to provide custom software and education solutions on Object Oriented business systems.

As an educator, Chris is certified to teach PowerBuilder (first in Canada), MS-SQLServer, Sybase’s Enterprise Application Studio and EAServer integrated application/web development environment. He is former Certified SilverStream developer (CSSD) and current Certified PowerBuilder Developer – Associate / Professional (CPD-P) as well as a Certified Sybase Tools Instructor (CSI).

Chris has written numerous articles in various popular personal computer magazines, newsletters and is the author of the PowerGuide and PowerExpert products as well as the STD Foundation Classes. Currently, Chris has developed a Foundation Class library for Sybase's PocketBuilder, SAP's PowerBulder and EAServer products and now Appeon Web & mobile products that integrates JSP or ASP web development, Section 508 / CLF web standards and mobile applications. A new Web Service framework has also been released for IIs to support PowerBuilder based web service NVUO's!

Chris recently became a 2nd Degree Black in the TaeKwonDo martial art and has developed a Martial Art multimedia study guide using the Component-One “Doc2Help” and Sybase PowerBuilder products. Since the fall of 2004 he became a TaeKwonDo instructor for the City of Ottawa’s Goulbourn program. He has also been certified with the World TaeKwonDo Federation (February 2005 - 1st Dan and October 2008 - 2nd Dan).

Chris was awarded the Sybase “Innovation and Achievement” award for 2005 as voted for by the International Sybase User Group (ISUG). This award was presented for innovations to the PocketBuilder mobile development product, contributions to the PowerBuilder News groups and support of the Ottawa Sybase User Group.

To round his management and leadership skills, Chris is the former president of the Kiwanis Club of Goulbourn and still volunteers his time with the service clubs in his area. He is also the coordinator of the Ottawa Sybase User group and a certified NAUI scuba instructor. For the last three years, Chris has been voted onto the ISUG Board of Directors and holds the position of "Director - North American User Groups".

Comments (16)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that SOA Software, an API management leader, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SOA Software is a leading provider of API Management and SOA Governance products that equip business to deliver APIs and SOA together to drive their company to meet its business strategy quickly and effectively. SOA Software’s technology helps businesses to accelerate their digital channels with APIs, drive partner adoption, monetize their assets, and achieve a...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customizable platform to easily integrate into existing software solutions, embed business logic and build s...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic • Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it’s a mix of architectural style...
Connected devices are changing the way we go about our everyday life, from wearables to driverless cars, to smart grids and entire industries revolutionizing business opportunities through smart objects, capable of two-way communication. But what happens when objects are given an IP-address, and we rely on that connection, sometimes with our lives? How do we secure those vast data infrastructures and safe-keep the privacy of sensitive information? This session will outline how each and every connected device can uphold a core root of trust via a unique cryptographic signature – a “bir...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash Inc., will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone a...
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, will discuss how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Spansion Inc. (NYSE: CODE), a global leader in embedded systems, today added 96 new products to the Spansion® FM4 Family of flexible microcontrollers (MCUs). Based on the ARM® Cortex®-M4F core, the new MCUs boast a 200 MHz operating frequency and support a diverse set of on-chip peripherals for enhanced human machine interfaces (HMIs) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The rich set of periphera...

SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
Predicted by Gartner to add $1.9 trillion to the global economy by 2020, the Internet of Everything (IoE) is based on the idea that devices, systems and services will connect in simple, transparent ways, enabling seamless interactions among devices across brands and sectors. As this vision unfolds, it is clear that no single company can accomplish the level of interoperability required to support the horizontal aspects of the IoE. The AllSeen Alliance, announced in December 2013, was formed with the goal to advance IoE adoption and innovation in the connected home, healthcare, education, aut...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic strategies that utility/cloud computing provides. Whether public, private, or in a hybrid form, clo...