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Business Basic FAQ

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Archive-name: business-basic/faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 1997/2/17
Version: 1.10

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business-basic -- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions - Version 1.10

Last updated: February 17, 1997

Copyright (C) 1997  Association of Business Basic Professionals
This file may be freely copied and redistributed.  All we ask is
that it remains whole and intact and that this notice is not

Maintainer: Gary D. McClellan (


This file (bb.faq) is intended to provide answers to certain
questions that come up regularly on the business-basic mailing list.
People who are new to the mailing list are encouraged to read this
document before posting questions to the mailing list.

This FAQ has been created by me (Gary McClellan) in accordance with
the prevailing traditions and customs of the Internet, which place
high value on the free dissemination and exchange of information.
It was not created by any Business Basic vendor and no Business
Basic vendor sponsors or supports it in any way, although individual
employees of each Business Basic vendor do support my efforts (as
individuals) and contribute information.

This is a living document.  It exists because of the contributions
of many people in the Business Basic user community and the Internet
at large.  If you have a question that you think should be here,
please let me know.  It's nice if you can provide the answer as
well, but that is not a requirement.  I will do my best to update
this FAQ regularly, but in all honesty I am more strongly motivated
to do so when I receive support and encouragement from others in the
Business Basic user community.

Please note that the information presented here is not guaranteed to
be free from errors.  If you find any, please let me know and I will
fix them.  Also please note that E-mail addresses and URL's are not
guaranteed to work forever and may not be accessible from your
particular site.  For the sake of consistency all addresses are
given in URL format.


This FAQ is currently available at the following FTP sites:

Our site - always guaranteed to have the latest version:

Other sites are welcome to mirror this FAQ.  All I ask is that you
let me know who you are so that I can keep you informed of any

This FAQ is also available to subscribers of the business-basic
mailing list (if you aren't a subscriber to the business-basic
mailing list, see subscription details below).  Subscribers can
retrieve the latest version of this document, send E-mail to with a message body of

  get business-basic bb.faq


Table of Contents
1.   What is the purpose of
2.   What sort of stuff should I post to this mailing list?
3.   What sort of stuff should I NOT post to this mailing list?
4.   What is Business Basic?
5.   What about Wang Basic?
6.   Who uses Business Basic?
7.   Isn't an interpreted language slower than a compiled language?
8.   Where can I get Business Basic?
9.   What operating systems have Business Basic available?
10.  Are there any freeware/shareware compilers/interpreters
     available via the Internet?
11.  Besides the business-basic mailing list, are any Business Basic
     resources (Libraries, example code, product support) available
     via the Internet?
12.  Do any USENET newsgroups exist for Business Basic developers?
13.  What other online resources exist for Business Basic
14.  Are there any publications available for Business Basic
15.  Are there any users groups for Business Basic developers?
16.  Who contributed to this document?

What is the purpose of

Anything and everything related to Business Basic.

o Discussions on keeping code portable between the various flavors
  of Business Basic, including whether it's worth trying to do so.

o Discussions on the strengths and weaknesses of each product.
  Keeping informed as to what each vendor is doing with their

o Discussions on accounting add-ons written for Business Basic

o Discussions on Business Basic standards.  Possibly some grass
  roots activities by Business Basic users to get the Business Basic
  vendors to talk to each other and set some standards.  I've even
  heard of one company that might release a Business Basic compiler
  to the public domain for "group enhancement" ala the Linux

And, because the mailing list is not sponsored by any of the
principals *and* it is not moderated, we expect (and hope) to see
some no-holds-barred discussions flaming or praising the companies
as appropriate.  (Of course, abusers will be barred from the mailing

Ideally, it's a public forum for advancing and improving Business
Basic as a tool, our skills as Business Basic developers and keeping
our investment in Business Basic technology solid.

What sort of stuff should I post to this mailing list?

Anything related, in any fashion, to Business Basic is permitted.
However, the usefulness of the mailing list is diminished by
repeated postings of a sales nature.

What sort of stuff should I NOT post to this mailing list?

Anything NOT related to Business Basic.  However, the Business Basic
community is a tight-knit group - we all love a good joke or story
now and then.

What is Business Basic?

Business Basic is an interactive programming language developed for
minicomputer 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

Because of its interactive nature, Business Basic affords runtime
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 Basic Four 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 Basic
Four (now known as MAI Systems Corp.) continues 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 competitors' derivatives have evolved into a
very different style of Business Basic.

Other Business Basics have risen from the Point 4 systems running
under IRIS.

In the 1980s, Business Basic was ported from proprietary
environments to Unix, Xenix, VMS, and DOS by many vendors, including
Thoroughbred, BASIS International, Microshare, Sybex/BBIcon
(Canada), and Transoft (UK), to name just a few.

Although Business Basic started out as a proprietary language
offered only by minicomputer 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.

What about Wang Basic?


Interpretive BASIC-2 was designed for the WANG family of 2200
processors, which in the time span of 1972 to 1992, evolved from a
single user processor to a multiuser, multi-partition proprietary
MVP System.  The operating system divided the resources of the
computer (i.e., memory, peripherals and CPU time) among the users.
Memory in the system was divided into a number of sections called
partitions, each of which held a separate BASIC-2 program.
Workstations were assigned a partition or partitions and the
allocated time to each partition was called "time-slicing."  Each
partition/user used the system in turn.  The important points in
history to remember is for years (1978-1987) the system was limited
to 16 partitions and a maximum partition size of 56KB.  Typical size
was 32KB.

During it's lifetime, over 70,000 systems were sold worldwide.  A
typical installation was 4-8 users and usually on some form of
accounting application.  The largest number of vertical systems were
sold by two major organizations, both still in business today but
under different company names.  One of the largest vertical market
was Insurance Agencies and the Vendor was Redshaw.  It is alleged
that Redshaw sold over 2,500 systems.  The largest generalist was
TOM, the Office Manager.  The product, an application development
package, was SPEED 1.  Today there are still over 9,000 SPEED 1 or
their new product FourD users installed, being serviced by over 125

Today, Redshaw is owned by Delphi and TOM is owned by NSG (Northwest
Source Group), and both are in the process of converting these users
to run on mainly INTEL platforms, using the KCML BASIC-2 compiler
that allows 2200 applications to run on most any open
system/platform.  They are also in the process of selling their
applications to new users as either WINDOWS or UNIX applications.

Today's BASIC-2 market is a combination of 2200 users and BASIC-2
users that have migrated to new platforms, on modern day BASIC-2
compilers like KCML and NIAKWA.  It is estimated there are over 500
dealers (VARs & ISVs) worldwide servicing the 100,000+ BASIC-2 users
and selling new users every day.

Who uses Business Basic?

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 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
minicomputers 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 minicomputers, often with greater

Isn't an interpreted language slower than a compiled language?

Business Basic interpreters are usually highly optimized, and the
programs are compiled into tokenized formats, much like many fourth
generation languages 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

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 milliseconds, 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.

Where can I get Business Basic?

 MAI-Compatible Business Basics still in production:


   Alpha Microsystems
   P.O. Box 25059
   Santa Ana, CA 92799-5099
      Phone: (714) 957-8500
        Fax: (714) 957-8705


  BASIS International Ltd.               Scandinavian Distributor:
  5901 Jefferson NE                      Basic Systems AB
  Albuquerque, NM 87109                  Violvagen 24
     Phone: (505) 345-5232               142 65 Trangsund
       Fax: (505) 345-5082                  Phone: 08-605 98 30
  Internet: (Sales)           Fax: 08-605 83 20
            (Support)  Internet:

 MicroShare Basic

  MicroShare Corporation
  21820 Beallsville Road
  P.O. Box 69
  Barnesville, MD 20838
     Phone: (301) 972-7473
       Fax: (301) 349-2833


  MAI                                    US Distributor:
  9600 Jeronimo Road                     MidWare Technologies, Inc.
  Irvine, CA 92718                       599 Canal Street
  USA                                    Lawrence, MA 01840
     Sales: (800) 669-4624                  Phone: (508) 682-8100
   Service: (800) 950-1911                    Fax: (508) 682-9785
  Internet:                Internet: (Sales)
                                         Internet: (Support)

 PLUTO Business Basic

  Southwest Data Systems
     Phone: (805) 579-8998
       Fax: (805) 579-8190


  Sybex Ltd./BBIcon                      European Distributor:
  Suite 204                              EDIAS Software International
  8920 Woodbine Ave.                     HessenStraße 21
  Markham, Ontario                       D-65719 Hofheim am Taunus
  Canada  L3R 9W9                        GERMANY
     Phone: (905) 470-1025                  Phone: 0 61 22-80 04-0
       Fax: (905) 470-9349                    Fax: 0 61 22-1 65 05
  Internet:              Internet: (Sales)
                                         Internet: (Support)

US Distributors:
  EDIAS Software International           MidWare Technologies, Inc.
  3141 Montana Drive                     599 Canal Street
  Prescott, AZ 86301-4630                Lawrence, MA 01840
  USA                                    USA
     Phone: (520) 771-2878                  Phone: (508) 682-8100
       Fax: (520) 771-2105                    Fax: (508) 682-9785
  Internet: (Sales)      Internet: (Sales)
  Internet: (Support)  Internet: (Support)


  Yermac Data Systems

 Sybex Business Basic/JCOS

  JONAS Systems

 Thoroughbred Basic

  Thoroughbred Corporation
  19 Schoolhouse Road
  Somerset, NJ 08875-6712
     Phone: (800) 524-0430
            (908) 560-1377
       Fax: (908) 805-9156

 X/TEND Business Basic for AS/400

  Southwest Data Systems
     Phone: (805) 579-8998
       Fax: (805) 579-8190

 Data General Business Basics still in production:

 Universal Business Basic  (UBB, U/BL, B32)

  Transoft, Inc.                         Transoft Ltd.
  1899 Powers Ferry Road SE              Nash House
  Suite 420                              Datchet Road
  Atlanta, GA 30339                      Slough, SL3 7LR, ENGLAND
     Phone: (770) 933-1965                  Phone: +44 1753 692332
       Fax: (770) 933-3464                    Fax: +44 1753 694251


  Yermac Data Systems

 Point 4 IRIS Business Basics still in production:


  Dynamic Concepts, Inc.
  One Columbia
  Suite 100
  Aliso Veijo, CA 92656
     Phone: (714) 448-8600
       Fax: (714) 448-5234

 Wang Basics still in production:


  Kerridge Computer Company Ltd.         North American Distributor:
  Northcroft Lane                        MidWare Technologies, Inc.
  Newbury                                599 Canal Street
  Bershire                               Lawrence, MA 01840
  RG13 1HT                               USA
  United Kingdom                            Phone: (508) 682-8100
     Phone: +44 1 635 523456                  Fax: (508) 682-9785
       Fax: +44 1 635 30300              Internet: (Sales)
  Internet:                Internet: (Support)


 Other Business Basics still in production:

 THEOS Basic

  THEOS Software Corportation
  1777 Botelho Drive, Suite 110
  Walnut Creek, CA 94596-5022
     Phone: (510) 935-1118
       Fax: (510) 935-1177
       BBS: (510) 935-8520

What operating systems have Business Basic available?

Business Basic   OS ->  DOS  Windows  Win95 WinNT OS/2  UNIX  VMS AS400
================        ===  =======  ===== ===== ====  ====  === =====
BASIS' PRO/5            XXX    XXX     XXX   XXX         XXX
BASIS BBxPROGRESSION/4  XXX    XXX                       XXX
MicroShare              XXX    XXX                 XXX   XXX
MAI OpenBasic           XXX    XXX     XXX   XXX         XXX
PLUTO Business Basic    XXX                              XXX
BBIcon ProvideX         XXX    XXX     XXX   XXX   XXX   XXX
Thoroughbred            XXX    XXX     XXX   XXX         XXX   XXX
Transoft U/BL                  XXX                       XXX
UniBasic                                                 XXX
KCML                    XXX    XXX           XXX   XXX   XXX
NIAKWA                                                   XXX
THEOS Basic             Proprietary Operating System (THEOS-32)
X/TEND Business Basic **                                            XXX

** X/TEND allows BBx, T-Bred, MAI, PLUTO and Prime BP-99 basic to run on
the AS/400. You still program in that "flavor" of Basic even though you
are running in the X/TEND environment.

Are there any freeware/shareware compilers/interpreters available?

Yes. The developers of base-4, a new compiled Business Basic, have offered to
make their Business Basic compiler available for free. More details at

Besides the business-basic mailing list, are there any Business
Basic resources (Libraries, example code, product support) available
via the Internet?

The following resources are also available via the Internet.

World Wide Web
    The Business Basic Page (
    Alpha Microsystems (
    Alpha Micro Users Society (
    BASIS International (
    Basic Systems AB (
    BBIcon Ltd. (Sybex Ltd.) (
    Dynamic Concepts (
    EDIAS Software International (
    MAI Systems Corp. (
    MicroShare (
    Midware Technologies (
    THEOS Software (
    Thoroughbred Software International (
    Transoft Inc. (
    Two-to-One Inc. (

Mailing Lists

    A Web-based interface to all of the mailing lists described below
    is available at The Business Basic Page at

    All of the Business Basic related mailing lists use majordomo as
    their mailing list engine. As such, the process for subscribing
    to each list is identical, with the exception of the list name
    and address for submitting subscription request.

    To subscribe to a majordomo managed list, send EMail to the address
    listed for each list with a message body of:

         subscribe listname

    As an example, to subscribe to the Business Basic list, you would
    send a message to ('To' listed below) with a
    message body of 'subscribe business-basic'.

    All of the Business Basic related mailing lists also have digest
    versions available. To subscribe to the digest instead of the
    regular mailing list, simply append '-digest' to the listname.

    Subject                           To                   Listname
    Business Basic             business-basic
    BBx, PRO/5, Visual PRO/5, TAOS   bbx-list
    MAI, OpenBASIC, Basic Four   mai
    MicroShare Basic           mshare
    ProvideX, NOMADS, WindX    providex
    Thoroughbred, IDOL         tbred

FTP Servers
    The Business Basic FTP Server (
    BASIS International (

Do any USENET newsgroups exist for Business Basic programmers?

There is one USENET newsgroup which caters to Business Basic

  alt.sys.alpha-micro  - For discussions of Alpha Microsystems computers

In addition to this newsgroup, some Business Basic programmers occasionally
post articles to

  alt.lang.basic       -    For all non-Visual Basic languages
  comp.lang.basic.misc -    For all non-Visual Basic languages (more
                            active than alt.lang.basic)  Many Business Basic developers are also
                            professional computer consultants with a
                            wide range of operating system expertise

There are also several private newsgroups available via The Business Basic
Page's news server. To access these lists, set your news server as with a User ID of 'businessbasic' and a Password of
'gdma'. The newsgroups on this are:

  business-basic           Generic Business Basic discussion
  business-basic/basis     BASIS discussion
  business-basic/bbicon    ProvideX discussion
  business-basic/mai       MAI discussion
  business-basic/misc      Other Business Basics
  business-basic/mshare    MicroShare discussion
  business-basic/tbred     Thoroughbred discussion

What other online resources exist for Business Basic developers?

The Business Basic community is very active on CompuServe.
Presently, there are 9 forums available for Business Basic users and

 Business Basic Vendors

 GO BASIS       BASIS International Ltd.
 GO MAI-6       MAI BasicFour
 GO PROVIDEX    Section 20 is for Sybex Ltd./BBIcon
 GO TBRED       Section 7 is for Thoroughbred

 Commercial Application Vendors

 GO ACCOUN      Open Systems Accounting Software,
                ADD+ON Software
                Sections 14 and 16 (16 is private)
 GO SSI-4       FACTS Software (private access)
 GO PCVENC      FileView, Sections 7 and 17 (17 is private)
 GO SOTA        M*A*S 90 (private access)

 Data General Business Basic-compatible SIG:

 GO GENCOM      Section 12

Are there any publications available for Business Basic programmers?

Yes.  The following companies publish newsletters for the Business Basic

  BASIS International Ltd.

   THE ADVANTAGE, published quarterly
      Single subscriptions are $25.00 US per year
      Phone: (505) 345-5232 or
             (800) 423-1294

  Midware Technologies, Inc.

   THE BASIC TOO!-Report, published quarterly
      Single subscriptions are $25.00 US per year in the US
                               $35.00 US per year outside the US
      Qualified US readers may receive free subscriptions
      Phone: (508) 682-8100

Also, there is one book available for the MAI-derived side of the
Business Basic family:

  "What Do You Do After It Says READY>"
  Author: Scott Ryan
  Available from: Business Basic Services
                  9831 N.E. Skidmore
                  Maywood Park, OR  97220
                     Phone: (503) 254-3349

15.  Are there any users groups for Business Basic developers?

  Alpha Micro Users Society (AMUS)
     For membership information send email to the AMUS executive
     director, Jim Randazzo at

In addition to the Alpha Micro Users Society, we are aware of several 
other user groups but no one from those groups has contacted us regarding
contact information for those groups.

There are also a group of folks who are currently defining the
structure and content for a professional organization for Business
Basic programmers (tentatively named 'Association of Business Basic
Professionals'). More information of this organization can be obtained
from Gary McClellan (

Who contributed to this document?

Gary McClellan (
Michael Martinez (
Chip Austin (
Clark Jeppesen (
Craig Dill (
Jim Douglas (
Larry Hiscock (
Mike King (
Russ Kepler (
Terry Druckman (
Gene Schulz (
Ed Merrick (
---------------------------------END OF FAQ---------------------------------

Gary McClellan
Gary D. McClellan and Associates Ltd.
The Business Basic Specialists

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

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Send corrections/additions to the FAQ Maintainer: (Gary McClellan)

Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM