[An article for the APCUG newsletter]
In January of 1995 I had the good fortune to be able to attend my very first FoxPro DevCon. I had been a user of FoxBase, and its precedent dBase, since 1985 but never had the opportunity to attend a national conference. My mind was BLOWN. At this event, we were shown how our beloved development tool was introducing a ton of new features. Most critically it introduced us to Object-Oriented programming. We were given a hefty binder to study as well as a beta copy of “Visual FoxPro 3.0”. When I returned to Madison I was smart enough to realize learning this new paradigm would be better if it became a group effort. I had been a member of the Madison PC Users Group already, and when anyone in the user group wanted a regular meeting with outreach to a specific subset of the tech-savvy community, the PC Users Group was there to help. Remember this was before widespread use of the Internet, so Meetup.com wasn’t a thing yet. I’m not even sure the term “Meetup” was a thing. MPCUG had a bulletin board and hundreds of members who would come to meetings each month to talk about all things PC. It’s hard to believe there was a time when being a computer enthusiast was exceptional. Amongst MPCUG members I found others who shared my enthusiasm.
The Visual FoxPro Users Special Interest Group of the Madison PC Users Group (which quickly became known as “MadFox” for obvious reasons) had its inaugural meeting in March 1995, and with very few exceptions we’ve met on the 3rd Tuesday of every month since then. We met while Microsoft shepherded Visual FoxPro into a state of the art development tool, and we still meet even though they’ve stopped supporting it. A lot of people are surprised that we’re still together, but there are still a lot of applications running in the world that use Visual FoxPro. We’ve also evolved into a group that discusses general database development – our topics are too many to mention but suffice to say we don’t limit ourselves to just Visual FoxPro these days and in fact meetings that we do are becoming scarcer. But we all still enjoy each other’s company and perspective and there’s no end in sight. When I moved away for a couple of years, the group carried on without skipping a beat because we all have a vested interest in keeping it going. We’ve generally met in downtown Madison, and enjoyed food and drink after each meeting, but we’ve met in all corners of Wisconsin over the years: Ripon, Richland Center, Wausau, Reedsburg, Lodi, and Cross Plains. Since March we’ve been meeting virtually due to Covid-19, which means our 25th anniversary meeting was not quite what we’d hoped for, but we are still meeting.
We’ve made a ton of friends, learned a lot from each other, and even had careers made due to this group. Our children have been born, grown up, and gotten married during our tenure. Our current mailing list on our website has 163 friends on it, which is a great group to lean on if we have any questions. It’s fun for me to look through the names and read through the messages on our site, which go back to 2003, and think of the memories we’ve made. We look forward to being able to meet again in person, and wish all user group leaders and members who are reading this well.