I got a call yesterday from another tech support guy who was at a place that was having trouble with their custom-written application. He had figured out that it was a problem with a FoxPro table, but not knowing how to fix those he searched “Madison FoxPro” and found my name. (Thank You, All in One SEO for WordPress!)
I buzzed over to the place as soon as I could and asked to see the error. The owner was both proud and ashamed that they had been running this custom application for over 20 years. When I saw it I immediately felt a pang of nostalgia – there on the screen was my first professional love, SBT Accounting, in all of its black DOS box glory.
If you’ve never heard of it, SBT Accounting was the Quickbooks of its day. It was a modular accounting system that came with the full dBase (and later FoxPro) source code, so if there was anything the company didn’t like about it, it could be customized. Back then it was inconceivable that you would change your business to conform to the software, so customize we did! I remember one client asked me to change every module so that everywhere a number had to be typed in, his people could forego the decimal point, thus saving a fraction of a keystroke each time (ie. typing 4500 would be 45.00). The way he figured it, that investment in my time would pay off in spades in gained productivity for his 3 clerks over the lifespan of the software. He may have been right! It may still be running!
I was even an Authorized SBT Dealer for a while there, and I think I may have actually made one sale before they raised the threshold.
SBT never quite made it through the transition to Windows and Visual FoxPro and object-oriented programming, and faded into history. Traces of it remain in some Sage projects, who it fell to in a series of acquisitions.
So here we are in 2014 and I haven’t thought about SBT for a looong time, though it still comes up when talking to fell FoxPro devs. This company has been running the same software since 1990 (I can see the timestamp on some of the tables that haven’t been touched since then), that they paid maybe $2,000 for back then. They’re business has made the transition to Windows 95, 98, 2000, (not ME, hopefully), XP, and now has Windows 7 and 8 workstations, but their SBT keeps plugging away. It runs in a DOS box, and on their 64-bit machines they have to run it inside of a virtual machine because FoxPro for DOS was 16-bit. The original developer has retired and moved away. All these hoops and headaches and they stick with it. Why? Because it may not be sexy but it still gets the job done so why would they change? In this age of immediate updates whenever a new feature is added, I find this refreshing. I wonder how many other businesses are still running it? Any of my old clients from the Late Night Software days up in the Eau Claire area?
Do you have any memories of customizations you made to SBT?
Do you still have anything running from 1990?
I’d love to hear your story.
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