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  FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software
Paperback:  280 pages

Fox Software Building
  The subtitle should be: Naive College Grad Walks into Hurricane.

When I started working for Fox Software it was a company of just over thirty people. It shared space in a small bank building located in the town of Perrysburg--on the edge of Ohio's farm country. It was a quaint family-run business and its product, FoxBASE+, was a niche player.

The next four years brought many surprises. Fox released a line of award winning database products, was sued by a larger rival, grew to over 250 employees and eventually was sold to Microsoft, moving us all thousands of miles west...
The story is really about the personalities involved, though...and the crazy experiences. The time I got called in from the gym, the time I got picked up in a snowstorm--and left at work, the time the boss kicked his own door down...

Here's what some readers had to say about FoxTales:

I just read your book FoxTales. It is a very good book for anyone in this computer programming industry. I felt compelled to send you an email, after reading the book. Here I was reading your book, while most people in this world were celebrating the New Year’s Eve night.

I started programming in the dbase language right after I got out of high school. I had my own company run by me and my father. I wrote all the code while he sold the applications. I began using a product called Alpha4. It allowed the user to make screens and menus, without writing any code. If you wanted code you used something like dbase. Then a friend of the company told us about Foxbase. So I was able to get my hands on a copy and loved it from the beginning. I could compile, and make Exe’s for customers and even get paid for my work. <g> As soon as I was able to use Foxbase for about a week, I read an article that Fox Software just released Foxpro. I had to have a copy. I bought it and had it overnighted to me. I have been with Foxpro ever since. I loved 2.0 and moved of course to the Windows world. I still use Foxpro2.5 and mostly VFP8. I go to all the DevCons and have been involved with Fox for quite awhile now. I feel like the lady in your book, how she got up to the microphone and said Foxpro has changed my life. It has, for me as well. I came out of high school and had no real drive toward anything. A customer paying for me to write software was exactly what I needed for my pride and self esteem. I could tell people I was a computer software engineer, things most people do not understand.

Anyway you did a great job on your book. I am still shocked how little you received from Dave Fulton and Fox Software. Obviously working in a different structured environment had to be difficult. I just wanted to say Thanks for everything you did for Fox Software, without people like you there would be no Foxpro, and I don’t know where I would be. Thanks.


I was at your keynote address at the GLGDW and met you briefly afterward.  I received a copy of your book and read it over the next two days.  I just wanted to let you know that even though I'm not a real programmer, (I know just enough to be really dangerous),  I enjoyed "Fox Tales" very much.  It's an interesting topic to start with and it's well written.  I found myself sorry that I was finished with it when the last page came along.

Thanks very much for the book.


Just finished reading your book.

Not only was it interesting to read about the origins of FoxPro - but your descriptions of the challenges, uncertainties, schedules, timelines, pressures, creative surges, accomplishments, disappointments and applause all brought back so many delightful memories of the 36 years since I created my first program.
 
Loved it - it's a wonderful little book.

I just finished reading Fox Tales and wanted to tell you what a thoroughly enjoyable read it was. Not only was the material itself terrific, but your personal insights and ability to 'tell the tale' really make this book special.

At about the same time that you were working at Fox Software, I was working as a programmer and head of IT for a bank holding company. We mostly wrote mainframe code in those days, but I'd used dBase for a couple of PC applications and was beginning to play around with Fox. Of course, as soon as I started using Fox I was hooked. Then, at about the same time that all of you at Fox Software went through the trauma of the merger with Microsoft, the powers that be at the bank I worked for decided to outsource the entire IT function, leaving me and most of the 15 or so people who worked for me essentially out of a job. Faced with a decision between going to work for EDS or setting out in a new direction, I took the opportunity to start my own business and decided to use FoxPro as my primary development tool. It's a decision I've never regretted, and I'm still in business today.
 
Now, having read what was going on at Fox Software during those same years, I have a renewed appreciation for what it took to bring this terrific tool to market. Thanks for sharing the story.

I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your book!  I ordered it the day I received an email blast from Hentzenwerke about it.  UPS delivered it at work Friday.  I took it home and right after supper I hit the couch with it.  In between taking care of the “Trick-or-Treaters” my wife told me I was loads of fun to talk to, since I had been so engrossed in the book I hadn’t said a word to her all night.  My youngest, fourteen, was out and we rarely get an evening alone and here I was tied to a book.  I couldn’t go to bed until I finished at 2:00 in the morning.  I enjoyed it so much because I knew the company’s history from the outside and was always curious about how it really was on the inside.  The book was not only enlightening it brought back many old memories.  I’m fifty-two years old and have used Fox products almost since its beginning.  I still use VFP, for how much longer I don’t know. 

I was at an Ashton-Tate conference in California and Fox had a booth there.  To this day it astounds me the Ashton-Tate allowed Fox to demo at their conference.  My memory is no way as clear as yours but I think Fulton, Walker and Christensen were their running some demo that showed Fox’s speed.  As soon as we got back to our office in Birmingham our company switched from dBase to FoxBase. 

I went to all the DevCons in Toledo.  I was on the betas.  I read most of the Compuserve beta traffic.  I remember that “Foundation Read’ thread.  That first DevCon was special.  I remember when Fulton ran some program that put a zillion little windows all over the screen.  People went wild.  I think I might have said a couple of words to you at that conference.  Something like, “So you are one of the developers.  What did you do?”  To which you replied “I worked on the Report Writer”.  I may not have that right but at least that is my recollection.  As I remember it you were standing against a wall outside one of the conference halls.  You seemed like a quiet, even shy, type guy.  I may have that wrong of course.  You are right about the size of the room changing the atmosphere for the second conference keynote.  But I think 2.0 just blew everyone away.  It was so astounding at the time.  I think it could be argued that 2.0 was one of the best DOS apps ever.  Even though DOS is long gone and you say your best code was on VFP 3.0’s form tool, I believe you should always be extremely proud of 2.0.

I definitely enjoyed reading about Fulton.  It seems his boss demeanor was certainly different than his jovial, wise cracking, good old professor, keynote presenter demeanor.  I once met a guy in Alabama that said he had worked with Fulton in that company he had with his first wife.  He said Fulton always liked money and things, so I guess Fulton is happy now. 

My only complaint about the book is that I wish you had written a little more about your Microsoft years.  But if MS is anything like I perceive MS as being, then maybe that was not possible.  And I realize of course this wasn’t a MS story.  You did say a lot with that one line about their being a rumor about MS going to drop VFP.  As an outsider, my uninformed perception was that it would have happened if it weren’t for developer backlash.  I always thought it odd that Tom Rettig died around that same time even though it was always said it was from natural causes.

But again thanks for the book and God bless you with whatever you do with the rest of your life.


I just finished your book and since, in the epilogue, you expressed your hope that I, the reader, liked your tale I felt compelled to write and let you know that indeed I did. I have worked with FoxPro since the FPD2.5 for DOS days and all subsequent DOS/Windows versions dating from around 1993. I wanted to let you and all your cohorts know how much I, for one, appreciate all that you did.
I have been programming since the late 1960s and have never enjoyed a platform as much as the Fox.
Thanks to you all.

 


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