FileMaker Early History

FASCINATING glimpse back to the beginning of Filemaker:

The history of Filemaker starts back in the early 1980s with four people who originally worked at Wang Laboratories, headquartered in Lowell Massachusetts: Spec Bowers, Alan Albert, Dan Chadwick, Jega Arulpragasam.

Wang Labs had a political culture back then, if you were on the inside track (essentially, if you were Chinese), you would get support for getting things done. The four of them wanted to develop some new products but the culture at Wang wasn’t open to this.

At the time, Wang marketed a subset of what they had in mind. When they realized that they wouldn’t have a chance to do everything they wanted to do there, they set out on their own. They decided to try something small then build up from there. Wang was almost alone in word processing. This was in 1982 and IBM had just started marketing the PC.

Around that time, Spec and Dan attended a computer conference. In those days, computer conferences for businesses concentrated on mini computers and larger. Outside the hall there was a tent that had a small section devoted to PCs. They looked around and saw that a number of other companies were already working on word processing products. They concluded that it would be too hard to break into that market.

So they looked at database software. In their opinion, the existing databases were just awful. dBase was one of them. The user interface was a prompt that was a single dot at the left edge of the screen. You had to know all the commands and type them in correctly to do anything. The records were all fixed format, with fields of fixed length and type. You had to decide everything ahead of time and once you started entering data, the design of your database was essentially frozen in place. You couldn’t change anything after that.

Read the whole thing.

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