Interview with Patrick Mast

Patrick Mast is the target of this new interview. He was one of the starters of the Harbour Project, he hosts xHarbour.org and also is the owner of xHarbour.com and an active member of our community. He is also a great guy, and kindly answered to the interview.

Tell us about you, a short bio, where do you live and what you do for a living.

I live in Belgium just turning 50 this year. I started programming at the age of 13 with a Sinclair ZX81 which I bought from my first savings. I was intrigued by what was possible with such a small machine! You can type something in and it responded with text or sound! Haha, as a 13 year old boy, it was amazing!! It had just 1KB of memory. Not 1 GB, 1KB!! Thats 1024 bytes guys! This thought me to be very very economical with the code I write. Why use 100 bytes if you can do it in 20, right?

Than, in 1984 the Sinclair QL was releases. I used that computer to build my first “real” application called “Survey”. It was a application to collect the rides from my parent’s taxi company. It than gave a “survey” of all rides done over a certain periode, calculated the distance, used gas etc.. I was kinda proud of it! A real running business app!!

My next computer was a IBM Personal Computer. It had Microsoft’s MS-DOS as OS. It had its own dedicated monitor and keyboard. A really big machine! At that time I was searching for better development system than the including MS-BASIC. There where two systems I was looking at; PowerBasic and Nantucket’s Clipper. I choose to be using Clipper because at that time, I was convinced that Clipper had a bigger future than PowerBasic.

My first application written in Clipper was “Resto-File”, a POS system for restaurants. My neighbour at that time had a restaurant and he asked my to develop something to make it easier for him to get orders from his customers and communicate them with the kitchen. It worked well for years and years. The restaurant also wanted to print invoices and do some bookkeeping, so I started my next Clipper application “Fakt-File”. It was an invoicing-bookkeeping app for all sort of businesses.

Than in 1995, Microsoft released Windows 95 and it was an instant success for Microsoft. Because I was still using Clipper for all my development and Clipper was DOS only, I had to go and search for a solution to bring my apps to the new Windows platform. At that time, Delphi was a great choice, but than I had to rewrite ALL of the code. Clipper and Deplhi where totally different. Than I learned about FiveWin which was a GUI LIB on top of Clipper! So, I could keep all the business code code and only had to rewrite the user interface. Perfect!

I started developing with Clipper/FiveWin and released WinFakt! version 1.0 in 1996, just one year after Windows 95. Though we use Visual xHarbour today for our new development, we still use FiveWin for our main WinFakt.exe which is at version 11 now.

In 2003 I started xHarbour.com with Ron Pinkas. We wanted to give the [x]Harbour community a pre-compiled and packaged xHarbour with the option to have professional support on it. At this day, for WinFakt!, we still use xHarbour/FiveWin/Visual xHarbour for all our development.

For those who don’t know, tell us your what is relation to the Harbour community. How do you colaborate and what do you think about it.

When Antonio Linares started talking about having a new compiler/interpreter that mimics Clipper’s language I was very interested. I still remember the day that we needed to decide on a name for the new compiler. I must be honest, I didn’t like the “Harbour” name at first, but the group liked it and so Harbour was born. I contributed by giving the group a presence on the web and provided the logo’s and graphics for supporting the Harbour community.

How did you started with Harbour and when did you started using it professionally ?

I started using Harbour since it’s birth.

What kind of software do you develop ? Which software that have you made are you more proud of ? Can you send us a screenshoot of it ?

Our main application is WinFakt!. Its a invoicing/bookkeeping app for small businesses. Its been maintained by 6 developers today. Our company has a total of 23 employees, spread all over the world.

This is a screenshot of WinFakt:

This is our report generator, developed in VXH:

Do you use any GUI in your developments ? Which one ?

We still use FiveWin for our main winfakt.exe. For new development and enhancements on WinFakt! we use Visual xHarbour.

Tell us about your develop environment, what tools and programs do you use daily ?

I use a Mac computer for my development. We use Microsoft Code for Mac as our source editor. We compile and run/test in Windows 10 with Parallels Desktop om the Mac. We also still use TotalComander on Windows as our file manager.

What do you miss in Harbour or its community compared with other languages or tools ?

A great IDE like Visual xHarbour, but than for Harbour ;-)

Do you know other programming languages ? What kind of development have you done with them ?

I also have knowledge of C and C#, Delphi, Javascript etc. But programming is as riding a bike, once you know how to ride one, its not so hard to ride another. ;-)