TICA Data SystemsExecutive
TICA Data Systems (TDS) is a windows based application written in Microsoft Visual FoxPro (1) and supported by a framework product called ProMatrix. Microsoft purchased Fox Software in 1992 (2) and renamed the product to FoxPro. They have continually improved this product from version 2 to the recent release of Visual FoxPro Version 9. Although this product will not be integrated into the .Net family, the Microsoft effort termed Sedna (3) will target Visual FoxPro interoperability with application components created by using Visual Studio 2005, the .NET Framework 2.0, and SQL Server 2005. In short Visual FoxPro will continue to be a strong Microsoft relational database engine with scalability to the Microsoft SQL (4) engine along with the ability that Sedna delivers to work in harmony with other Microsoft products.
The ProMatrix Corporation is a focused development team that has produced a framework product that supports Visual FoxPro. Visual ProMatrix(5) allows a developer to record a data dictionary, database definitions, and screen layouts and then concentrate on the business rules of an application without having to re-develop the same parts over and over. This speeds development time and coupled with the ability to purchase support options and consulting time from ProMatrix has improved the support options that TICA has for TDS.
The use of a strong and scalable Microsoft product (VFP) and third party development (VPM) environment insures that TDS will serve TICA far into the future.History
In the mid 1980's development of the IBM PC powered by the Microsoft DOS operating system gave rise to many DB companies and products such as RIM, RBASE 5000, PARADOX, OS/2 Database Manager, dBase III and IV, FoxBASE and Watcom SQL. They all were working hard to build market share using the PC product. dBase enjoyed a large place in the market because it contained a database engine and a programming language in the same product. FoxBASE was a competitor to dBase. The main difference was that FoxBASE was compiled and dBase was a run-time product, in short FoxBASE was much faster.
The first computer programs at TICA were written in 1983 under the DOS operating system using the database product called FoxBASE. At this same time, PC networks were just emerging with no set standard; true networking was the domain of main frames and were terminal based. Most applications were written as stand alone applications with shared storage. TICA contracted with Hart Industries to build a membership module and agreed to have this written in the DOS based language of FoxBASE. This started the computerization of the executive office and was soon followed by a registration module, litters, daily activity (DAR) and scoring. Each one of these repeated database and programming elements.
FoxBASE became Microsoft FoxPro in 1992. Microsoft started growing and transitioning the application into an object oriented design. This allowed more sophisticated features along with more complex code. This improvement along with the installation of a network and expansion of the modules to support multi-user support helped the application continue to automate the office work load. The modules continued to be DOS based and character driven (without graphic or mouse interface). The introduction of Windows was the first indication that TDS would change in a dynamic way.
The transition from a DOS based system to an object oriented windows based system is a large task. DOS is linear, each thing follows another. Windows allows a program and operator to use the screen and mouse interface to jump between many objects to accomplish a task. TDS was re-written from the ground up. We recognized that we wanted to use a frame work; a system that would do the mundane tasks and allow us to concentrate on the business process needs. We started three times before finding a company that we felt had the correct product and would be a long term partner. ProMatrix Corporation was that company.
The first work was to review each DOS module and then design the data elements that would connect all the separate modules into a fully relational database model. Once this was complete the screen designs and business processes were designed. This was repeated a number of times until all of the modules were ready for programming. Each module was re-written to operate in windows then a transition of the data and the move of the department were accomplished until each module was in production in windows.Scoring was the last to be moved because it was the one DOS module that changed the most. In DOS we only placed the scores from a hand calculated catalog in the computer. This allowed us to determine the winners at the end of the season. The new windows module allowed full entry of all aspects of the catalog and then scored the catalog followed by automated standings through out the show season. Scoring continues to be developed with title confirmation remaining. It is important to understand that none of these programs would have been produced without the leadership and daily involvement of the TICA staff. The International Cat Association does not conduct an industry defined process; TICA has defined the process and set the standards that are captured in TDS today. Future
One thing is certain TDS will continue to grow as the association makes additional requests to advance TICA. A recent addition is automated email from registration. This will continue to other modules. Online forms and collection of data directly into TDS is on the horizon. TDS is using Version 7 of VFP and VPM; we have started to prepare to stay with the latest versions. This is always a part of any system to insure support and be able to deliver the new features that are requested. The programming group under the leadership of the executive office have moved TDS into windows with a design and products to help TICA maintain ownership of their valuable resource.References
(1) Visual FoxPro 9.0 provides the tools you need to create and manage high-performance, 32-bit database applications and components.
(3) FoxPro Help: "The SQL Server Upsizing wizard creates a SQL Server database that duplicates, as much as possible, the functionality of Visual FoxPro database"
(4)Visual ProMatrix is the application generator and framework for VFP that will help you create feature-packed applications faster than you ever thought possible.