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VP-Info and Sharkbase by Sub Rosa Inc. - Notes from Sid Bursten

I was one of the original developers and the last president of the publishing company, so I can provide some authentic history.

In the early 80s, Dr. George Gratzer, a mathematics professor at the University of Manitoba was using dBase II in his consulting practice, but was frustrated by its limitations for reporting. Enlisting the assistance of David Clark, a student, he undertook to write a report generator that would allow up to six related data files to be in use at one time, rather than the two-file limit of dBase II.

Finding the task required creation of a compiler, an expression evaluator and the ability to read and create indices, he and David soon realized that they had most of what they needed to create an independent language. The year 1985 saw the first appearance of the language, dComp (standing for compiled dBase) and my joining their new company, Sub Rosa Inc, and vice president of marketing. The language was renamed Max, new manuals were written and printed, and an ad campaign started.

Shortly thereafter, Paperback Software, a publishing firm headed by Adam Osborne of Osborne Books and Osborne Computer fame, acquired worldwide marketing rights to Max and launched it as VP-Info in 1986. VP-Info hit the market with a splash, steadily rising to the Top Five among best-selling business titles in the U.S. software market. Unfortunately, Lotus Development Corp. objected to some of the features of VP-Planner, a spreadsheet program far superior to its own 1-2-3, and sued Paperback Software for copyright infringement in 1987. Though the lawsuit ultimately failed in the courts, it succeeded (in Bill Gates' famous phrase) in "cutting off the air supply" for Paperback, and it slowly bled to death.

Sub Rosa Inc. reacquired worldwide distribution rights to VP-Info shortly before Paperback entered bankruptcy. I and an associate, Bernie Melman of Toronto, established Sub Rosa Publishing Inc. in Toronto and Sub Rosa Corporation in Minneapolis and attempted to get VP-Info back into distribution. Since the name belonged to the bankrupt Paperback, however, we were forced to give it yet another name, and Sharkbase was introduced in 1992 as an upgrade to VP-Info. That year Data Based Advisor polled a nationwide poll of database-language users that named VP-Info Number One in both "performance of Product" and "Performance of Applications Developed" in the product.

When Mr. Melman died in 1993, however, the two publishing companies were closed. Sub Rosa continues to sell product and support users through me at www.sid-bursten.com.

VP-Info and Sharkbase are still in use at numerous companies who depend on its speed, reliability and mathematical prowess to drive their businesses. Probably the largest of these of Specialized Clinical Services of Irvine, CA, which has used it to build the preeminent clinical software package for infusion pharmacy since 1986.

I hope these details are helpful. But at the very least, it would be an improvemenet to show VP-Info and Sharkbase were both produicts of Sub Rosa Inc. rather than VP-Info being a product of Sharkbase.

Many thanks,

Sid Bursten

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