The history and future of Aducom Software, PHsPeed and PHP...

Developing software can be challenging...

As a 'pretty old guy,' it's always nice to talk about the past, and fortunately, I'm not too old to talk about the future also. We receive many questions about why we claim to be working on PHsPeed for so long, and it took so long before we are launching this product in a COVID-19 situation!

Well, it is not as bad as it looks. But first, let me talk a bit about the past, which will explain our policy towards the future. Aducom Software has its roots in the early eighties, and we started building CPU boards on 'Eurocard' format, based upon the Z80 CPU. A right choice, it is still used in many programmable calculators currently, although in a more modern variant. But without the internet, setting products in the market was not very easy. All information came from magazines; to get reviews, you needed to spend a lot of money, and that was too much. When Asia came with cheaper solutions, we decided to sell the design and focused on writing software.

It was in the days that 4th generation languages came up. Cobol was close to death and would disappear within a few years. It was in the same period that I wrote a Cobol generator suitable for creating Crud applications written in Cobol on an HP mini. Just pick a table from a database, the form design from the Terminal emulator, and the application would match both parties to a working Cobol application. I wrote a database-independent query language to create reports in Cobol. It had a 'Basic' like syntax as SQL did not exist in those days. Well, to make a long story short, Cobol is still very much used in the financial world (and is object orientated currently), and I doubt if it will disappear in the next 25 years.

Recently there are quite a lot of messages regarding the future of PHP. There is a massive interest in Python, which is supposed to harm the use of PHP. Now there are a few ways of looking into this. Python is very popular. Why? Because it excellent covers domotics, AI, raspberries, and all kinds of applications that you don't necessarily like to build in PHP. If the hammer is your only tool, then every screw becomes a nail. But that doesn't mean that it's the best solution. There is a vast array of programming languages out there. I worked in a lot of them, some popular (C, C++, PHP, Java, .Net), some less popular (Fortran, Cobol, Algol60, Ada), and I played around with some (Forth, Python 2 and 3, Lisp, Prolog). They all have their strong and weaker points. But look at the facts. If you want to build administrative business software, like CRM, CMS, and all kinds of registrations that need to be available on public websites, you will mostly find PHP. Take any shared hosting out there and find out that they support PHP and MySQL by default. Not Java (which requires a Tomcat server), not .Net, which requires IIS, and not Python. If you need these, you end up with local hosting ,or a more expensive virtual private server.

I'm sure that many of you have quite different ideas about this. But PHP is here to stay for at least another decade to come. The world is not built in concrete, and I do not have a crystal ball. Nobody has.
We did not miss the move from desktop to Web applications. As we are very well known in the Delphi world and involved in quite some open-source tools, our SQLite components became famous. But the demands for writing desktop applications decreased, and writing application server software require special hosting, which made the software safe (has been used in medical care) yet expensive. So we searched for a way of writing software with more ease and speed. We tried several PHP generators and ended up with a product that suited our needs. We were (and are) quite successful. However, there was a nasty 'feature.' On each and every new release, there was a load of bugs, sometimes even showstoppers. We learned the hard way you had to create full backups to revert, as the software did not support it. Quality control was close to none, as the service was. There came the first doubts—a great product, but with lousy customer support and the risk of getting stuck in the software. The generated code was a mess, and the developers used 'google translate' to communicate. It became a no-go for us. That's when we decided to start developing a product of our own. After all, we have a huge background in writing compilers, and generators, not for PHP, but should it be too hard? We made a few choices. The generated code should be easily readable, clean, and OOP. It should be responsive (Bootstrap), database-independent (PDO). And we used a familiar tool to develop (Lazarus, a Delphi clone). To be honest, we started the development of PHsPeed without a commercial context. It was a fail-safe solution if we had to switch from our currently used product.

A few years ago, I had some discussions in one of the communities that we are in and showed our product in the state that is then. The developers were very enthusiastic and thought that we should make it commercial. That was a huge step to make from writing custom software into writing development tools for developers. And a lot of additional work to do as well. Sales channels, support channels, Tax offices worldwide, website, it simply didn't stop. But how much did we learn from that? It distracted us a lot from development, but our community was very consistent and motivating. They started using PHsPeed and came with solutions, alternatives, bugs. And early this year, we were ready to launch. PHsPeed was stable and up for its task. A lot to add, improve, and enhance, but that's the normal development of any product. We 'only' needed to build the website (which was a mess), the support, and the sales channel. Then came Covid.

Fortunately, some companies can help you to pass hurdles like foreign tax offices. We bought a web theme for our website, which was very helpful. So this explains the long period between development and release. And now we are at version 1.1.

I hope that everyone will have a great Xmas and 2021. We all suffer from Covid, and it can only become better. Be careful, be safe.

Albert Drent
Aducom Software

21 Dec 2020 Blog None