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Fourth-generation programming language (4GL)

is a fourth-generation programming language (4GL) computer programming linguistic communication and development environs that is used to build database queries. Produced past Information Builders Inc., it was originally developed for data handling and assay on the IBM mainframe. Subsequently versions for minicomputers and such as the VAX and other platforms[1]
were implemented.[2]
FOCUS was subsequently extended to personal computers and (in 1997) to the Www: the WebFOCUS product.


Information Builders’s FOCUS production began as an alternate product to Mathematica’due south RAMIS, the first Fourth-generation programming language (4GL).

National CSS (NCSS), a Time-sharing vendor, licensed rights to make RAMIS bachelor on its VP/CSS organization.[four]

At some point Mathematica changed its licensing cost.[5]

The interested parties were:[four]

  • NCSS, which was marketing RAMIS (and other products) for apply on their time-sharing arrangement
  • Mathematica, owner of RAMIS
  • Key developers/programmers of RAMIS
    • some stayed with Mathematica
    • others left to class the company that became Data Builders, known for its FOCUS product

Relation to other 4GLs

RAMIS was the direct ancestor of FOCUS.

Gerald D. Cohen and Peter Mittelman were the master developers of RAMIS while working at Mathematica Products Grouping in 1970. RAMIS was licensed past Mathematica to a number of in-house clients (including Nabisco and AT&T Corporation), and was also offered by the National CSS timesharing visitor. In[6]
Oct 1975[7]
Cohen left Mathematica and formed Information Builders, after which he recreated the product he had built at Mathematica in the form of FOCUS, which was very similar to RAMIS: “the same bugs and the same misspelled fault messages.”[four]

The syntax of FOCUS in its simplest elements is almost a straight clone of the syntax of RAMIS bearing a resemblance similar to the differences between various early on dialects of SQL. At the aforementioned time, NCSS decided to piece of work on its own production, subsequently called NOMAD. All three products flourished during the 1970s and early 1980s, with FOCUS besides being offered on a fourth dimension-sharing footing via Tymeshare.[iv]

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Mathematica’s fourth dimension ran out in the mid-80s, and NCSS likewise failed, a victim of the personal computing revolution which obviated commercial timesharing.

RAMIS was sold to a series of companies, ultimately landing with Computer Associates. NOMAD suffered a similar fate. FOCUS, under Cohen’s direction, continued to flourish by expanding their product line.

Loosely competitive with SAS,[9]
FOCUS never quite reached the same degree of mainstream adoption, perhaps because it had only basic belittling and statistical functions and lacked the wide array of specialized analytic tools which made SAS the standard in fields such equally pharmaceutical clinical trials. Instead, FOCUS full-bodied on extreme flexibility in data import and export likewise as advertizement hoc end-user reporting.


Software packages with which
has linked and integrated include:

  • Excel[x]
  • AJAX[11]

Business organisation Intelligence competitors

Business organisation intelligence software
competitors include:[12]

  • Business organization Objects
  • Cognos
  • Hyperion
  • Microsoft
  • MicroStrategy
  • SAS


Although FOCUS resembles other data access and assay tools, such as SQL and SAS, it also includes report and chart display and presentation features. It automates the procedure of identifying files to the operating system, opening the input file, reading the adjacent record, opening the output file, writing the next record, and closing the files. This basic operation allows the user/programmer to concentrate on the details of working with the information within each record, in effect working almost entirely within an implicit program loop that runs for each record, somewhat like RPG (Report Program Generator). Other procedures operate on the dataset as a whole, for instance printing or statistical analysis, and merely crave the user/programmer to identify the dataset.

Compared to general-purpose programming languages, this structure allows the user/programmer to be less familiar with the technical details of the data and how it is stored, and relatively more familiar with the information independent in the data. This blurs the line between user and programmer, appealing to individuals whose work roles are in business or research rather than data engineering science. This in plow has the double edged result of assuasive rapid answers to business concern or inquiry questions, even ones requiring several iterations to get from the initial results to a final answer; just as well tin can contribute to the construction of a large body of poorly written and/or difficult to maintain source code.

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Master File Description (MFD)

A feature that was unique at the fourth dimension is that FOCUS features the ability for the user to construct a information clarification file (called a “master file description”)[thirteen]
referring to the actual data file, or even several dissimilar information description files addressing the same data file in unlike ways, rather than the usual practice of having the file structure hard-coded into the program.

In this style, files of any structure from any source can be accessed or produced in many different ways, eliminating much of the information manipulation (for example concatenation, or parsing) at times required with other earlier programming languages. For instance, the same actual data file tin exist accessed (read or write) as each record existence an fourscore byte text string, or as 40 2 character numerical fields, other as 10 8-byte floating signal numbers, etc., by the user just re-writing the advisable principal file description as needed.


  • (batch)

The 2d command would produce a study with headings

followed by 1 or more lines of detail, followed by
_TOTAL_ CUSTNAME xxxxx (and $z,zzz.zz for that CUSTNAME)

The bottom of the study would take the total for ALL projects.
  • (interactive)

There are keywords to facilitate modification (or deletion) of existing data, and the prompting and mistake letters from the interactive session tin be customized.

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In 1997,[15]
a web-based version of FOCUS was introduced called “WebFOCUS” which built on the data access and reporting foundation of FOCUS,[sixteen]
expanding these to a visually oriented thin-client epitome accessible from whatsoever spider web browser.

WebFOCUS’s linguistic communication has both a “procedural” and “not-procedural” control structure. The former is for more firsthand execution, whereas the latter “are placed into a stack of memory for later execution.”[17]


  1. ^

    including UNIX

  2. ^

    “FOCUS 4GL from Information Builders”.
    Computerworld. March 5, 1990.

  3. ^

    “Information Builders Focus/VAX”.
    Computerworld. March 31, 1986. p. 52.

  4. ^





    “RAMIS and NOMAD–National CSS”
    (PDF). May 20, 2005.

  5. ^

    Nick Rawlings (March 17, 2014). “The History of NOMAD: A Fourth Generation Language”.
    IEEE Annals of the History of Calculating.
    36: 30–38. doi:10.1109/MAHC.2014.ten.

  6. ^

    1970 or

  7. ^

    “A Brief History of Fourth Generation Languages”.

  8. ^

    also Per Nick Rawlings’ “A Cursory History of Fourth Generation Languages”

  9. ^

    A consultant wrote: “When I investigated translating SAS to the WebFOCUS BI product (based on a 4GL programming language), I personally considered some of the following SAS features as stumbling blocks” and he listed 11 items.
    “Business concern Intelligence Software”. 2012-04-30.

  10. ^

    “WebFocus-Excel Link Strengthened”.
    Computerworld. May 28, 2007.

  11. ^

    “Information Builders Integrates AJAX”.
    InformationWeek. March 9, 2006.

  12. ^

    Steve Lohr (May 20, 2007). “Data-mining moves into the mainstream, in search of turn a profit”.
    The New York Times.

  13. ^

    “MASTER FILE Clarification (MFD)”.

  14. ^

    “Synopsis FOCUS: File Definition describes the components of a Principal File Description. Audience This class is for the information processing and business professional who uses FOCUS.”
    “FOCUS: File Definition”.

  15. ^

    “Introduced in 1997, …”

  16. ^

    “WebFocus Southward/390”.
    Computerworld. June ix, 1997.
    .. includes all the functionality of … Focus

  17. ^

    “BI Software – WebFOCUS”. 2011-11-13.

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