This is the detail page for PB3. If you’d rather start from the beginning the main article is called, PowerBuilder, Memory Lane for PB Developers.

PowerBuilder History, Version 3.0

Rewind to 1993, and explore PowerBuilder Version 3.0. This was a big release for PowerBuilder, a historic release in my mind. I felt like PB3 had demonstrated it had enough maturity & stability to be worthy of consideration for application development in the corporate environment. It was definitely a safe bet for department-level application development and showed potential for large and complex mission critical application development.

Launching Pad To The Future

PB3 was the stepping stone away from the mainframe world, where corporate applications were written using second generation, procedural languages like Cobol and CICS. PB3 included robust reporting from the beginning which was typically handled using complex, archaic mainframe reporting tools like Easytrieve.

PB3 was so impressive that calling it a stepping stone is a massive understatement. It was more like a launching pad, catapulting business applications into the future, which at that time was client server. Client server development leveraged the power of the desktop allowing corporate apps to evolve into modern, robust, attractive and intuitive business applications.

Dream Come True For Everyone

PowerSoft invested a substantial amount of money in the marketing of PowerBuilder. It usually takes an exceptionally good salesperson to sell software to Fortune 500 companies, but this was not the case when it came to PowerBuilder.

A child could have sold PowerBuilder to 499 of the 500 companies in the Fortune 500. An exaggeration… yes, but the tool pretty much sold itself in the first ten minutes of a PB demonstration. Anything beyond the first ten minutes of a demo was entertainment for the developers anxious to get their hands on the software. Developers were salivating at the opportunity to develop using such an advanced tool, one that they saw as being historically significant. The developer instincts were correct because PB has not only become historically significant but it has written many chapters in the history of information technology over the last few decades.

The PB System Tables Soap Opera

Any shop large enough to have dedicated DBA’s likely went through several iterations of corporate politics before coming to an agreement about the internal PB system tables (pbcatcol, etc.). PB created the system tables automatically when running the tool for the first time but it required SYSTEM credentials to the database. Connecting to the database as SYSTEM by developers is something that is not going to happen in a corporate IT shop. If you’ve gone through this phase than you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The General Protection Fault, or GPF

This summary wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the general protection fault (GPF). A GPF to PowerBuilder is analogous to the blue-screen-of-death and early versions of Microsoft Windows. It happened when the PowerBuilder IDE would crash without warning and any unsaved work lost. The GPF is something the veteran PB developer lived with, learned to work around, and gained a few grey hairs because of them. PB3 was a pretty solid IDE but it was leading edge software, so crashes were part of the cost of doing business. Most developers learned the “problem” areas and were able to minimize the negative impact of GPF’s.

PB3, The Specifics


Release Date

Some time in 1994. Please leave a comment if you know a more accurate date.

Notable Enhancements & Fixes

Version three was the first one used by me so I am not aware of any notable enhancements or fixes.

Notable Problems

There were no serious problems with PB3, however the dreaded GPF was something that a busy developer might see several times per day. Repeated GPF’s would precipitate the need to reboot Windows and get some fresh, clean memory allocated.

Market Share & Trend

Add sales numbers here, or other notable statistics.


PB3 Visual Flashback

These images are near and dear to my heart. I poured a lot of sweat & tears into learning PowerBuilder, and developing applications using it. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how the splash screen looks in PB3, it is burned into my memory forever.

Marketing Media

Install Packaging

PowerBuilder Marketing Media Version 3

PowerBuilder Marketing Media Version 3

“Everything you asked for” image was provided by Bruce Armstrong. Bruce has been using PowerBuilder since version 1.0b. He is the senior editor for the PowerBuilder Developer’s Journal in which he has authored numerous articles and has a monthly news column. He was one of the editors and authors for PowerBuilder 9: Advanced Client/Server Development by SAMS.

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Splash Screens

Would you help fill in the blanks in the PB Memory Lane article? Learn how right here.

IDE Images

Would you help fill in the blanks in the PB Memory Lane article? Learn how right here.



PB3, Looking Forward

PowerBuilder 3 was an amazing tool, but good things don’t last forever. I can not think of any specific goals that PowerSoft had looking forward to version 4 & 5. I suspect that adding more native database interfaces was a goal at this point because early versions of PowerBuilder lacked native drivers for Microsoft SQL Server and Informix.

Early versions of PB lacked some of the datawindow object types that exist in new versions, such as the tree view dataobject, not to be confused with the tree-view control.

This document is one part of many belonging to the PowerBuilder trip down memory lane document started here, and that has had contributions by many PowerBuilder experts from around the world. If you have information or images that would improve this article, and are willing to share them please leave a comment below. Also indicate if you’d like attribution, and how you’d like it done. I am happy to promote your personal blogs in return for helping to make this a better document for everyone.

Here is the link to the main PowerBuilder, Trip Down Memory Lane page.


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