A Brief History of SQL

The history of the SQL is intimately intertwined with the development of relational databases. The relational concept was originally developed by Edgar Frank “Ted” Codd, an IBM researcher. In June 1970, Codd published an article entitled “A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks,” which outlined a mathematical theory of how data could be stored and manipulated using a tabular structure. Relational databases and SQL trace their origins to this article, which appeared in the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery.

The Early Years
Codd’s article triggered a flurry of relational database research, including a major research project within IBM. The goal of the project, called System/R, was to prove the workability of the relational concept and to provide some experience in actually implementing a relational DBMS. Work on System/R began in the mid-1970s at IBM’s Santa Teresa laboratories in San Jose, California.

In 1974 and 1975, the first phase of the System/R project produced a minimal prototype of a relational DBMS. In addition to the DBMS itself, the System/R project included work on database query languages. One of these languages was called SEQUEL, an acronym for Structured English Query Language. In 1976 and 1977, the System/R research prototype was rewritten from scratch, and the new implementation was distributed to selected IBM customers for evaluation in 1978 and 1979. These early customer sites provided some actual user experience with System/R and its database language, which, for legal reasons, had been renamed SQL, or Structured Query Language. In 1979, the System/R research project came to an end, with IBM concluding that relational databases were not only feasible, but also could be the basis for a useful commercial product.

Early Relational Products
The System/R project and its SQL database language were well-chronicled in technical journals during the 1970s. Seminars on database technology featured debates on the merits of the new and heretical relational model. By 1976, it was apparent that IBM was becoming enthusiastic about relational database technology and that it was making a major commitment to SQL.

The publicity about System/R attracted the attention of a group of engineers in Menlo
Park, California, who decided that IBM’s research foreshadowed a commercial market for relational databases. In 1977 they formed a company, Relational Software, Inc., to build a relational DBMS based on SQL. Their product named Oracle, shipped in 1979 and became the first commercially available relational DBMS. Oracle beat IBM’s first product to market by a full two years, and Oracle ran on Digital’s VAX minicomputers, which were less expensive than IBM mainframes. The company aggressively sold the merits of the new relational style of database management and eventually renamed itself after its flagship product. Today, Oracle Corporation is the leading vendor of relational database management systems and a major vendor of enterprise applications based on the Oracle database, with annual sales of tens of billions of dollars.

Professors at the University of California’s Berkeley computer laboratories were also researching relational databases in the mid-1970s. Like the IBM research team, they built a prototype of a relational DBMS and called their system Ingres. The Ingres project included a query language named QUEL that, although more structured than SQL, was less Englishlike. Many database pioneers, key database developers, and founders of database startup companies trace their history back to the Berkeley Ingres project.

In 1980, several professors left Berkeley and founded Relational Technology, Inc., to build a commercial version of Ingres, which was announced in 1981. Ingres and Oracle quickly became bitter archrivals, but their rivalry helped to call attention to relational database technology in this early stage. Despite its technical superiority in many areas,
Ingres became a clear second-place player in the market, competing against the SQL-based capabilities (and the aggressive marketing and sales strategies) of Oracle. The original QUEL query language was effectively replaced by SQL in 1986, a testimony to the market power of the SQL standard. By the mid-1990s, the Ingres technology had been sold to Computer Associates, a leading mainframe software vendor. (Computer Associates sold its interest in Ingres to a private equity company in 2005.)

Source of Information : MCGraw Hill - SQL the Complete Reference 3rd Edition (10-2009)


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