Re: Date's First Great Blunder

From: Dawn M. Wolthuis <>
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2004 12:07:48 -0500
Message-ID: <c63lda$6ea$>

"Laconic2" <> wrote in message
> Conspiracy theories can be extraordinarily hard to debunk.
> If you are determined to believe that the term "hierachical database" was
> popularised as part of an Orwellian agenda by the "relational camp", I'm
> just not going to argue that point with you.

You are missing my point and my motivation for it -- I don't see it as a pre-meditated conspiracy at the outset. I don't think the original players, other than perhaps that guy at the company-later-known-as-Oracle, were marketing-savvy enough to know or care about the choice of terms for marketing purposes.

But if you address the question of what were some of the helping factors outside of the technology itself that promoted the relational database structure to the king of the hill position, one thing you might look at is the language used when discussing it.

Relational database folks and their marketing counterparts have impressed upon our minds so heavily that everything was once either a hierarchical, network, or relational database (before declaring that relational is obviously superior). So now those writing text books have adopted this terminology too and promoted a somewhat scewed version of the history of databases, using post-IMS terminology to describe IMS, for example. It is like when I called the "M card approach" a design pattern -- not the terminology we used in "data processing" in the 70's, to be sure.

> Do your own investigating, and draw your own conclusions.
> A five minute search with Google turned up the following article in 1974.
> But that's after 1970.

Yup -- even post the time of the next paper(s) on the subject. Don't get me wrong -- I don't think this language is bad -- it just has a marketing spin to it that most people fail to recognize. People riding horses who started driving cars DID recognize they were riding horses prior to the car coming along. The spin was that now they could have a horseless carriage.

In the case of relational databases, the proponents defined what they were replacing in a way so as to pick up on one aspect of their competition (the tree or di-graph structure) and then once they defined for us what we were doing using this metaphor of hierarchical, network or relational was set out, it was hard to make a case for either of the first two.

Anyway, we have beat this one to death, but if anyone DOES find evidence that the terms "network database" or "hierarchical database" came from anywhere other than the "relational camp" please let me know. Cheers! --dawn

Received on Tue Apr 20 2004 - 19:07:48 CEST

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