Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On fifty years of databases

This drawing is taken from the ACM SIGMOD Blog post by Thomas Haigh entitled 
"Fifty years of databases".   It tells the story of  IDS (Integrated Data Store) as the first database developed 50 years ago in GE.  IDS was designed by Charlie Bachman, who received Turing award for his pioneering work on databases, and as Haigh remarks  - Bachman was the first Turing award winner who did not have PhD, and actually spent his life in industry and not in academia.  It is worth remarking that the two persons who followed Bachman by receiving Turing awards in the database area, Tedd Codd  and Jim Gray were also from industry, in fact, the academic database community did not have until today any Turing award winner.  Bachman's Turing award talk "programmer as navigator" was very insightful.  Bachman compared himself to Copernicus who said that the earth is revolving around the sun and not vice-versa, and said that the computing world will revolve around data - where programming will be side effects of operations associated with data.   We are not quite there, but for me it was an inspiring goal.
IDS is far from the current databases we have today, but it laid the principles, and started from pure engineering position, theory came later.     I am trying to compare the database area development to those of event processing, and think that in many respects we are still were databases have been 40 years ago,  so the challenge is to advance it further...  more on that -later.

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