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History of Database Technology: Past and Present

The First Database Systems and Their Significance for the Further Development of DBS

Nowadays, in most cases, people are organizing the information systems on the basis of the client-server application scheme. The main feature of these applications is the interaction with the database. Thus, the databases form the basis for the computer-aided design and manufacturing processes, programming technology, knowledge-based and multimedia systems. After more than 40 years of the usage and researching the databases people created hundreds of them. Consequently, the history of the database systems should be explored to determine the most effective DBS for the modern applications.

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The history of the formation of databases and their management systems counts more than 40 years. One of the first significant events of this history should be viewed in detail. In the mid-60’s, IBM, cooperating with North American Aviation, presently known as Rockwell International, developed the first database-hierarchical system called the Information Management System (IMS) (Grad & Bergin, 2009). Despite the fact that IMS is the first commercial database management system (DBMS), it is still a principal hierarchical DBMS, used in the largest mainframes.

Another notable accomplishment of the mid-60s was the emergence of IDS (Integrated Data Store) designed by General Electric (Grad & Bergin, 2009). The development of this system led to the creation of a new type of database management systems, network DBMS, which made a significant impact on the information systems of that generation. The network database MS was created to represent more complex data relationships than those modeled by hierarchical structures that served as the basis for the development of the first standards of DB.

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The First Database Standards

For the creation of the first DB models, the working group called List Processing Task Force, was formed at the Conference on Data Systems Languages (CODASYL) in 1965. It was renamed in 1967 to the Data Base Task Group (DBTG) (Grad & Bergin, 2009). The aim of the group was to define the specifications of the environment, which would allow both the development of the databases and the data management process. The full version of the DBTG report published in 1971 contained the statements that would create the forming base for the next generation of databases. Firstly, the definition of the network diagram stated that it is a logical organization of the entire database, which includes the definition of the database name, the type of each record and the component of the records of each type. The other presented term is the subcircuit, which was determined as a part of the database visible for the specific users or applications. The DBTG also qualified the data management language as a tool for determining the characteristics and data structures, as well as for managing them (Grad & Bergin, 2009). Moreover, they also proposed to standardize three different languages (Grad & Bergin, 2009). The first of those was the data definition language (DDL) for the scheme, which would allow the DB administrator to describe the database. The second one was the data definition language for the subcircuit, which would allow the applications to determine the parts of the database requiring to be accessed. The last one was the data manipulation language (DML), designed for data management.

Despite the fact that this report was not officially approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), an astonishing number of systems have been designed in the full accordance with the DBTG proposals (Grad & Bergin, 2009). At present, people call them the CODASYL- or the DBTG-systems. The CODASYL-systems and the management systems based on the hierarchical approach formed the first generation of the DBMSs (Grad & Bergin, 2009). However, there are a few shortcomings, which are inherent in those models. Firstly, even for executing the simple queries, as using the access and the transitions to the certain records, it is necessary to create a program complex to a certain degree. Secondly, the independence of the data exists only at a minimal level. And, finally, there is no theoretical foundation for those DBMSs.

The Relational Database Systems: the History of Development, Current State, and Features

In 1970 Codd, who was working at IBM, published a paper about the relational data model (Hoffer, Venkataraman, & Topi, 2013), which allowed eliminating the previous shortcomings. Afterwards, in the late 70’s – early 80’s, appeared the various experimental relational databases and the first commercial products. Noteworthy to mention the project System R, developed by IBM in the late 70’s (Astrahan et al., 1976), which was designed to demonstrate the required functionality and the practical approach of the relational model that was achieved through the implementation of its secured data structures. On the basis of that project, the world researchers yielded to the foremost results, in addition, they designed a structured query language SQL, which became the standard language for any relational database (Hoffer et al., 2013), and, in the 80’s, for various commercial relational DBMSs, for instance, DB2 or SQL/DS by IBM, Oracle by Oracle Corp., etc., were created. Consequently, hundreds of various relational databases and their management systems for mainframes and personal computers came into being: the multi-user DBMSs as CA-OpenIngres by Computer Associates, Informix by Informix Software Inc, etc., and the relational DBMSs for personal computers, as Access and FoxPro by Microsoft, Paradox and dBase by Borland Visual, and R-Base by Microrim.

In broad terms, relational DBMS formed the second generation of the database management systems. However, the relational model also had some shortcomings, in particular, the limited possibilities of the simulation. During a long time after, the researchers have been executing a substantial research to solve this. Chen (1976) proposed the entity-relationship model in 1976, which formed the basis for the methodology of a conceptual database design and the methodology of the relational DBMSs logical design. In 1979, Codd attempted to eliminate the shortcomings of his pioneering work and published an extended version of the relational model, called RM/T, and in 1990 he managed another one, RM/V2 (Grad & Bergin, 2009). The attempts to create the data model that can more accurately describe the real world were informally called the semantic data modeling (Grad & Bergin, 2009).


The Object-Oriented Database Systems – the Latest Generation of DBS

Using the RDB systems, people faced the problems with such applications as computer-aided design (CAD), computer aided manufacturing (CAM), programming technology, knowledge-based systems, and multimedia systems. The attempts to use relational database technology in those complex applications revealed the limitations of relational DBMSs. At a time when a new generation of database applications appeared, there was a need that would satisfy the application of object-oriented database (OODB). Therefore, the development of the fundamentally new type of databases, object-oriented DB, started in the mid 80’s (Grad & Bergin, 2009).

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The researchers offered a lot of various definitions of the object orientation types, but the most common of them combine the object orientation with their capabilities. Object orientation allows to represent and simulate the real-world problems in the most direct way. Whereas the database functionality was required for the ensuring the data stability and multi-user concurrent access to the application. In a word, in object-oriented data model, any entity of the real world is represented by a single concept of an object. Any object can be associated with the state and the behavior. One could determine the object’s condition using the values of its properties, called the attributes. The property values could be primitive (for instance, the strings or integers) and non-primitive (the other objects) that would consist of a set of the properties. Therefore, objects had the ability to be recursively defined in terms of other objects. The behavior of the object was determined by the methods, which were operated by the state of the object. Each object had a unique identifier defined by the system. The set of them, having the same properties and behavior, was grouped into classes, allowing for the object to be the instance of one or more classes, which also had the hierarchy (Grad & Bergin, 2009).

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In essence, object-oriented databases allowed the programmers working with the languages of the third generation to interpret all information as some objects stored in the memory. The additional interface level of abstraction provided the interception of the queries, accessing the DB’s parts that were located in the permanent storage of the hard disk. Changes of the objects could also be optimally transferred from the memory to the hard disk.

Currently, more than 100 OODB systems exist in the world, such as GemStone by Servio, Ontos by Ontos Inc., ObjectStore by Object Design Inc., etc. Moreover, the relational DBMS developed by Oracle, Microsoft, Borland, and Informix include the object-oriented tools. OODB are widely used in telecommunications and the Internet and their popularity rapidly increases. However, the object-oriented databases still have some disadvantages. The most significant of them is the close relationship between the DB and the programming language. Any application can access the data stored in a relational database, while, for example, Java-object placed in OODB will be interesting only for the applications written in Java.


People started using and creating databases and their management systems more than 40 years ago and, despite the huge variety of the DB systems, the most popular and frequently used are relational (SQL/DS by IBM, Oracle by Oracle Inc.) and object-oriented (GemStone by Servio, Ontos by Ontos Inc., ObjectStore by Object Design Inc) database management systems. Unfortunately, the ideal database system has not yet been created, but, despite the existence of the theoretical problems and shortcomings, the majority of the experts in the databases sphere believes that OOBD systems will have a way into the future.


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