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Beginning SQL

It's great to have information organized in a database, but what do you do with it once it's in there? The answer is that you have to get it out again before you can do anything with it. And that's where Structured Query Language (SQL) comes in. Keep reading to learn more.

  1. Beginning SQL
  2. Retrieving Data from a Database
  3. The Distinct Statement
  4. Placing Data into a Database with SQL
By: James Payne
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September 25, 2007

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History of SQL

It was the early 1970s, a time of high tech revolution that brought us the marvels of the Gremlin and Ford Pinto. Richard Nixon was relaxing at the luxurious Water Gate Hotel, and the do-gooder hippies finally had a day they could call their own (we gonna party like it's your Earth Day!).

Meanwhile a young Donald D. Chamberlin and Raymond F. Boyce sat staring at IBM's ominously named System R. They had just finished filling the relational database with data and after drinking a whole bunch of champagne, realized that now that they had the data in the database...how could they get it out?

The answer: SEQUEL. No, there was no PREQUEL (I told you, they just had a bunch of champagne). An acronym for Structured English Query Language, SEQUEL was designed to be the first relational database language. Its mission: manipulate information stored in databases. Unfortunately the name was copyrighted by an airline in the United Kingdom, so the name was eventually changed to SQL, or Structured Query Language.

There are many extensions of SQL, including SQL-PL, MYSQL, PLSQL, and PL/pgSQL (for users under the age of thirteen not accompanied by an adult -- sorry, just kidding). For practical purposes, and because I have a word limit, we will only attempt to learn the basics of SQL itself.

One last thing. I know you are thinking: How do I pronounce SQL? Well, I can tell you it is not the way I originally thought it was pronounced, which was squeal (you know, the sound an angered pig might make). There is a heated debate between those that wear tape on their glasses and those with pocket protectors about the proper pronunciation, and at the moment there is a gridlock between the original way of saying it, aka SEQUEL, and the hip-cool-nineties way of saying it- es queue el. I know, seeing it spelled like that makes it seem like something sexy you might say in Spanish.

But trust me, you never want to talk about it on a hot date. Unless you date programmers or database administrators, of course, and even then I'd use caution.

The zenith of 1970's technology

Before We Begin

Before we start, I will make a few assumptions. I'll assume you are familiar with relational databases and have a bizarre yet totally understandable desire to manipulate the data within them. I'll assume that you know how to use a computer (or it's one heck of a coincidence that you are reading this article) and that you have a database program, such as Microsoft Access.

Okay, let's begin.

>>> More BrainDump Articles          >>> More By James Payne

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