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SQL etc

Posted Aug 18, 2000

Simple SQL: Pt. 1

By Ted Brockwood

Your boss has given you a mission. It sounds simple enough - you just need to create a few custom reports on your intranet that connect to your company-wide database. Well, what if suddenly you discover the database is a legacy monstrosity filled with arcane language and structures? What if, heaven forbid, nobody can understand it? How will you keep your job?

If you're like some, you might burn a path to the fax machine to send out a flurry of résumés. Others, however, might first check and see if the legacy database is SQL-compliant. Assuming it is, you can probably hold off on the fax blizzard for now. You might just be in luck (and on your way to greater job security).

So what is SQL, and what can it do for you? SQL, contrary to popular belief, is not an acronym for "Structured Query Language". Rather, it's one of those odd acronyms that actually mean nothing at all. Through various mutations in spelling, the SQL acronym came about. Also it's pronounced "ess-queue-ell" in proper circles, not "sequel' as in most circles (including mine).

SQL, at its simplest, is a basic language that allows you to "talk" to a database and extract useful information. With SQL, you may read, write, and remove information from a database. SQL's non-procedural nature makes it easier to work with than other languages, but can at times lead to some messy code for the sloppy people out there (such as myself).

SQL is standardized, and the current version is referred to as SQL-92. Any SQL-compliant database should conform to the standards of SQL at the time. If not, they should state which flavor of SQL (SQL-89 for example) so that you can quickly figure out what features are and are not available. The standardization of SQL makes it an excellent tool for use in Web site design. Most Web application development toolkits, most notably Allaire's Cold Fusion and Microsoft's Visual InterDev, rely on SQL or SQL-like statements to connect to and extract information from databases. A solid foundation in SQL makes hooking databases to Web sites all the simpler.

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