February 28, 2021
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Book Review: Beginning Visual Basic 6 Databases

  • By John Percival
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But the world does not stand still and the rate of change has only accelerated in the past 18 months, and it's the Internet that has been driving this change like no other technology ever seen before. With the advent of the Internet in everyone's lives, a mechanism was needed to easily send information across the Internet from host servers to browser-based clients. For example, companies are rushing to build database solutions to distribute information not only across the enterprise, but across the globe. A client in England needs to get product information on the new camping gear from a supplier in Washington State. The tyrant of geography is no more - the Internet is changing the way we live.

Consider the ubiquitous Web browser, such as the Microsoft Internet Explorer. The browser is of course a computer program. Not only that, but the web browser is the most widely distributed and used computer program in history. More computers of all stripes run a browser than any other type of application. Since the browser application is a client, it gets served data from a server computer somewhere in the world. And the browser client, since it is a computer program, can take the data it is served and do things with it.

For example, a simple text file formatted using Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) tags can be rendered perfectly in any browser running on an IBM compatible, MAC, Sun, or any other type of computer. Since the browser can render HTML pages on any computer, the server simply serves the HTML file and it's the individual browser's responsibility to format and render the output. So the server doesn't know or care what type of browser is receiving the data - it just serves it up.

Back to the Future

The business world has discovered the Internet in a big way. The Internet was a 25-year overnight success. Even though it has been around since the late 1960's, it wasn't until the mid 90s, with the advent of the graphical web browser, that the Internet took off like a rocket. Since then, businesses started scrambling for ways to send database information around the globe from servers to browser clients. Wait a minute! A centralized server sending data to a client connected to it? This sounds like the 60's all over again, right? Centralized main frame computers talking to light clients. The world is migrating to mainframe servers serving client browsers connected to them. Information centralized on mainframe servers. Hmmm. Where have we heard this before?

So now programmers need to not only access relational data sources, but non-relational data as well. As we mentioned, Microsoft's approach is to provide a common method to get at data stored in various formats. They think it makes sense to focus on the access to the data rather than to the physical layout of the database itself. After all, what if we need to get at data in a relational database, a legacy system, an Excel spreadsheet, a web site, some text files, and e-mail? And what if these are stored in various locations? Rather than change the world to conform to a single data structure, we want to change the way we retrieve data stored in various structures. Makes sense.

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This article was originally published on November 20, 2002

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