Fifty years ago this month a young engineer at mega corp General Electric was on the verge of completing a project that would change technology. Charlie Bachman was working on Integrated Data Store (IDS), the first disk-based database management system (DBMS) that could be accessed by apps simultaneously. IDS made data …
Size doesn't matter
"Others, particularly supporters of NoSQL, would argue RDMS is not suited to large systems."
The size of the system isn't the point. The nature of the data is. RDMS works well with structured data which can be at least somewhat normalized and which is queried primarily on the structured bits. RDMS does not work so well with non-structured data. NoSQL technologies, on the other hand, work better with non-structured data, but aren't as efficient as an RDMS can be with structured data.
"Oh that was all happening in the 1970s"
Agreed. What is different, though, is cheaper RAM and storage and lots, lots, lots more of it. This turns out to have... interesting side effects. We no longer choose carefully what we store; we just dump everything on a big large heap, often speculatively, and hope to work out something useful later. Also, communication and data access is becoming far more pervasive, which has its own side effects. The database technologies by themselves are variations on the tools that indeed go back quite a while. What we do with all that, however, is changing.
Now that the deficiencies in our technology no longer force us to choose we must choose to choose. If we don't, well, bye bye privacy, among other things.
Quote: "I think engineers have more fun than academics," he tells us. "The next project is always different – a fresh challenge – not like teaching the same thing to a new batch of students every year.
Where I work, they usually swap u/grad courses on the academics every three or four years. And the research focus is always changing, or moving to the next step. So it's not as static as he thinks (and I suspect a lot of engineers have it more tedious than he does).
Relative fun value
Agreed. A good academic in a decent position (this unfortunately excludes many good academics stuck in fixed-term teaching-mill jobs) doesn't teach the same thing every year. Even if they teach under the same course numbers and titles, they change the syllabus and classroom practices. And in non-recitation classes, where the class size is small enough that there can be real interaction between instructor and students, that "new batch of students" means it won't be the same class as last year's anyway.
No doubt some engineers have more fun than some academics. And no doubt the reverse is true as well.
And, of course, there are those who wear both hats. (Generally not at the same time, but you *can* perch a mortarboard on top of an engineer's cap if you're careful.)
I've a lot of respect for Charlie.
A Moment of Zen
IDMS structure diagrams used to be referred to as "Bachman Diagrams". Problem was, Charlie didn't create the gory details of the structure diagram... each Record box on the diagram was subdivided into about a number of sub-boxes (Record name, location mode, Area name, etc). These were extensions to the classic E-R diagram; CulCorp even used to give away rubber stamps with the Record block so people could draw their diagrams (I still have mine).
On tech conference Charlie was invited as a guest, and my region had created t-shirts that featured a portion of a database diagram on the front.
Your zen moment: watching the head of West Coast Field Education explain to Charlie Bachman the "Bachman Diagram" on his tshirt.
Pretty Good, but...
The network DBMS stuff has been OK but the reality is Ted Codd's Relational approach has been orders of magnitude more relevant and useful. Also, a lot of stuff is still used decades after development (heck, even some of our decades-old designs are in that bin) but that usually just means it's not cost-effective to redo them - they're there & they're done so just work 'em until they're not needed. And it's probably just me but there did seem to be a vague wistful tone there - 'specially that dismissive (and timely) personal insight on Relational = punch cards. Sorry, Charlie - but I'd think it's probably more appropriate to equate Relational and spreadsheets (just two of the most useful and widely used tools for many modern folks...)