Sandpanther (sandpanther) wrote,

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SQL: A Public Service Message

What is SQL? Is it a database? Is it a language? Is it both? Neither? Is it a purple ninja spider? Inquiring minds want to know.

SQL is one of the many acronyms populating our current computer alphabet soup. It stands for Structured Query Language. So, from a strict definition, SQL can only be called a language (since, well, it's part of the name. Funny how that works.)

SQL is a language used to get information into and out of relational databases. It's one of many database languages. There are several other database languages out there, and it is a testiment to the success of SQL that I can remember none of the others. SQL is currently the most prevalent database language, and has been pretty much since the relational database caught on - back in the days when sliced bread was also new and trendy.

Now, the same way that among humans the same language can be used in several different countries, SQL can be used by various different databases while still being basically the same language. There are, however, different dialects, depending on which "country" (database) SQL is being "spoken" in. Just as you will get two very different things if you ask for a napkin in the US versus in England, you will get different results depending on different types of syntax in SQL. But usually the differences are minor. Periodically embarrassing, and certainly confusing. But in the end, very minor.

Just as a country where Spanish is spoken is said to be a Spanish-speaking country, a database where SQL is "spoken" is said to be a(n) SQL database. The same way that an English speaker can easily go between Canada, Australia, and the US, someone who knows SQL can move fairly easily between different SQL databases. But just as something that will be perfectly fine in the US may get you into trouble with the law in the UK, doing some things in one SQL database may be illegal in another.

So, just as saying that a given country is an English-speaking country gives one little information on, say, which side of the road to drive on, saying that a company is running a(n) SQL database does not actually give a lot of specific information on the rules and privelges that come with that database. More information is needed to actually know what the database does, and how the data in it lives, and people asking for more specific information about which SQL database one is speaking about are not asking for anything superfluous.

Or in other words, just saying it's an SQL database doesn't really tell the initiated much of anything. If someone doesn't know anything about SQL, though, it may seem to actually give some relevent information.

This public service message was brought to you by Bitchy Boss Lady, who said that the new company is running a(n) SQL database, and then treated me like I was an idiot when I asked which one. Actions taken by stupid recruiters who wouldn't believe that I know SQL unless I specifically mentioned Oracle experience (even though I mentioned databases like SQL Server, Informix, SQL Base -- say, does at least one of those sound like it might have some SQL involved??) also contributed. None of this post was brought to you by a donation from the Ultra Humanoid.

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