The History of ODBC

The History of ODBC Open Database Connectivity is a programming interface specifically designed to handle database management systems. Written in the C programming language, it is completely independent of any operating system or database system. Applications written with ODBC can be ported to any platform for clients or servers without making major changes to the coding. As such, ODBC makes for an extremely versatile and portable language that can be used readily between many different systems for maximum interoperability and ease-of-data-access.

The Development of ODBC

Originally, ODBC was a language developed by Microsoft in the 1990s. As the Redmond firm began distancing itself from the open source movement, they dropped support for ODBC and used it as the basis for their new offering - CLI, otherwise known as the Call Level Interface. CLI and ODBC, because of interest not just to the SQL access group, but the larger Unix and mainframe communities as well, immediately saw the uses of the power of accessing databases in a logical and intuitive manner that could be used across multiple platforms. One of the pitfalls of working with many databases in companies, governments and other institutions is having to deal with legacy systems that can only be accessed from older machines. Upgrades frequently cannot be performed because of legacy access rules and interfaces which prevent newer machines from connecting. As such, an open source database communication system is of benefit to anyone in this situation. A wide range of devices, applications and platforms can all use ODBC to communicate quickly and efficiently with any database server.

The Reason for ODBC

An open source means of communicating with databases was needed for systems administrators, because the traditional "embedded SQL" techniques were just not effective enough at handling certain situations and were fraught with their own limitations. Because SQL had only very basic programming features, it was frequently required to inject SQL code into other languages to achieve certain functions. This approach is detrimental to interoperability of devices and systems. While SQL embedded codes might be multi-platform and multi-system, this is not always the case. Even in the current day, when SQL is pretty much standardised across systems, because it is not a fully functional language in its own right it must still rely on other languages to bring about the feature set required for database operation. For this reason, it was necessary to create ODBC so that all systems can access databases with a unified language rather than relying on other languages and systems.

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Apple Gets Into the Game

While at the beginning databases were dominated by IBM, Unix and Windows machines, in the 1980s Apple began getting into the game. Their Data Access Language became an important way of working with databases for Apple users and the Cupertino firm had its sights firmly set on dominating the market.

Web 2.0 and Interoperability Legacy database systems are often the bane of any company truly being able to efficiently upgrade to a newer working environment that makes it more fluid and practical for staff to get the information they need quickly. With the rise of the second Internet in the 2000s, and the way it has become important worldwide as a facilitator of business transactions and on-line trading, it has never been more imperative to assure that there is a robust, interoperable and easy-to-use database programming language that can be freely developed and improved by anyone skilled enough. Because more and more people are using mobile and touch-pad devices to access the Internet these days, it is far more efficient for programmers to use a universal code that works on every device instead of betting that users will only use one. In fact, it is becoming increasingly more rare that a user would switch their working environment simply for an application; they will search for one that works on their own system instead. As such, it is in any company's interests, whether they create programs or allow access to a database, to work with a coding system and language that is fully transferable from one platform to another.

ODBC in the Current Day

While ODBC is certainly excellent at what it does and in many situations can perform a lot faster and more efficiently than other options, it is somewhat outdated by the rise of MySQL. Most hosting providers allow direct database access using these techniques and the need to install and configure systems using ODBC has decreased compared to previous years. Today, most databases and web servers function extremely well using a combination of MySQL, HTML, PHP and CSS. For certain niche applications though, ODBC is still the most prudent choice for a tech-savvy programmer or systems administrator looking to create value for their business.