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Reminiscing about SQL Server


I've only met a couple people in my career who have been using SQL Server as long as I have. I was thinking about the past recently and started to reminisce about the places I've been with SQL Server. Actually I was watching Maryland win the 2002 NCAA men's basketball title and started thinking back about the other games I've seen. And that started the walk down memory lane.

Remember DOS?

I'm sure most people have used it, but there are probably a few who never did. For those who aren't familiar or barely remember it, DOS, also known as Do nOthing eaSily or Don't make an Out of bounds System call, was one of my favorites. Everything was done from the command line in the beginning, though in the early nineties, some text drawn GUIs for applications and even mouse support were integrated. I did some early work in databases with dBase and it's add on, Clipper. Clipper was cool. A compiled, C-like language where I could even write C code modules and link them in. Since I was in graduate school at the time, I enjoyed working in Clipper.

Lest I date myself too much, I learned to write initial databases using Basic and various ISAM type files as well as Pascal and C. Writing your own access routines for every line is not something many people want to do, but at the time, that was all we had on PCs.


Some of the older SQL Server fogies will remember this. In DOS there were quite a few memory limitations. If you needed drivers, then you loaded them into what was called (I guess it still is) Extended Memory. One of the ways to do this was to run himem.sys at boot up and free up a memory block that didn't interfere with the application memory space.

My initial work with SQL Server was running a server on OS/2 v1.3 and installing SQL Server 4.2. This was the initial port form Sybase and at the time, matched up with their numbering schema. All the clients accessed the server using named pipes through the DB-Lib. Something that is still supported. You loaded the DB Library into high memory, configured your access using command line tools and prayed. Sometimes it would even work. At the time, I'd just barely been exposed to TCP/IP in graduate school. All my career networking had been done on IPX.

A quick hint on OS/2 1.3. It doesn't run. At least not for long. I supported a government regulated and mandated application that cut live on Dec 31. The application was a client server application talking to SQL Server as the primary database. I went to work at 5:00pm on Dec 31. I left for home at 2:00am Jan 2. I think I came back sometime later that day.

Not fun, but I had to support it (and yell at developers simultaneously). Suffice it to say the server would run for a few hours and then hang.

So would the app. Then I (or someone on the team) would reboot the server and wait again. I think I worked 400+ hours that January.

Eventually we upgraded to OS/2 v2.0, then 2.1, patched SQL Server with 4.2a and 4.2b.

The dawn of NT

Then after about 6 months, NT v3.1 was released. And I got it. Advanced Server with a brand new Compaq PC on which to install it. That was cool. After a few years of suffering through Windows 3.1, NT was a blessing, new GUI tools, stability, better performance. I thought we were cooking. Things stabilized and I started to learn as much as I could about NT.

Then I moved into the wonderful world of software development using VB and Fox Pro and connecting to Oracle, DB/2 and BTrieve databases. However about a year later I went back to SQL Server.

This time I inherited an imaging application that ran on SQL Server v4.2 on windows NT v3.5. I was also rewriting an old Fox Pro application using Visual Fox Pro and SQL Server as the back end. Fortunately v6.0 had just been released and we installed that. About 6 months later v6.5 came out and with the object oriented Visual Fox Pro, we wrote some great stuff.

After a couple years, we completed our rewrite and had an application that more than doubled the productivity of the old application and ran substantially faster with SQL Server holding the data. Right about this time, SQL Server v7.0 was released with quite a bit of fanfare.

SQL 7 was a complete Microsoft rewrite. They abandoned the Sybase codebase and rewrote the application for Windows. And they included some amazing advanced features. Databases that could grow themselves. DTS for moving data, OLAP for data analysis, all in all a revolutionary product in the database world. Not that those things hadn't existed, but this was the first time they were all bundled to together. The product had tons more stability. At the time, v6.5 had run well, but v7.0 went through a six or eight month Beta cycle for Beta 3. Amazing for a Microsoft product, and it showed.

Of course, there were a number of bugs. There always are in software and for a v1.0 product, which this was, there were quite a few bugs. Of course, it still ran better than v6.5. Though in all this time, my imaging application had run along nicely on v4.2, though I eventually migrated it to v6.5 before leaving, just to get it on the same platform.

Windows 2000

Probably now in familiar space for more of you, but still some memories for me. When Windows 2000 came out, it was fantastic. It had the ease of use of the Windows 9x products, but tremendous stability. A real jump over NT 4.0, which of course, helped quite a bit with SQL Server. One problem? I had a number of older v6.5 servers, which did not like the install on Windows 2000. I remember quite a few test servers blowing up before Microsoft admitted the issues and provided workarounds.

Still for SQL Server v7, Windows 2000 was THE platform to run. Better I/O, more scalable, better tools, and terminal services. Terminal Services, to me, are the single best feature in Windows 2000. They enable me to control my servers from almost anywhere. Something that comes in extremely handy at 2:00am.

SQL Server 2000

I remember this product when it was in the alpha stage. I didn't see it, but the technology was being talked about at seminars and conferences. Then only a handful of features were bandied about and it was expected we would see SQL Server v7.5 in 2000.

Then, as is prone to happen, features started to creep in. More baseline code was being rewritten to handle things such as the C2 certification, and soon Microsoft decided this was a full-blown new version.

Those of us who had to pay the upgrade weren't thrilled, but I have to agree that I think this was a new versions. Enhanced DTS, much better DBCC, an overhauled Analysis Services, reliable and quicker backups, including named transaction points. It was really a v2.0 of the rewritten product and I think it is worth the $$.


I haven't used XP yet, nor have I had a glimpse of Yukon. I'm sure I left some things out, probably notably NT 4.0 and the service pack 2 issues. Probably more things that I'm sure some of you will point out.

It's been a fun journey over the last 11-12 years with SQL Server and I look forward to many more. I also hope that some of you will post some stories using the "Your Opinion" box below. I'd be interested to see if anyone used SQL Server before v4.2.

As always I welcome feedback on this article using the "Your Opinion" button below. Please also

rate this article.

Steve Jones

©dkRanch.net October 2001

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