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RE: [ontac-forum] Re: Semantic Layers (Was Interpretation of RDFreificat

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Lucian_Russell/ESI/CSC <Lucian_Russell/ESI/CSC@xxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2006 13:15:17 -0500
Message-id: <OF5DFA3536.B3B096A9-ON85257141.00638FA3-85257141.0064443E@xxxxxxx>


A caution from the history of Computer Science.

If you argue that we "MUST" go with RDF despite its flaws, I would like to point out that at least in one very significant instance that history is not on your side. The example is also in the same general Computer Science area as RDF. The lesson is from the "Database Wars" in the early 1970s.

The CODASYL Network model was proposed by the Data Base Task Group (1969-1971) as the Standard by the in 1971 – I believe Frank Manola worked on a related CODASYL project, the Data Description Language and might have more to say. Ted Codd’s relational model came later to the game, and is recounted in the document “The 1995 SQL Reunion People, Projects, and Politics – Prehistory” (http://www.mcjones.org/System_R/SQL_Reunion_95/sqlr95-Prehisto.html )

Don Chamberlin of IBM (http://www.almaden.ibm.com/cs/people/chamberlin/) was an early CODASYL advocate. In the above material he recounts the following:

“He (Codd) gave a seminar and a lot of us went to listen to him. This was as I say a revelation for me because Codd had a bunch of queries that were fairly complicated queries and since I'd been studying CODASYL, I could imagine how those queries would have been represented in CODASYL by programs that were five pages long that would navigate through this labyrinth of pointers and stuff. Codd would sort of write them down as one-liners. These would be queries like, "Find the employees who earn more than their managers." [laughter] He just whacked them out and you could sort of read them, and they weren't complicated at all, and I said, "Wow." This was kind of a conversion experience for me, that I understood what the relational thing was about after that.”

For those who do not know who Don Chamberlin, he is considered the co-inventor of SQL; I list a few recognitions:
·        Elected IBM Fellow, 2003
·        SIGMOD Innovations Award, 2003
·        Dr. Dobbs Excellence in Programming Award, 2003
·        Harvey Mudd College Outstanding Alumni Award, 2003
·        Elected to National Academy of Engineering, 1997
·        Elected to IBM Academy of Technology, 1997
·        Elected ACM Fellow, 1994
·        ACM Software System Award for System R, 1989

What redirected the field away from the CODASYL model, the "standard" proposed by the group that was the official guardian of the COBOL language,  was that by using the relational model and query languages like QUEL and SQL you could do the work in a one line query statement instead of writing “five pages” of a computer program.

If there is a better way to represent anything then it should be explored, and good possibilities should not be written off merely because the W3C did something different a couple of years ago. After all, it was only a decade ago that C+ was still "THE" object-oriented programming language.

Lucian Russell
Lucian Russell, PhD
Sr. Consulting Engineer
Enforcement, Security and Intelligence Division
Computer Sciences Corporation
8613 Lee Highway
Fairfax VA, 22031
Ph: (703)-207-6136
Fax: (703)-645-0511

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