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Introduction

Introduction

Once upon a time, in a far-off corner of a land renowned for its wizards and inventors, there lived a Great Wizard. Like other great wizards before him (the names of Eli Whitney, Orville and Wilbur Wright, and Thomas Edison still ring throughout the land), this Great Wizard devoted his life to inventing products that would improve the lives of people throughout the known world.

One beautiful spring day under blue skies laced with wispy clouds (and there was great rejoicing throughout the realm, for such fine days are rare in this far-north land), the Great Wizard declared to all his wizard assistants: “We should create a new invention that will help all people store and manage information more easily. In honor of this fine day, I name the new invention Cirrus.” And so it came to pass that the wizard assistants, toiling ever-diligently over their keyboards, created the new invention.

When the new invention was almost finished, the Great Wizard declared: “We must fully test this new invention before we can send it out to compete with products from the realms of Borland or Ashton-Tate. Call forth people from around the world, and we shall dub them beta testers.” The beta testers marveled at the capabilities of the new invention. They exclaimed: “We can assemble new applications to manage our data in record time! We can store our information in tables, ask questions with queries, edit the data with forms, summarize the information with reports, and automate the entire process with macros and Basic. We can even access information we already have stored in text files, spreadsheets, or even other data storage systems!”

The Great Wizard studied the information provided by the beta testers with great care and declared, “I think our new invention is ready to enter world competition, but we need to give it a new name: ACCESS ! We should also make it easy for everyone to acquire and use our great invention, so we will ask only for the small sum of $99 to obtain the fruits of our wizardry.”

And so the new invention was sent out into the world, and it immediately became a great success. But the wizards were not finished with their work. In the many years hence (and a year is a long time in the world of such inventions), the wizards toiled on and produced not one but seven new versions of their original invention. They made queries faster and forms and reports more powerful. They enhanced the original Access Basic language (renaming it Visual Basic for Applications) and made it compatible with other inventions in the group of products they came to call Office. They created a way to directly link the powerful forms, reports, and Visual Basic capabilities of Access to another invention of the wizards: Microsoft SQL Server.

Meanwhile, another great invention—the Internet (or World Wide Web)—was taking the world by storm. Although this new invention was not directly the work of these wizards of the north, the Great Wizard quickly realized its value and declared that all new inventions or enhancements to old inventions must work with the Internet. In response, the wizards working on Access created new tools to make it easy to design Web pages that can display or update information stored in an Access or SQL Server database. They made it possible for Access applications to exchange information with Web servers by adding the ability for Access to understand the new data storage language of the Web—Extensible Markup Language (XML). And in the latest version they have made it possible for Access queries, forms, and reports to work directly with data stored on a Web server.

Ignoring the man behind the curtain (please pardon the mixed metaphor), we now return to the real world to continue our story.

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