Reflections of a DBA

    By: Michael Abbey on May 20, 2018


    Editor’s Note: If you ever wonder about why some things are the way they are in the database environment, or if you’re new to Oracle and have the privilege of starting with versions that have GUI friendly tools, this story from Michael Abbey might help with that. It is a view into several versions of Oracle and development along the way. Change actually comes at us faster now, and IOUG has been supporting the Oracle users community all these years. Enjoy this perspective and history lesson from Michael and how a life of a DBA might be changing but still going strong. —Michelle Malcher

    It’s mid-1986, and this kid is out of college with his computer programming diploma and other credentials. I have just spent six months enjoying yet more COBOL/JCL programming on Amdahl mainframes with CICS and TSO … yes, dinosaur acronyms from the 1980s. I get hooked up with a local consulting group called Ourscan. I get the spiel with the name of the company: “If theirs can’t, ours can.” They peripherally introduce me to a relatively new player on the block, Oracle, from a company in the Bay Area that is experiencing some success. Ourscan wants in on the wave of excitement the product is gathering. Unfortunately, almost as quickly as I come on board, the company closes shop.

    I get hired by another local firm called Exocom and work on a PC database offering called Revelation. The company had already got wind of this newfangled offering called Oracle, and opportunities abound. By later 1986, I am getting my hands dirty with Oracle V5 on Windows. I am still three years away from experiencing Oracle on UNIX.

    With a team of three others, I toddle off to Health Canada and start work on a ministerial correspondence system using V5. With that database offering arrived SQL*Forms version 2.2, and my life as a developer against Oracle was born. There was a flurry of activity as we madly programmed using this new interface and played with its three components:

    IAP or Interactive Application Processor

    IAD or Interactive Application Developer

    IAG or Interactive Application Generator

    We produced character-mode screens and were delighted with the new jargon we mastered like POST-CHANGE trigger, reverse return code when aborting trigger, and #EXEMACRO this and that. Then Oracle V6 hit the streets in 1988 and Oracle started running in extended memory. A line would draw itself across the CRT as the final work completed and the database started. We programmed using the user-friendly interface (affectionately called UFI) and discovered it was anything but friendly. No more IOR S (shutdown), IOR W (startup) and IOR C (shutdown immediate), as we now used SQL DBA, a primitive but wonderful database management utility that arrived with V5.

    In 1989, I start working for the feds, and immediately dived into the world of UNIX, the HP flavor at that. OracleV6 is in-house and more work progresses using SQL*Plus and SQL*Forms 2.3. I get the bug to go to an Oracle tech show and ended up in Anaheim, California, for the International Oracle User Week (IOUW) in the fall of 1990. I’m hooked! I get wrapped up big time in the then-called International Oracle Users Group (IOUG) not long thereafter. A handful of us get more well connected in Oracle (the company), too. We are invited to the Oracle 7 launch at the Hudson Theatre off Times Square in the “greatest show on earth.” We introduce our new best friend, the president of Oracle, to his direct reports that we knew but he had not yet met.

    We experience SQL*Forms 3 and are wild about its character-based GUI interface. We use SQL*ReportWriter, missing and opining for RPT/RPF while we dabble with our newfound reporting toy. By that time, we are running Oracle 7 still on HP-UX. I get drafted by a duo in Boston that is trying to finish the first work in the new Oracle Press series — the one and only Tuning Oracle (Corey, Abbey, Dechichio: 1994), and a wonderful career in writing is born. In 1997, we are back in NYC for the Oracle 8 launch at Rockefeller Center. Gerry Baker discusses the Network Computer which, oddly enough, seems to get more attention than Oracle 8. SQL*Plus is maturing leaps and bounds with newfangled functionality every time we see the “SQL>” prompt. More fun abounds.

    Two-ish years later, a new Rock of Gibraltar comes out with a fancy name: Oracle 8.1.7 (i.e., Oracle 8i). We enjoy range-based partitioning and more. The database is still the database and always will be. More works are penned in the Oracle Press Series, with the drafting of a Torontonian colleague named Ian Abramson. We thought he would be helping us, but in a while he takes over the lion’s share of the writing and we are helping him.

    The i word is getting bigger and bigger and, lo and behold, along the lines of a commitment Larry Ellison made in the 1990s, Oracle 9i comes out about four years later. By that time, I am at Pythian and dabbling with Oracle 9i, soon to be Oracle 10g. That opens new opportunities as Data Pump hits the streets, reminiscent of Hans and Franz “pumping you up.” 

    We keep writing for Oracle Press but limit a new offering to the time when a new numbered release comes out. To our delight, the backbone of the database technology keeps getting stronger and stronger. Regardless of what the database has become, we still hang around ?/rdbms/admin periodically opening up a .sql file to see the names like Martin and Lumpkin, some early developers whom we had met during many trips to corporate. The g in Oracle 10g stands for grid and we enjoy the opportunities to indoctrinate and be indoctrinated on this new kid on the block. A while later, 11g come along and a huge offering (did I say huge) of RAC technology. Refreshing and so sweet.

    By that time, our Oracle Press books, though not selling like they did once, are still our pride and joy. Having been there right at the start (of Oracle Press, that is), we so enjoy the train of intellectual and technological geniuses who are joining the throng of writers.

    Oracle 12c hits the streets during the second decade of the 21st century and multitenant is catapulted to the forefront of attention in the minds of tech-savvy colleagues. Looking back on my 30 years with this fabulous software, I think back to a Conference of Oracle’s Developers Alliance (CODA). What happened there perfectly describes my fascination with and appreciation I gained for Oracle the software and the company. They were distributing boxes of CDE2 software out of the back of a lorry. One of the laborers was sitting on a stack of two boxes. My take on that was “Oracle: We Support You.” Big time. Goodnight Ken Jacobs, wherever you are.


    Michael Abbey is a seasoned presenter at many Oracle events as well as a successful author in the Oracle Press world. Michael first saw Oracle in 1986 with V3. He has been one of many faces in the Oracle arena since the early 1990s, giving well over 100 sessions at a plethora of shows since his first in Washington, D.C., in 1991. 

    Released: May 20, 2018, 11:08 pm
    Keywords: IOUGenius | dba

    Rich Niemiec Excellent article by a great author!
    By: Rich Niemiec | Posted: June 13, 2018, 11:29 am

    Excellent article by a great author!  Well done!!

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