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Hitchhiker's Guide
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Boost Data Ltd.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


In 1992, Microsoft first launched Microsoft Access Version 1.0 as a competitor for FoxPro (which it bought), Btrieve, Paradox, PowerBuilder, and DBASE. Many think that this was Microsoft's first foray into the world of database engines. It wasn't—Microsoft introduced its first DBMS system in 1988 when it joined with Sybase and Ashton-Tate to launch its own version of SQL Server. While designed for use with OS/2, Microsoft quickly moved to leverage the considerable work they had been doing on their new NT operating system. This made the Microsoft version faster, smaller, and more competitive. It would eventually become the market leader in a very competitive DBMS industry.

Microsoft's first "RAD" development tool for Windows was created in 1991 with the introduction of Visual Basic. While Visual Basic took three versions to integrate data access into its user interface, Visual Basic was not the first Microsoft BASIC language to access SQL Server. That honor goes to Quick Basic after a Microsoft developer working on the SQL Server team built his own data access interface to make it easier to access SQL Server's only published API interface, DB-Library. Again, Visual Basic has evolved into the world-class Visual Basic 6.0 and more recently Visual Basic .NET languages. Much of the success of SQL Server can be directly tied to the ability of developers at all skill levels to create data access applications that leverage SQL Server's power, scalability, and flexibility.

I joined Microsoft in 1988 where I had the pleasure of serving as the first program manager for SQL Server. Our teams worked with Sybase early on and eventually helped create the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) standard. Later in my career, we helped bring together the Visual Studio family of developer tools and drive the Win32 API, customer requirements, and product specification for the Microsoft Windows NT operating system. Since then, I have held many different roles at Microsoft and most recently have taken on the responsibility of Senior Vice President of the Server and Tools business unit that encompasses both SQL Server and the development languages.

During these years, we all witnessed SQL Server's market share grow steadily from an "all other" slice to over 50% market share and Visual Basic grow to be the most popular language on the planet. However, one problem Microsoft faced throughout this evolutionary period was documentation, training, and user-education. Since the SQL Server documentation team focused its attention primarily on SQL Server, and the Visual Studio User Education team focused primarily on user interface, tools, local data, and language issues, a gap was created that only someone familiar with both disciplines could tackle.

From the very earliest versions of SQL Server, while working for Microsoft University, Bill Vaughn wrote SQL Server courseware, managed and mentored SQL Server trainers, and wrote books and articles. This entire body of work was focused on helping developers understand how SQL Server and development languages like Visual Basic and Visual Basic .NET can be used to best leverage the power of SQL Server. His efforts to tie SQL Server and Visual Basic together were continued while he worked for the Visual Basic user education team and since retired from Microsoft in 2000. I first met Bill in 1988, and he was often a thorn in my team's side as he lobbied for more emphasis on SQL Server and IT data issues and better access to SQL Server's sophisticated features. It was clear that Bill was not afraid to express his opinions on how the languages and tools should be adapted to handle what he called "IT data." I guess this is because Bill had worked predominantly with very large databases at Electronic Data Systems and earlier in his 34-year career. Since Bill came in contact with so many IT developers while at MSU, many of his ideas were tempered with real-world field experiences offered by his students and conference attendees. No, we don't always like what Bill says in his books, but we respect his point of view. When Bill sees an issue with SQL Server, or the languages, or how they interact, he lets us know through his books and articles. Clearly, Bill is an independent thinker, and while he certainly knows and endorses Microsoft technology, he's quick to point out what works, what doesn't, and how developers can work around the issues.

Over the last 22 years, Bill has contributed a significant amount of quality data access documentation and training. His efforts have also yielded (now) seven editions of his well-respected Hitchhiker's Guides, as well as three additional ADO and ADO.NET books—many of which have been translated into nearly a dozen languages. Developers all over the world have learned to depend on and respect his vast body of work.

This most recent book has been a monumental effort for Bill. Working almost three years on this edition, Bill has drawn on many respected industry sources as well as many of my team members here at Microsoft. He's attended and actively participated in any number of professional conferences and been invited to our own Microsoft software design reviews where Program Managers gather feedback and suggestions from industry experts. His input was invariably on-target for the developer community he represents.

We're extremely excited by the success of .NET and, with 2.0, the opportunity for Visual Studio continues. One of the reasons I can heartily endorse Bill's latest book is that it simply makes it easier for developers at all skill levels to get up to speed quickly on .NET technology using prose that any of them can understand. I support his efforts and recommend this text strongly to developers.

Bob Muglia
Senior Vice President of the Server and Tools Business (STB), a part of the Platforms & Services Division at Microsoft

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