In October, the budget and deficit negotiations were in full gridlock, with each side vehemently blaming the other. I know the actual culprit: the relational database system. It’s one of technology’s unintended consequences that has had a tremendous impact on American politics and a story worth noting in today’s ever-changing technology landscape.
The relational database is a type of database first defined in the early 1970’s by IBM. Previous types of database systems were fairly rigid and were typically designed for a single, explicit purpose, e.g., keeping track of bank balances, and even small changes such as changing a zip code from five to nine digits could take months on programming time. The more advanced relational database saved everything in types of online tables and had the capability of doing a wide range of ad-hoc “queries” on the fly, making it extremely powerful. The first true production relational databases emerged in the early 1980’s, led notably by Oracle Corporation.