12 Nov 2021 • 2 min read

RetroTech: Access 95 - The Atrocity That Taught Me About Relational Databases

Prior to the release of Microsoft Office lived a little standalone database application, and I hate to say it, but I have to credit this clunky yet somehow elegant app with my foundational database knowledge. I believe there was 2 prior versions of Access released for Windows 3/3.1, but I didn’t get my hands on it until the Windows 95 version. Without any prior exposure, trying to create anything useful in Access from scratch was a daunting and near impossible task (especially for a 6 year old at the time); but fortunately their development team was nice enough to include a sample business product database that could be easily reverse-engineered and understood.

Prior to the release of Microsoft Office lived a little standalone database application, and I hate to say it, but I have to credit this clunky yet somehow elegant app with my foundational database knowledge. I believe there was 2 prior versions of Access released for Windows 3/3.1, but I didn’t get my hands on it until the Windows 95 version.

Without any prior exposure, trying to create anything useful in Access from scratch was a daunting and near impossible task (especially for a 6 year old at the time); but fortunately their development team was nice enough to include a sample business product database that could be easily reverse-engineered and understood. In reflection, this is probably also my introduction to my process of reverse engineering software that I still use today.

Why do I think Access was beneficial to my journey? At the age I was while beginning to explore Access, teaching me about any of the complexities of a ‘real’ database would have been far over my head. Other dataabse systems do one thing very well, store and access data. What I needed to truly learn was more than that though. That’s where MS Access bridged the gap for me with it’s easy to use tools to build data entry forms, reports, navigation forms, as well as a semi-robust programming language (VBA). I was able to learn all important parts of a database system: User Interface, Business Logic, and DBMS.

Later on in my early career this exposure also proved invaluable due to the number of clients I worked with tha had built massive Access applications that needed refactoring into server-based database systems, spring-boarding me deep into my professional career.

Who would have thought a piece of software the same age as I am (first version released just 2 months before I was born) would have been so instrumental in my early self-education journey.

Other Posts In RetroTech Series

Prior to the release of Microsoft Office lived a little standalone database application, and I hate to say it, but I have to credit this clunky yet somehow elegant app with my foundational database knowledge. I believe there was 2 prior versions of Access released for Windows 3/3.1, but I didn’t get my hands on it until the Windows 95 version. Without any prior exposure, trying to create anything useful in Access from scratch was a daunting and near impossible task (especially for a 6 year old at the time); but fortunately their development team was nice enough to include a sample business product database that could be easily reverse-engineered and understood.

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