Lunch with Chris Date

Last Friday (8/20/10) I was driving back from the Redwoods in Northern California and decided to see my friend Chris Date in Healdsburg (just north of Santa Rosa off 101). We met after many years. Chris has been living in Healdsburg since last 20 years. We were colleagues at IBM during the early 1980s in the DB2 product planning group.

Those of you who don’t know who Chris Date is, let me briefly tell you. Known as C.J.Date, Chris wrote the seminal book on Relational Database back in the late 1970s while at IBM. This book titled “An introduction to Relational Database” has been used in hundreds of universities as a text-book for decades. Chris is an educator, thinker, and communicator par excellence. During our IBM days, his talk at conferences would see packed audiences. He was like a celebrity in the database technology world.

Dr. E.F.Codd was the original creator of the “Relational Model” based on set theoretic principles (eight finite operations to manipulate sets). It was the first time that a mathematical theory was employed to data processing. While Codd was the founder, it was Chris Date who popularized the theory by his numerous talks and seminars plus the book. Chris left IBM back in 1983 just as we were getting ready to launch DB2 as a commercial product.

He and Ted Codd started a consulting company called “Codd and Date Associates” focusing on relational database theory, design, and implementation. Chris has been critical of the SQL language and some of its impurities and idiosyncrasies. When I brought up the NoSQL movement, he smiled and said, ” I like the term, but not the way people are meaning it, as an antidote to SQL”. In other words, NoSQL (Map-Reduce, Key-value pair,..) is not an alternative to the thousands of SQL users.

Chris has been active in teaching and writing books. He presented me his latest book published by O’Reilly, called “SQL and Relational Theory. How to write accurate SQL code”, published earlier this year. He has done a video-course also on this subject. As we reminisced our good old days in IBM’s Silicon Valley lab, we spoke of many mutual friends and their whereabouts.  It was indeed a pleasure to see him!


2 responses to “Lunch with Chris Date

  1. Hi
    I wonder if you can help me.I used to know Chris Date when he lived in Aylesbury and when we attended the RGS in High Wycombe as boarders.I wonder if you could let me have a contact email address,with his permission of course.
    Thanks in anticipation
    Harry W Clark (Ginger)

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