The 43rd Birthday for SQL

I ran across a neat post that reminded me that SQL is 43 this year. It first appeared in 1974, and not only is it still in use by many of us on a daily basis, it’s the second most common language in the Stack Overflow developer survey. Only Javascript is more commonly used, which is also somewhat amazing. Maybe Javascript really is taking over the world.

I’m not surprised that SQL is so heavily used (half the developers report it’s one of their languages), since almost every application needs to query data from a database. Whether you use a relational store or not, SQL is likely your language of choice. Many NoSQL database technologies have bolted some SQL query capabilities onto their systems precisely because SQL is handy and helpful in sifting through lots of data.

I think SQL is a mess of a language in many ways. The DDL is poorly crafted, and even the DML reads funny to me. The order of operations is nothing like the structure of the query. I’d expect more of a LINQ like syntax (where is the data coming from first) that logically flows the query from data to result. I’m sure that will not change anytime soon since we’re so used to the SQL language. Even those developers that like to write in LINQ really need to know SQL in order to check their queries against back end systems. The survey of loved languages backs up the idea that SQL isn’t great it falls far behind many other languages. However, many of those are more modern languages that provide more convenience and help. SQL is fairly bare bones, with rather immature tooling for a 43 year old.

SQL Server is also doing well, showing up in almost a third of developers’ work, ahead of PostgreSQL, Oracle, and beaten out by MySQL. That’s a testament to the power, ease, and feature rich nature of SQL Server. I wonder if the release of SQL Server on Linux will grow these numbers. My thought is that those companies using another platform on Linux might consider SQL Server instead, perhaps because the robust nature of the platform along with the ease of development may get more people to try it. We’ll have to check back in a year.

Steve Jones

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Editor, SQLServerCentral
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