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The Commercialization of Database Management Systems, 1969–1983
October-December 2009 (vol. 31 no. 4)
pp. 26-41
Thomas J. Bergin, American University
Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Database management systems were the most important commercial software packages of the 1970s. The authors reconstruct their early history by examining the evolution of their capabilities and installed base. They also document early user experiences, including the sources from which potential users learned about these new technologies, new roles such as the database administrator, and new concepts such as the data dictionary.

1. Datapro Research, "A Datapro Feature Report: A Buyer's Guide to Data Base Management Systems (ADABAS, IDMS, IMS, DL/1 DOS/VS, System 2000, TOTAL)," report 70E-010-61a, 1974. The individual parts of the guide have separate report numbers, and pages are indicated by lowercase letters.
2. M. Campbell-Kelly, "Development and Structure of the International Software Industry, 1950-1990," Business and Economic History, vol. 24, no. 2, 1995, p. 78.
3. See also M. Campbell-Kelly, "Origins of the Software Products Industry: 1965–1970" and "The Shaping of the Software Products Industry, the 1970s," From Airline Reservations to Sonic the Hedgehog, MIT Press, 2004.
4. E.W. Pugh, L.R. Johnson, and J.H. Palmer, IBM's 360 and 370 Systems, MIT Press, 1991, p. 167.
5. B. Grad, "A Personal Recollection: IBM's Unbundling of Software and Services," IEEE Annals, vol. 24, no. 1, 2002, pp. 64–71.
6. Although IBM only reduced its prices by a small fraction and IBM software was "inexpensive" compared to software offered by independent software vendors, it was no longer free.
7. M. Campbell-Kelly and W. Aspray, Computer: A History of the Information Machine, Basic Books, 1996, p. 204.
8. According to Walter Bauer, software package sales in 1970 amounted to $70 million, while the comparable figure for software contracting was $650 million. M. Campbell-Kelly, "Development and Structure of the International Software Industry, 1950–1990," Business and Economic History, vol. 24, no. 2, 1995, reference 1, p. 87.
9. B.W. Romberg, "Data Bases: There Really Is a Better Way to Manage Your Files," Infosystems, vol. 20, no. 5, May 1973, pp. 56–58.
10. For an excellent overview of the early efforts, see J.P. Fry and E.H. Sibley, "Evolution of Data-Base Management Systems," ACM Computing Surveys, vol. 8, no. 1, 1976, pp. 7–42. This is a special issue devoted to the development of database technology containing three other articles of interest.
11. For example, the July 1972 Datamation issue (vol. 18, no. 7) contained three introductory articles: R.F. Schubert, "Basic Concepts in Data Base Management Systems, pp. 42–47; A.C. Patterson, "Data Base Hazards," pp. 48–50, and R.A. McLaughlin, "Building a Data Base," pp. 51–55.
12. The 27 Feb. 1974 issue of Computerworld contained a special report, "Charting a course with Data Base Management Systems," that had 12 articles, including "Data Base Systems the Wave of the 1970s," "For the Unwary, DBMS Can Bring Unbridled Disaster," and "Generalized DBMS Not for All."
13. Technical Publishing began Datamation in 1958; Canning Publications began EDP Analyzer in 1963, and CW Communications began publishing Computerworld in 1967. Datamation was an example of a controlled-circulation periodical that was mailed free to qualified individuals; thus, most people in the ADP community subscribed to it. Most organizations' technical libraries had paid subscriptions to Computerworld and EDP Analyzer.
14. D.K. Hsiao, "Will the Real VLDB Conference Please Stand Up," SIGMOD Record, vol. 12, no. 3, Apr. 1982, pp. 8–14.
15. Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-010-61b, 1974.
16. "The Debate on Data Base Management," EDP Analyzer, vol. 10, no. 3,1972, pp. 1–16. This issue contains an extensive discussion of the Codasyl-Guide/Share controversy including "Some Arguments against the DBTG Proposals," "Rebuttals to Arguments," and a letter from Gene Altshuler, Manager GUIDE Information Management Group commenting on the draft of the Analyzer article.
17. "What's Happening with CODASYL-Type DBMS?" EDP Analyzer, vol. 12, no. 10, 1974, p. 10.
18. The Integrated Data Store (IDS) was developed at General Electric under the direction of Charles Bachman, as outlined in Bachman's contribution to this issue.
19. Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-272-02a–02c, 1974.
20. In 1980, a Computerworld analysis showed that of the 11 systems available for IBM System/360/370 systems, only Cullinane's IDMS and a version of Cincom's TOTAL were Codasyl compliant. See M. Rosenberg, "DBMS Offerings Defy Comparison," Computerworld, vol. 14, no. 28, 14 Jul. 1980, pp. 8–11.
21. This section does not include IDMS, which we discussed in the previous section.
22. Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-132-01a–01d, 1974.
23. Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-652-01a–01d, 1974.
24. Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-491-01a–01g, 1974. This is the longest and most technical of the individual reports.
25. For additional information, see K.R. Blackman, "Technical Note—IMS celebrates thirty years as an IBM product," IBM Systems J., vol. 37, no. 4, 1998; blackman.html.
26. Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-757-01a–01d, 1974.
27. R.M. Curtice, "The Outlook for Data Base Management," Datamation, vol. 22, no. 4, 1975, pp. 46–49.
28. D.E. Cuozzo and J.F. Kurtz, "Building a Base for Data Base: A Management Perspective," Datamation, vol. 19, no. 10, 1973, pp. 71–75.
29. G Schussel, "When Not To Use a Data Base," Datamation, vol. 21, no. 11, 1975, pp. 82, 91, 98.
30. R.L. Nolan, "Computer Data Bases: The Future is Now," Harvard Business Rev., vol. 51, no. 5, 1973, pp. 98–114.
31. R. Hollenbach, "An Application of a Data Base System," Data Management, vol. 11, no. 9, 1973, pp. 68–70.
32. J.S. Blanchard, "We Bet Our Company on Data Base Management," Datamation, vol. 20, no. 9, 1974, pp. 61–65, quote p. 64.
33. V. Powers, "Implementing Generalized Data Base Management Systems," Data Management, vol. 13, no. 5, 1975, pp. 36–40.
34. P.H. Cheney and N.R. Lyons, "MIS Update," Data Management, vol. 18, no. 10, 1980, pp. 26–32.
35. E. Fong, J. Collica, and B. Marron, "Six Data Base Management Systems: Feature Analysis and User Experiences," report NBS TN-887, 1975.
36. A "departmental standard" meant that the organization supported use of the package with training and technical support. Although subelements could use another DBMS, they would have to provide compelling reasons and get formal approval to use something other than the standard.
37. I.R. Palmer, "Appendix A: Case Studies," Data Base Systems: A Practical Reference, QED Information Sciences, 1975.
38. L.J. Cohen, Data Base Management Systems, QED Information Sciences, 1973.
39. J.K. Lyon, "The Role of the Data Base Administrator," Data Base, vol. 3, no. 4, 1971, pp. 11–12.
40. R.L. Nolan ed., Managing the Data Resource Function, West Publishing, 1974, quote p. 40.
41. J.W. Luke, "Data Base Systems: Putting Management Back in the Picture," CSC Report, vol. 9, 1975, p. 9.
42. R.F. Schubert, "Basic Concepts in Data Base Management," Datamation, vol. 18, no. 7, 1972, p. 47.
43. J.J. Cahill, "A Dictionary/Directory Method for Building a Common MIS Data Base," J. Systems Management, vol. 21, no. 11, 1970, p. 23.
44. W.R. Synnott and W.H. Gruber, Information Resource Management: Opportunities and Strategies for the 1980s, John Wiley &Sons, 1981.
45. R.L. Forman, "Fulfilling the Computer's Promise: The History of Informatics, 1962–1982," section 9.26, Informatics General Corp., 1984.
46. Mark IV User Group, Proc. IX MARC IV User Group Meeting, appendix F, 1971, Evan Linick Collection, CBI 130, Charles Babbage Inst., Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
47. J.A. Piscopo, "Oral History Interview by Thomas Haigh, 03 May, Washington DC," 2002, OH 342, Charles Babbage Institute, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
48. Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-010-61l, 1979.
49. For example, Computerworld had a special report, "Data Base Management Systems: Oversold? Underused?" in the 31 Oct. 1977 issue (vol. 11, no. 44) with 13 articles including: "Growing Body of Users Stakes Hopes in DBMS," "Data Base Provides Business Model," and "Multiple DBMS Operate with Little File Redundancy."
50. Figure based on the 1979 Industry Briefing by Int'l Data Corporation, Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-010-61a, 1979.
51. Frost and Sullivan, "Data Base Management Services Software Market," report #A747, 1979, pp. 208–213.
52. Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-010-61a, 1980.
53. "Database Management Systems," report # 703, Int'l Resource Development, 1986.
54. Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-010-61a, 1977. This revived a term common in the early 1960s when the idea of building complex "totally integrated" management information systems was first widely discussed. See also T. Haigh, "Inventing Information Systems: The Systems Men and the Computer, 1950–1968," Business History Rev., vol. 75, no. 1, 2001, pp. 15–61.
55. Cincom, "Courage, Creativity and Commitment: 25 Years in the Pursuit of Excellence," [no date], p. 113. According to Datapro, Total was upward compatible to TIS: Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-10-61p, 1982.
56. Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-010-61p, 1982.
57. In the early 1980s, Datamation magazine started publishing the revenues of "The Leading U.S. DP Companies," including total revenue, DP Revenue (present and previous year), and growth rates. For 1983, a company had to have data processing revenues of at least $94.5 million dollars (up 27% from the 1982 minimum of $74.3 million). IBM headed the list with $35.6 billion in revenues for 1983, and the only database vendor was Cullinet at number 94 with revenues of $198 million.
58. S.T. McClellan, "Cullinet: A Company that Knows How to Sell," The Coming Computer Industry Shakeout, John Wiley &Sons, 1984, pp. 243–246.
59. Because of their size and diverse offerings, it is impossible get accurate financial data about DBMS sales for IBM and Intel.
60. Although Cincom made the Datamation 100 in 1984 for the first time, it was recognized on the Datamation 100 1979 list for its growth rate and its revenues were given as $30.9 million.
61. D.M. Chamberlin, "Relational Data-Base Management Systems," ACM Computing Surveys, vol. 8, no. 1, 1976, pp. 43–66, and E.F. Codd, "A Relational Model for Large Shared Databanks," Comm. ACM, vol. 13, no. 6, 1970, pp. 277–390.
62. A.S. Michaels, B. Mittman, and C.R. Carson, "A Comparison of the Relational and CODASYL Approaches to Data-Base Management," ACM Computing Surveys, vol. 8, no. 1, 1976, pp. 125–151.
63. E.F. Codd, "Relational Database: A Practical Foundation for Productivity," Comm. ACM, vol. 25, no. 2, 1981, pp. 109–107.
64. Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-052-08a, 1983. It is not the purpose of this article to determine whether a package is relational or not. Usage is based on identified references.
65. Unfortunately, Model 204 did not merit a separate report in any of the Datapro Buyer's Guides.
66. Datapro Research, "Buyer's Guide," report 70E-010-61c, 1982.
67. Personal communication: C. McQueen to T. Bergin Cincom3 Feb. 2009.
69. Personal communication: C. McQueen to T. Bergin Cincom3 Feb. 2009.
68. T. Haigh, "A Veritable Bucket of Facts," The History and Heritage of Scientific and Technological Information Systems: Proc. 2002 Conf., W.B. Rayward, and M.E. Bowden eds., Information Today, 2004.
70. T. Haigh, "A Veritable Bucket of Facts," , The History and Heritage of Scientific and Technological Information Systems: Proc. 2002 Conf., W.B. Rayward, and M.E. Bowden eds., Information Today, 2004.

Index Terms:
hierarchical and network database management systems, Total, System 2000, IMS, Adabas, IDMS, DL/I, Datacom/DB, Model 204
Thomas J. Bergin, Thomas Haigh, "The Commercialization of Database Management Systems, 1969–1983," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 26-41, Oct.-Dec. 2009, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2009.107
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