Why You Still Count as a Person if You Have Used Microsoft Access—(or How Old Are You, Julie? (or the overuse of parenthesis in early 21st century Bloggery))

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(A Short blog post for DYFHID.  This is like, eight years later than I had hoped, but I do like to keep my promises.  )

Yes, people rag on MS Access. Yes it’s a tippy tool.  YES, you really SHOULD wean yourself off of Access and move to SQL Server as quickly as possible if you like this crazy mixed up data business (and making money). 

But let me share my Holly Hobby Sewing Machine story with you.  (really Julie, Holly Hobby?  How old are you?) 

When I was a kid I had a toy Holly Hobby sewing machine.  It was made of thin plastic parts, glued together with finger paste.  It couldn’t do much.  If you tried to sew through more than 2 kleenex depth worth of fabric, or tried to go too fast, or tried to do any fancy curves or zig-zags, it would complain loudly and break in some dramatic way.   But –using it I learned the absolute basics of sewing and sewing machines.  Thread the needle. Thread the bobbin.   Push the pedal to sew the fabric together.  Avoid Puckering. (tee hee, you said pucker).   I quickly realized I needed a better tool and moved on to a domestic sewing machine designed for grownups with denim, and even eventually supported myself as a costumer using super duper industrial machines capable of sewing diamonds to kryptonite at the speed of light.

There was a similar evolution in my technical career.   I spent the first four years of my career at a business where the primary data was stored in a COBOL application.  The reporting and data extraction were all done through ODBC links to —(drumroll please) MS ACCESS 97. 

It was tippy.  It didn’t scale.  It was located on my local machine.  It used way too many staging tables, because its memory couldn’t process the data from the application without freezing and dying.  If you tried to do anything fast or fancy, it would complain and break, just like my toy sewing machine had done 15 years previously.  But—using it I did learn the absolute basics of sewing database programming and design.  Create a table.  Create another related table.  Write queries.  (Access does not in any way prevent the design of properly normalized data models)

 I forged on learning how to write decent (albeit tippy) databases and got quite a lot of work done with them, considering.  I did realize that I needed to make the switch to the heavy duty Server Technology and paid for my own training in SQL Server, then through stubborn perseverance got a job using it.  Several jobs later, here I am.  I haven’t seen the inside of Access in years.

Here is my point (and yes thank you Ellen DeGeneres, I do have one) (**are you quoting the title of Ellen DeGeneres’ 120 year old book?, SERIOUSLY Julie HOW OLD ARE YOU?)

I am not a bad developer because I started with Access.  It didn’t cause brain damage.  I was a good Access programmer and I am a good SQL Server developer because I have a fairly logical, process oriented mind.  No matter what tool I am using, I still have to process my data logically and efficiently.  I still have to listen to my users, formulate a plan for how to realize their dreams and implement that plan, using the best tools at my disposal. 

A person can have a lot of technical knowledge about SQL Server and still miss the mark on a project through any number of missteps (I.T. projects are fraught with peril—never forget that).  Never underestimate the importance of being smart and attentive.  You can’t fix stupid with a better tool.

(Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off (to lunch) at Piccadilly.)