background on early data management systems and then examines the emergence of the relational model and its rise to dominance in the database field, and the translation of this model into successful commercial products. The final section summarizes the lessons to be learned from history. It highlights the critical role of the government in advancing this technology. For instance, although the relational model was originally proposed and developed at IBM, it was a government-funded effort at the University of California at Berkeley (UC-Berkeley) that disseminated the idea widely and gave it the intellectual legitimacy required for broad acceptance and commercialization.
This case study does not address the entire database field (it omits topics such as transaction processing, distributed databases, and multimedia), but rather focuses on events that illustrate the ways in which synergistic interactions of government, universities, and industry built U.S. leadership in a particular subfield, largely through the work of individuals who developed and then transferred technology between firms and laboratories. As James Gray, a senior database researcher, has observed: "A very modest federal research investment, complemented by an also-modest industrial research investment, led directly to U.S. dominance of this market" (CSTB, 1995a).
The U.S. government has always had significant requirements for the collection, sorting, and reporting of large volumes of data. In 1890, the Bureau of the Census encouraged a former employee, Herman Hollerith, to develop the world's first automated information processing equipment. The resulting punched-card machines processed the censuses of 1890 and of 1900. In 1911, Hollerith's company merged with another, also founded with Census support; the resulting company soon became known as International Business Machines (Anderson, 1988), now IBM.
During World War I, the government used new punched-card technology to process the various data sets required to control industrial production, collect the new income tax, and classify draftees. The Social Security Act of 1935 made it necessary to keep continuous records on the employment of 26 million individuals. For this, "the world's biggest bookkeeping job," IBM developed special collating equipment. The Census Bureau purchased the first model of the first digital computer on the commercial market, the UNIVAC I (itself based on the government-funded Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC) project at the University of Pennsylvania). In 1959, the Pentagon alone