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Welcome to Sams Teach Yourself MySQL in 21 Days. Today, you will start your adventure of discovering one of the best relational database management systems on the market today.

Today, you will learn the following: 

What a relational database is and for what it can be used  What it means to be on the Enterprise level  What client/server programming is all about  Some of MySQL's features

Understanding MySQL

MySQL, pronounced "my Ess Que El," is an open source, Enterprise-level, multi-threaded, relational database management system. That sounds like a lot of sales or marketing hype, but it truly defines MySQL. You may not be familiar with some of these terms but, by the end of today, you will be. MySQL was developed by a consulting firm in Sweden called TcX. They were in need of a database system that was extremely fast and flexible. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), they could not find anything on the market that could do what they wanted. So, they created MySQL, which is loosely based on another database management system called mSQL. The product they created is fast, reliable, and extremely flexible. It is used in many places throughout the world. Universities, Internet service providers and nonprofit organizations are the main users of MySQL, mainly because of its price (it is mostly free). Lately, however, it has begun to permeate the business world as a reliable and fast database system. Some examples of commercial use are available on the CD-ROM that accompanies this book.

The reason for the growth of MySQL's popularity is the advent of the Open Source Movement in the computer industry. The Open Source Movement, in case you haven't heard about it, is the result of several computer software vendors providing not only a product but the source code as well. This allows consumers to see how their program operates and modify it where they see fit. This, and the popularity of Linux, has given rise the use of open source products in the business world. Because of Linux's skyrocketing popularity, users are looking for products that will run on this platform. MySQL is one of those products.

MySQL is often confused with SQL, the structured query language developed by IBM. It is not a form of this language but a database system that uses SQL to manipulate, create, and show data. MySQL is a program that manages databases, much like Microsoft's Excel manages spreadsheets. SQL is a programming language that is used by MySQL to accomplish tasks within a database, just as Excel uses VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) to handle tasks with spreadsheets and workbooks. Other programs that manage databases include Microsoft's SQL Server, Sybase Adaptive Server, and DB2. Now that you know where MySQL came from, look at what it is. To begin with, start with the term database. What is a database? You have probably used one in your lifetime. If you've ever bought anything over the Internet or have a driver's license, you can be assured that you have used one. A database is a series of structured files on a computer that are organized in a highly efficient manner. These files can store tons of information that can be manipulated and called on when needed. A database is organized in the following hierarchical manner, from the top down. You start with a database that contains a number of tables. Each table is made up of a series of columns. Data is stored in rows, and the place where each row intersects a column is known as a field. Figure 1.1 depicts this breakdown. For example, at your favorite online book store there is a database. This database is made up of many tables. Each table contains specific, common data. You would probably see an Authors table or a Books table. These tables are made up of named columns that tell what data is contained in them. When a record is inserted into a table, a row of data has been created. Where a row and a column intersect, a field is created. This how databases are broken down

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