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Hanwahr, Nils C. (2017): Mr. Database Jim Gray and the History of Database Technologies. In: Ntm, Vol. 25, No. 4: pp. 519-542

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Although the widespread use of the term "Big Data" is comparatively recent, it invokes a phenomenon in the developments of database technology with distinct historical contexts. The database engineer Jim Gray, known as "Mr. Database" in Silicon Valley before his disappearance at sea in 2007, was involved in many of the crucial developments since the 1970s that constitute the foundation of exceedingly large and distributed databases. Jim Gray was involved in the development of relational database systems based on the concepts of Edgar F. Codd at IBM in the 1970s before he went on to develop principles of Transaction Processing that enable the parallel and highly distributed performance of databases today. He was also involved in creating forums for discourse between academia and industry, which influenced industry performance standards as well as database research agendas. As a co-founder of the San Francisco branch of Microsoft Research, Gray increasingly turned toward scientific applications of database technologies, e. g. leading the TerraServer project, an online database of satellite images. Inspired by Vannevar Bush's idea of the memex, Gray laid out his vision of a Personal Memex as well as a World Memex, eventually postulating a new era of data-based scientific discovery termed "Fourth Paradigm Science". This article gives an overview of Gray's contributions to the development of database technology as well as his research agendas and shows that central notions of Big Data have been occupying database engineers for much longer than the actual term has been in use.

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