Here’s a brief history of Microsoft Access

Here’s a brief history of Microsoft Access just in case you wish to step back and reminisce

A brief history of Microsoft Access

Late 1992, Microsoft released the first version of Access (version 1.0) desktop database application for the Windows operating system and was shortly replaced with version 1.1 in mid 1993 to incorporate better compatibility with other Microsoft Office products of that time and more importantly introduce the ability for programmers to code this application using Access BASIC.

Version 1.1 was buggy! and had performance issues and in the same year Microsoft released Windows 3.1 operating system along with Microsoft Office 4.3 Pro (suite of applications including Excel, Word, PowerPoint with Access – version 2.0) as it required the improved hardware, software memory and the power supported by Windows 3.1.

This was an ideal desktop database application tailored to the small to medium sized business that required a low cost database. At that time, the capacity of a disk hardrive was less than 100 MB (mega bytes) and typical document file sizes were in the 100’s of bytes.

With Access however, a database could grow quite large by comparison and files which exceeded 10MB became a potential problem with the performance being affected from the low RAM (random access memory) which the operating system managed. This sometimes caused data loss and data corruption limiting how Access (version 2.0) was utilised.

However, Microsoft Access 2.0 was a rich featured database application which satisfied the majority of developers and general users but it required some time, patience and determination when designing a database as it was not deemed intuitive or user-friendly by any stretch of the imagination.

Microsoft released a newer operating system (Windows 95) in 1995 and this was the foundation of moving to a 32-bit processing system with a brand new graphical user interface (GUI). Again, Office 95 was released which included Access 95 and one of the major changes other than the look and feel of this new interface was the more powerful and flexible programming language and the introduction of VBA (Visual Basic for Applications).

Access Product Boxes - software packagesAccess Product Boxes – software packages

Access 95 was probably the least popular version of all due to the new 32-bit application still in its infancy for the Windows operating system environment and the JET database engine being slow. But it certainly was considered the ‘beta’ version the eventual release of Access 97 (in 1997) which was a true success.

As Microsoft released newer operating systems which included Windows 98, the very unpopular Windows ME and eventually the more stable Windows 2000/NT, a brand new significant version of Access 2000 was introduced.

Any previous versions of Access databases files (MDB’s) needed to be converted into the new upgraded JET engine and incorporate the richer and more powerful tools provided with this release. This was a one-way procedure creating a copy of the old database file (as a backup) and this version became the new standard for Access.

Web integration was a new feature to this version allowing developers to publish results on the internet in HTML. Better security, replication and database connectivity tools really increased the popularity amongst the die hard developers.

Nowadays, this is the earliest version still in use and is even considered as the standard version (engine format default) for the later releases of Access 2002 and 2003 which were minor enhancements of Microsoft Office tools providing better integration with other applications.

The history of microsoft Access continues with Access 2007 being released introducing a new file format (ACCDB) which encapsulated new data types such as the multi-value and attachment fields.

It also followed the new GUI (Graphical User Interface) layout using the standard Microsoft Office Ribbon Bars and provided better ways to manage objects in Access. The look and feel and richer template layouts suddenly made Access a far more user-friendly system to use than ever before.

Users who utilised features like security, replication and Access pages will have noticed these features were dropped in version 2007 and therefore the new Access 2007 still provides support for the previous file formats (MDB) and their respective dropped features.

Professional database developers have always (and correctly so) frowned upon with the claim that Microsoft Access being a truly powerful and robust database and they would lean towards the more powerful and larger engines namely SQL Server and Oracle. But this is about you and me who utilise desktop applications to provide good business solutions at lower and manageable cost.

Access was always going to evolve over time and it has still kept the ‘desktop’ branding and is commonly used as a tool for reporting from larger database systems and as an alternative front-end interface system.

From Access 2000 onwards, developers have been able to connect to true client/server databases and use SQL (Structured Query Language) with VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) encapsulating the use of ADO/DOA objects for more advanced processes and business solutions.

Microsoft Access Timeline
Microsoft Access Timeline image

Access 2010 was released in the summer of 2010 and provides some new enhancements over the previous version. The new changes are mainly to do with better integration with Microsoft SharePoint Server.

This version is a minor upgrade to Access 2007 with few cosmetic changes (still uses the Ribbon Bar – though slightly modified) and now has better macro functionality with the new addition of Data Macros making it more user intuitive. But it’s like comparing Access XP to Access 2003 when it comes to listing the differences!

Written by me, Ben Beitler

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