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On the Semantics of "Now" in Databases

Authors: Clifford, James
Dyreson, Curtis
Isakowitz, Tomas
Jensen, Christian S.
Snodgrass, Richard T.
Issue Date: Jun-1996
Publisher: Stern School of Business, New York University
Series/Report no.: IS-96-03
Abstract: While "now" is expressed in SQL as CURRENT-TIMESTAMP within queries, this value cannot be stored in the database. However, this notion of an ever-increasing current-time value has been reflected in some temporal data models by inclusion of database-resident variables, such as "now," "until-changed," "∞," "@" and "-." Time variables are very desirable, but their use also leads to a new type of database, consisting of tuples with variables, termed a variable database. This paper proposes a framework for defining the semantics of the variable databases of temporal relational data models. A framework is presented because several reasonable meanings may be given to databases that use some of the specific temporal variables that have appeared in the literature. Using the framework, the paper defines a useful semantics for such databases. Because situations occur where the existing time variables are inadequate, two new types of modeling entities that address these shortcomings, timestamps which we call now-relative and now-relative indeterminate, are introduced and defined within the framework. Moreover, the paper provides a foundation, using algebraic bind operators, for the querying of variable databases via existing query languages. This transition to variable databases presented here requires minimal change to the query processor. Finally, to underline the practical feasibility of variable databases, we show that database variables can be precisely specified and efficiently implemented in conventional query languages, such as SQL, and in temporal query languages, such as TSQL2.
Appears in Collections:IOMS: Information Systems Working Papers

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