In last month's column, we started looking at abstracting the ways that we exploit meta data for the purposes of access and data manipulation. This month I want to focus on the basic class concept - a single representation of the binding of values to attributes associated with a single data instance within a data set.

Everyone associated with the management of data sets becomes partial to his/her own milieu - the database analyst thinks about records and tables, the Web services architect thinks about XML documents, the COBOL programmer thinks about VSAM files and the object-oriented programmer thinks about classes and objects. Yet in most situations, each individual is thinking about a particular instantiation of a data instance that is relevant to his or her specific operational context. The basic notion of each representation is a single entity with a collection of attributes, each bound with a specific value. In turn, many of these entities are viewed together as a data set.

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