Relational databases usually keep data about the current state of things - about how things are now. Updates do occur, of course; but when they do, they overwrite the data already there. In doing so, history is lost. We can't tell how things used to be. To tell how things used to be, as well as how they are now requires that we introduce time into our databases.

This series of articles on a very technical topic is motivated by the fact that increasingly, businesses need real-time access to historical data. No longer can all historical data be pushed off onto archive files or onto less immediately accessible historical databases. The objective of this series of articles is to show how to provide real-time access to history in particular, and to any kind of noncurrent data in general, and to show how to do so using the relational database management systems (DBMSs) and SQL that are available today.

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