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An Entity-Based Database Interface

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000128889D
Original Publication Date: 1979-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Sep-20
Document File: 12 page(s) / 42K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

R. G. G. Cattell: AUTHOR [+3]

Abstract

A user interface to a database designed for casual, interactive use is presented. The system is enfily-based: the data display to the user is based upon entities (e.g., persons, documents, organizations) that participate in relationships, rather than upon relations alone as in the relational data model (Codd[19701). Examples from an implementation of the system are shown, for a prototype personal database (PDB), developed in connection with the ZOG system at Carnegie-Mellon University (Robertson et al[1977]). Some details of the interface and associated issues concerning relational normal forms, views, and knowledgc-bascd assistance are presented. Experience with the prototype systerri suggests that the entity-based presentation is appropriate for types of casual interactive use that existing database interfaces do not address, such as browsing. It is proposed that such an interface could be used to supplement a query language or other interface to allow users both kinds of views of the data.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

An Entity-Based Database Interface

by R. G. G. Cattell

CSL-79-9 August 1979

Abstract: A user interface to a database designed for casual, interactive use is presented. The system is enfily-based: the data display to the user is based upon entities (e.g., persons, documents, organizations) that participate in relationships, rather than upon relations alone as in the relational data model (Codd[19701). Examples from an implementation of the system are shown, for a prototype personal database (PDB), developed in connection with the ZOG system at Carnegie-Mellon University (Robertson et al[1977]). Some details of the interface and associated issues concerning relational normal forms, views, and knowledgc-bascd assistance are presented. Experience with the prototype systerri suggests that the entity-based presentation is appropriate for types of casual interactive use that existing database interfaces do not address, such as browsing. It is proposed that such an interface could be used to supplement a query language or other interface to allow users both kinds of views of the data.

This work was primarily performed while the author was employed at Carnegie-Mellon University and was sponsored by the Office of Naval Research under contract IN00014-76- 0874. This paper was revised for publication as this report at the author's present address, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Further work based on the entity-based idea is now in progress. Comments on the ideas expressed herein are solicited.

CR Categories: 3.79, 4.33

Key words and phrases: database interface, man-machine interface, semantic data model, entity-relationship data model

XEROX PALO ALTO RESEARCH CENTER

3333 Coyote I fill Road / Palo Alto / California 94304

1. Introduction

Motivation and Goals

'I'his paper presents a human interface to a database system with some desirable properties for interactive use. The central idea of the interface is based on viewing data as a graph network, The graph used is analogous to some recent database models (e.g., Chen[1976]), as opposed to the strictly tabular form of the relationat data model (Codd[19701). The nodes in the graph are objects in the data base (referred to as items, or entities) such as a person, place, company, department, or document. The edges in the graph are relationships (tuples) between these entities. (Unlike ordinary graphs, the edges may relate more than two nodes, but the reader may ignore this for now.) At any tirne, a particular entity and all the relationships (edges) in which it participates are displayed on a user's CRT screen. The user may move to a related entity

Xerox Palo Alto Research Center Page 1 Dec 31, 1979

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An Entity-Based Database Interface

(adjacent node) in the graph by selecting one of the relation instances shown on the screen in this menu. The related entity then becomes the current one, with the relationships in which it ...