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ASP Web page development Conventional Web page development Our Database book Question and Answer JavaScript Tutorial Book that never was.. Slideshow on the Web Chatline
Concise history of the Internet What we do at databasedesign Current activities Plans and notes ASP experiments HTML Tutorial Personal SQL examples

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Hi. Welcome to the Database Design website.  I'm John Carter and this is the Database Design website. This is what's been happening here (latest first):
24-Jun-2010 Starting a bit of an overhaul of this website. May restart Question and Answer page, now I've found a way of filtering out spam.

23-Feb-2007 Thinking about a major re-vamp and re-launch of this website, based on a consideration of who uses it and what for. Old material will be removed and new material introduced. Now we understand better how search engines work, we'll endeavour to make useful information (e.g. ASCII codes, SQL syntax, HTML syntax, Serverside VBScript, Clientside JavaScript, ASP object model, ASP.NET etc.) more widely-available. Computing material from my ITSLIGO homepage will be integrated in and extended. We shall continue to avoid flashy graphics. As we learn more about SQL Server we'll include that too (e.g. fixed server roles, fixed database roles, system stored procedures etc.) and even ORACLE, which we are just coming on to again - after several years gap.
13-Jan-2005 Updated the personal page, including new interests and updated email, websites, and telephone numbers.
1-Dec-2004 Replaced (hacked) visits database. Congratulations Mr. Hacker. Nice one. Ever heard of Reverse DNS?
Database Design book second edition   The second edition of my database book Database Design and Programming with Access, SQL, Visual Basic and ASP is now available at  Amazon and McGraw-Hill. I'm hoping it will sell as well as the first edition did. It should do. It contains an updated version of all the material of the first edition, plus three additional chapters showing how to get your database onto the internet using HTML and ASP. Hope you find the new material useful!! If you want to talk to me about the book, click on the Question and Answer hyperlink above.
17-4-2002   You can now see the new Contents of the book's second edition, which is to be published this summer.

Database Design and Programming with Access, SQL, Visual Basic and ASP

The new material (all about putting your database on the internet) is highlighted.

14-4-2002   We've added a one-page set of examples showing all the syntax features of the SQL SELECT statement. It's meant to be an aide memoire like the HTML one below.
22-3-2002   Our HTML Tutorial now contains a sheet of HTML tag examples. This is meant to be a one-page HTML memory jogger suitable for desk or handbag - or exam paper attachment - rather than a tutorial. However it does show, in its own primitive way, what HTML consists of.
24-2-2002 We expect to finish the 2nd edn. of the database book in March 2002, to be published in summer. The new content shows how to get your database on the web using ASP. Here are the changes:
Chapter 11, the ADO programming chapter, has been expanded to include more examples, and there are three new chapters:
Chapter 13 is an introduction to web database programming. It just talks about the internet, what hardware and software you'll need and discusses all the internet / web buzzwords, which also appear in an extended glossary. Lots of diagrams. As you know, one word is worth 0.001 pictures.
Chapter 14 is (we hope) a really useful and succinct introduction to HTML. HTML is the programming language used to produce web pages. An HTML summary is contained in a new Appendix 3. Our 'development environment' is just Notepad, your browser (Internet Explorer or Netscape) and FTP. Real programmers don't use Frontpage.
Chapter 15 is on ASP. It shows how to use the Visual Basic ADO (covered in previous chapters) in VBScript to generate HTML commands to access and update data on a database on the internet. Then everyone can access your database - from anywhere in the world! We show how to use passwords to restrict access e.g. customers can see your product data, but only you can change it. All the information you need to develop full-blown on-line ordering and stock control systems etc. is contained therein. As usual, we use lots of examples. No complex development environments are needed. All you need is Notepad, your browser, FTP and an ASP server (a server running IIS). We even let you experiment on our own ASP server at

30-9-2001 Our database book has now been published in Chinese. Click here to see details. We welcome Chinese visitors to the website. To contact us, click on the email link above, or click on Chatline. With the chatline, you'll get a faster response from me and possibly other users round the world. Also see our updates to the new, controversial and opinionated comments on web-page development. We've also simplified access to the chatline by removing some unnecessary features.
3-6-2001 See our new, controversial and opinionated comments on web-page development.
2-6-2001 Welcome back after another set of improvements made by our esteemed web hosts. They've gone Windows 2000. With any luck this change will have had no effect :-)
11-4-2001 We've made a minor change to the chatline. It now has message numbers so you can more easily refer to other messages. We've also made it easier to delete messages. There's a 'hotspot' for this on one of the pages. See if you can find it.
3-4-2001 Check out our new ultra-simple ASP chatline. Send us or someone else a message or engage in the chat or make ill-considered and unsupportable proclamations - anything. It's OK, and it's instantaneous. This website does not necessarily endorse the views you express.
27-3-2001 Welcome back after a short break in transmission. This was caused by the web server moving sites from New York to London. We trust you found other things to do while we were away.

ASP Web site development

ASP allows you to have a database that can be seen by everyone on the internet and updated by those with a password. We can develop ASP applications to your requirements. You can try out some of our existing ASP applications below. Try before you buy. We're the first company in the world to let you do this, probably.

1. Product listing

In this application, your customer sees your product listing and orders by email or phone. You update the product listing by going on the internet, typing the password and making changes. Your customers see the changes immediately. We can tailor this off-the-peg product to suit your needs.

Try it now.

Click here   to be one of ABC's customers, checking prices, stock levels etc.
Click here   to update the product list. The password is knucklebones

To purchase and use this ASP web database application, neither you nor your customers will need any new equipment or software - everything's on the web - all the processing power, the programs, the database, and the technical staff. All you need is what you've already got - an ordinary PC or laptop with access to the internet using Internet Explorer or Netscape.

And that's all your customers will need - simple Internet access only. It won't matter what browser they use or how advanced their PC is (it can use any version of Windows or even poor old UNIX), because we do all the work on the server! That's one of the advantages server-side scripting has over client-side scripting. You don't have to bother about any of this though. The product is ready to use.

Note: We can easily adapt this program to applications other than a product list - any application you have that involves a simple list (e.g. list of events, appointments, etc.) that you want to publicise and easily update from anywhere there's web access, using your password.

For further information on our ready-to-use ASP applications, email us.

This is a true e-business application. It's also an example of globalisation. Just as you can update your database from anywhere in the world, your customers can order from anywhere in the world. That's because the database and all the processing is done on the web - not on your (or your customer's) computer.



2. Product listing plus order processing
This ASP application is similar, but your customers fill in an order form on the web to order your products, which is sometimes more convenient than email, fax or phone. Customer orders immediately go onto the web database and you access them using your password.

For further information on this ASP application, e-mail us on



3. Items for sale
  Click here

Customers advertise their items for sale on the internet database. The password for inserting, deleting and changing items for sale is 'knucklebones'. Customers don't have to put their name or address on the database, just a description of what they want to sell, how much they want for it, and their telephone number and/or email address.

For further information on this ASP application, e-mail us on



4. Travel agents
  Click here

Customers click on a destination and are given a list of travel agents who can sell them tickets to that destination.

For further information on this ASP application, e-mail us on



To discuss your ASP or other database application requirements, e-mail us on


Conventional web site development currently advertises our conventional website development capability.

This site is under construction. In it we want to

  • provide locality-targetted budget priced high quality conventional websites to advertise your product, company or organization, and
  • give you a choice of using either
    > our hosting facilities   e.g. /tubbercurry/yourname or
    > your own domain   e.g.
  • use our growing experience of ASP to provide websites with database access also at low cost

We provide everything, including webspace with your name on it (as above), attractive fast-loading web pages to your requirements, and your own domain name if required (as above).

We use a fast London based server which usually outstrips all the other servers we have seen. We also design your web pages so they will load fast. This is an advantage you will have over your competitors.


Check out our latest Database book

     First edition        Database Design and Programming with Access, SQL and Visual Basic published April 2000.
     Chinese edition    Published August 2001.
     Second edition    Database Design and Programming with Access, SQL, Visual Basic and ASP published Summer 2002.

Database Design book English edition   Database Design book Chinese edition   Database Design book English second edition  

The author, John Carter, says this about the book:

"This book was written to answer numerous questions from second and final year degree and HND students on how to implement their database applications in Access, and then how to produce workable input and update forms and reports using VB. I identified three problems: 1) incorrect database table and relationship design 2) insufficient knowledge of SQL - the main database language 3) too much dependance on Access wizards. So the three key themes in this book are entity modelling and normalisation to obtain the correct database design, SQL to perform core queries and updates on the database, and Visual Basic database programming in its three forms: data control, DAO and ADO. The feedback from my two previous database books led me to include lots and lots of examples of the things typical database applications will have to do. I have also tried to make the lecturer's life easier by including lots of exercises.

Regarding the second edition, I've added sufficient material to allow you to put your database application on the internet. To me, that seemed like the next logical step. Not all databases need to go on the internet, but if you do it, your database application is then available globally. Isn't the internet wonderful! We use ASP. The new edition beefs up the ADO chapter 11 by adding more examples, and adds an intro to the internet (chapter 13), HTML (chapter 14) and ASP programming (chapter 15). If you want to contact me on my email address, please feel free to do so. Alternatively, try our Chatline."

You can buy this book at: Amazon and McGraw-Hill

Look at the book's website here. It includes contents, detailed index, sample pages, further exercises etc.

New: Any questions you have relating to the book will be answered on this website! See below.

For lecturers: A passworded page with outline solutions to selected exercises for lecturers is now complete. Send me an email with your name, role, institution and departmental telephone number in it and I'll tell you the password.


Try our question and answer service. Email us your database question and we'll do our best to answer it and publish it here.

Welcome to the question and answer page. This is a selection of questions sent in by readers by email. (Started 7-8-2000). When there are enough, we'll index them. The advantage of this over a newsgroup is that as well as giving answers in text, we can draw diagrams and give screen shots!

Just email your database question to:

Look here for previous questions and answers.


Try our JavaScript tutorial

JavaScript is the only practical proposition for client-side scripting, because Netscape users can't see VBScript (which is better). So you have to learn JavaScript. These examples should help. You need client-side scripting for processing that should be done on the user's browser, and server side scripting (e.g. ASP and VBScript) for processing that should be done on the server. You can try out each script and then look at the code and the explanation of how it works. Then try the exercises. JavaScript tutorial


Have a look at the Preface and Contents of our new database book (to be published early in 2001 by McGraw-Hill)

This book is intended to fill the role of a standard text for introductory courses on database theory. Typically, such a course might occur in the first or second year of a degree or HND course in computing and business information systems. While the emphasis of the book is on established database design methods and relational database technology, we also give a broad overview of emerging object oriented approaches. Preface and Contents Your comments and suggestions are welcome at If we use your suggestion, we'll acknowledge it in the preface of the book.


Have a look at Steve Martin and Jacquie Bolissian's slideshow-on-the-web pages

This is a site that points the way perhaps to important elements of remote learning. It's a slideshow on the web and it's about the paperless office. To me the important thing is how Steve and Jacquie have managed to produce the presentation itself. I understand the slides were produced in Powerpoint and then put onto the web using Microsoft Publisher. Listen out for the atmospheric mood music on the home page. Cool.


A concise history of the Internet

I heard this summary of the Internet on BBC Radio 5 Live on 16-8-2000 and I thought it covered some significant points about the Internet in just a few words. I asked its author (Matthew McGrath) for the transcript, and here it is:

"With hindsight , the development of the internet as we know it now was an inevitable step in the human desire to communicate. By the late 1960s TV and radio had brought mass communications to a global audience - but the problem with broadcasting was that it only allowed information to travel one way - and what you saw or heard was what the broadcasters wanted you to see or hear. Against this background the Internet was born in 1969 when American academics fuelled by research dollars from the Pentagon, connected 4 major
university computers. This inter-network was a simple but efficient means of transmitting information. It was designed in part to withstand nuclear attack by sending data via alternative routes if one pathway was destroyed.
It wasn't a hierarchy, each computer in the network could play an equally important role in keeping the information flowing. This essentially democratic if not anarchic structure was key to its rapid success. More and more computers connected to the internet and although it remained the preserve of scientists and engineers these early adopters played a vital role in developing communication standards. They also ensured that no one person or group controlled the net.  It was vast pool of information that everyone could share equally in. And that is where the internet might have remained if it hadn't been for two important developments. First the Personal Computer introduced by IBM in 1981. These cheap but powerful machines were adept at word processing and doing sums but when Tim Berners Lee developed the world wide web in 1991, this graphical way of distributing and accessing information was a match made in heaven for the powerful desktop PC. This web has literally changed the way we view the internet and that change has brought the benefits of information sharing via the Net to billions.  No longer is communication a one way street. The internet has give an equal voice to everyone who gets connected. (Discuss). Few would have predicted the widespread impact of the net in its short life to date - but that, say the experts is only the start. The real internet revolution is just about to start."

Matthew McGrath
Science and Technology
BBC Radio Five Live
+44 181 6249542
+44 1235 539116
+44 1235 520259 FAX


HTML Tutorial

This a brief but fairly detailed intruduction to the basic aspects of HTML - the language of the Internet.

22-3-02 It now contains a useful (:-|we think|) page of HTML tag examples. These are meant to be memory joggers suitable for desk or handbag, or as an exam paper attachment, rather than a tutorial. However they do show, basically, what HTML consists of.


What we do at

  • develop database applications on and off the internet.
  • act as a source of practical information for teachers, students, and database and internet application developers.
  • aim to help you solve database design and database and internet application development problems.
  • promote the database books of John Carter and others. John's most recent book Database Design and Programming with Access, SQL and Visual Basic is available now. It came out in April 2000 and has its own (developing) web pages. Click here to have a look at the book and its web pages.

We are happy to help you with your database design problems by email or (soon) using our newsgroup and to provide on-line and on-site consultancy where necessary.

The advice we can offer most confidently concerns:

  • robust relational database design using entity modelling and normalization
  • SQL database programming
  • Visual Basic and Access database programming (DAO and ADO)
  • designing efficient database programs
  • processing Access databases on the internet using Active Server Pages (ASP)
  • writing VBScript server-side code (modified ADO) to display and update data from the Access database on the internet
  • developing VBScript / HTML code locally using Personal Web Server (PWS)
  • uploading application and database to an appropriate ASP - capable web server - Internet Information Server (IIS) - using Terrapin FTP
  • JavaScript client-side scripting


Current Activities

Putting lecture notes on the web

Downloading Word or Powerpoint files from the website to the student's disk doesn't seem like a good idea. First, because of the size of these files, and second because of the time taken to do the download. So we shall store them as HTML files. If you convert from Word to HTML, you lose the line drawings. FrontPage Express doesn't have a line drawing tool. Word can't save a line drawing as a .gif or .jpg, which is what you want for web pages. It is possible to generate line drawings in Word, copy and paste them into PaintShop Pro to turn them into .gifs and then load them into FrontPage. However, we shall try generating the handouts in Powerpoint (which does have a drawing tool and can produce reasonable HTML) and saving the result as HTML.

Server-side scripting

We are developing more ASP applications. This is our major interest at present.

We're just beginning to realize how nice it is to be able to allow multiple users to update a database from anywhere on earth, using the internet.

Try this one. You can update the database if you like. The password for updating is 'knucklebones'. No rude product names please :-) Remember, this data is available to everyone.

We can put your product list and customer ordering system on line for a very competitive price.

Email us at

Client-side scripting

We are currently engaged in investigating the uses of Javascript to perform client-side screen duties. Netscape can't handle VBScript on the client side whereas Internet Explorer can handle both VBScript and Javascript. So to accommodate both browsers you have to learn the rather clumsy Javascript language.

JavaScript tutorial


Plans and Notes

Alternatives to ASP on the server side

We are also checking out the Java language, which looks rather 70's-ish in its syntax and it's object oriented, which often makes simple things look less simple (to us). For users on non-ASP-capable web servers you will probably have to use this or C++ or Perl. These programs have to be compiled into CGI scripts and linked into your HTML code each time they are used. We like the ASP / VBScript approach because it's simpler and more advanced. We have heard, however, that one online travel company has switched from NT / ASP / SQL*Server / VBScript to LINUX / DB2 / C++ for better speed and connectivity.

Alternative web application development approaches

A UEL colleague (a good programmer) has developed a set of teaching slides for the web that link up to a database. He used Powerpoint to develop the slides, FrontPage 2000 to link up to his internet Access database, and Terrapin FTP to upload.

Our current approach is to use ASP / VBScript with hand-coded HTML for the server end and FrontPage Express with some HTML customization for the client end. Everything's tested out locally on our PC using PWS as a local ASP server and both IE and Netscape to see how the pages look, and it's then uploaded using Terrapin FTP to our internet server Before uploading, we have to change all the DNS-less ADO connection strings.

We are investigating ways to increase productivity and have looked at Visual Interdev and Hot Metal, both of which seem to be little more than HTML generators, much like FrontPage. However, we need more experience using these packages before we can form a solid opinion. There are really two areas in which we seek to increase our productivity:

  • Client side. We like FrontPage Express because it speeds up generation of basic HTML for page content. We would also like an easy way of including JavaScript without having to program it. It's a pity Microsoft don't produce a VBScript-to-JavaScript translator for FrontPage. Then we wouldn't have to learn JavaScript, which looks quite primitive compared to VBScript. See our Javascript tutorial above for an introduction.
  • Server side. We doubt whether we trust any packages that generate database code for us. This view probably arises out of our experiences with VB (e.g. the data controls and the report writers which often don't do what you want, or what they are supposed to do). It is still our policy to use raw DAO and ADO code in most cases.

Any advice, anecdotes etc. you can offer will be most welcome.

(11th Nov 2000) We have discovered that FrontPage has its limitations when developing ASP pages. It fiddles with the VBScript and introduces errors, including moving End If's. From now on our approach to developing web ASP web pages will be:

  1. Use FrontPage Express for basic page layout.
  2. When we get to the stage of ASP (VBScript) coding and subsequently, use humble NotePad - one copy for each page.
  3. Develop the whole site using PWS (Personal Web Server) for testing.
  4. Up-load to the internet host site.

Our current (30th Sept 2001) view on the simplest, cheapest and most reliable way to develop ASP applications

(3rd June 2001) Our new, further simplified approach to developing ASP pages cuts out even more 'helpful' junk software. This is what we do now:

  1. Use FrontPage Express for basic page layout (and then manually correct all the hyperlinks that FrontPage screws up), or use straight HTML copied from a website we like and modify it to our requirements, or just, goddammit, type the HTML straight in.
  2. Do the subsequent HTML and ASP in NotePad. By ASP we mean writing VBScript commands embedded in HTML. Never subsequently use Frontpage for modifications, because it screws with the VBScript - shifting EndIf's about - really!
  3. Up-load immediately to the internet host site (rather than wasting time using PWS). We test our changes on-line. Phone costs are cheap and an upload takes just seconds.

Our basic tip is: avoid overly-complex 'development environments'. They are hard to understand because the instructions are written by programmers who flunked English; they are packed full of unnecessary 'features' because if you're a novice and you're going to buy a package you will want 'value for money' - you'll probably also think that the more expensive the package is, the easier it will be for you - no; they take a long time to learn because the basic things you want to do are surrounded by loads of unnecessary 'features' - you can't see the wood for the trees; their authors want to make simple tasks sound complex because they think that's hip. It isn't. Hip is doing it right. Don't waste time learning to use the latest clunky Development Environment. Learn English (I'm still working on this myself), HTML, proper database design, SQL, and VBScript (ASP is really just VBScript plus HTML). It's much easier, and you'll replace faith and rules of thumb with knowledge.

Thinking a bit more about this, I suppose another reason commercial software is so 'clunky' is not only that each new version has to have new 'features' to entice you to buy it, it also has to support all the features (however awful they are) of previous versions. Wouldn't it be nice if development software was designed to optimize use rather than to optimize profit and job creation? Discuss.


We intend to set up a newsgroup to handle correspondence regarding the books and to help share programming and database development and internet development experiences.


Experiments in Linking Web Pages to Databases using ASP (old)

ASP experiments

See above for more recent developments.

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