But NPR Isn't A Financial Firm : Planet Money Whoa. A listener inside NPR sends us a correction about our own equipment. We are so corrected.
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But NPR Isn't A Financial Firm

I had a story on Morning Edition this morning.

NPR's own IT expert, Michael Czaplinski sent me an e-mail with a correction or, really, an elaboration.

I found it interesting so I'm posting it.

In the story, I mention Sybase, a software company that serves the financial community. Turns out it also serves the NPR community.

Michael mentions Dalet, which is NPR's audio editing software.

Believe it or not, you are quite familiar with Sybase: when you open Dalet and look in the Base Browser, you are looking at a view of a Sybase database. Dalet uses Sybase Enterprise Server to store the information about the soundfiles (all the stuff you enter into the title form when you save an EDL or a soundfile).

Though it is not wrong for the woman to have said that Sybase had tools that would have allowed bankers to have followed their data and predicted the current financial climate years back, it is a bit like a paper vendor trying to take credit for having written MOBY DICK. Sybase is what is known as an SQL Database, and there are many other vendors who sell similar products; Microsoft and Oracle are two other major commercial vendors of such software. SQL means "Structured Query Language", which means that it uses a standard set of commands to store, retrieve and manipulate data. Each vendor's product understands the normal set of commands: they can't remove the standard ones, but can add to them, and though it is possible that Sybase has added commands and functions specific to the financial business to their dialect of SQL, that doesn't necessarily mean that their software is any better than Microsoft's for the financial industry: it only means that maybe Microsoft might take four or five steps to do something that Sybase can do in only one. SQL databases aren't things that normal human beings like you (or me; trying to read SQL computer code makes my head hurt) deal with directly. They run in the background and other programs send commands to them to get data. Again, to use terms with which you're familiar: the Dalet program runs on your local PC, but the Sybase database is running on a big server on the network, and the Dalet program sends SQL commands to Sybase when it wants to show you what's in a particular category in Base Browser, or when you hit OK on the title form of a new recording. This is why whenever we have network glitches, or someone kicks the cable out of the back of the PC, Dalet goes nuts.