Missing Data in SQL

A discussion of how to handle missing data enters a sensitive area in relational database circles. Dr. E. F. Codd, creator of the relational model, favored two types of missing-value tokens in his book on the second version of the relational model, one for “unknown” (the eye color of a man wearing sunglasses) and one for “not applicable” (the eye color of an automobile). Chris Date, leading author on relational databases, advocates not using any general-purpose tokens for missing values at all. Standard SQL uses one token, based on Dr. Codd’s original relational model.

Perhaps Dr. Codd was right—again. In Standard SQL, adding ROLLUP and CUBE created a need for a function to test NULLs to see if they were, in fact, ...

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