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Fourth-Generation Languages: Flexible Software Tools for Handling Geologic Data

Steven Cordiviola

Data collected by geologists in different subdisciplines within the same organization have similar attributes, but vary in content, precision, and context. Storing, retrieving, and manipulating these data in a computer present unique software-application problems, which usually require the expertise of programmers, especially if the data are to be uniform throughout the organization.

Fourth-Generation Languages (4GLs) can help both novice and experienced computer users handle complex geologic data. 4GLs are software tools that offer quick solutions for data storage and manipulation, and they allow programmers to create prototype software systems that may be rewritten later in languages such as FORTRAN or COBOL. They also provide common access to data collected by different geologists.

The flexibility of 4GLs places the data handling under the control of the users. Their functionality allows users to manipulate data in the desired manner, rather than following rigid routines built into the software program. Most 4GLs allow users to define data files to be stored in a common access area, so they can be more easily maintained and controlled by the organization. In addition, 4GLs allow users to interface their data with other applications such as plotting and modeling routines, to add new functions or extend data without using more physical storage space, and to access data that may have been stored by other software.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.