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I grew up on a farm in America’s heartland. From the time I was eight years old until I left home for college, I lived in a small wood-frame house in rural Oklahoma with my parents and sisters. I experienced life as a bona fide country boy with all its attendant wholesomeness, adventure, and isolation.

I came up in a time when running water and electricity were already commonplace, even in rural Oklahoma, so I have no horror stories to relate about the lack of basic accoutrements or outhouses or dirt floors. I did, however, milk five cows every day before I went to school; I bailed hay in the summer and cut firewood in the fall; and my sisters and I helped our parents plant and harvest a large truck garden every spring and summer. I fed chickens, hogs, and various other creatures, and I delivered my share of baby calves and slaughtered perhaps more than my share of feeder steers.

My parents’ motivation for moving to the country was never quite clear to me. My dad’s work as a government engineer afforded us a comfortable life in suburbia that didn’t seem to be in need of such a major overhaul. Nevertheless, during my ninth year on earth, my parents uprooted us and took us to a life that we city dwellers had never even dreamt of. Prior to that time, I’d never seen a live cow except on television, nor had I ever ridden a horse. We pulled up stakes and went to the country, and all that changed.

I still remember my mother sitting us down the day before we moved and telling us that leaving the city was a chance to learn some wonderful new aspects of life, to gain perspective, to see things through different eyes than most people ever had the chance to. She countered our litany of complaints and misgivings with enthusiasm and reassurance that not only would everything work out, it would actually be for the best. She believed that every experience was a chance to learn something. Like Thoreau, she wanted to suck the very marrow out of life. She decided early on that we would get the most out of our time on the farm, and she did everything in her power to make sure that happened. I didn’t really understand the import of all she said back then—I did not want to move—but I understand now.

Without a doubt, moving to the country was a wonderful opportunity to learn life’s lessons. They were all right there in nature: in the rivers, in the trees, and in the cycle of living and dying so evident all around us. For a boy of eight, there was no better place to learn. Exploring the woods, rafting down the creek, fishing in the pond, pulling fresh fruit from a tree and eating it unwashed—every day was an adventure, a time of exploration to learn more about the observable world. I learned what life had to teach in ways I never could have had we stayed in the city, and I’ll always be thankful for that.

My mother went to great lengths to make sure our education did not suffer as a result of our being transplanted to the sticks. She started a personal library for each of us and tried to infuse in us all the same love for reading that she’d had her whole life. When the county wouldn’t open a library anywhere near us, she convinced the library to start up a summer bookmobile program. Bookmobile Day, as it came to be known, was a joyous occasion, a time when a rambunctious pack of little kids raced each other up the quarter-mile jaunt to the old country church where the mobile library parked. Inside the converted RV, the walls were lined with books, and the air-conditioned coolness was a wonderful respite from the hot Oklahoma sun. We would stay until they kicked us out, each time leaving with an armload of books to be returned on the next Bookmobile Day.

It was during this time that I first began to explore the mysteries of life itself. I wanted to know where it all came from, how it all worked. I read voraciously, my eight-year-old mind gobbling up every science book and every electronics book I could get my hands on. I wanted to know the secret of it all; I wanted to know what the basic essence of everything was. I wanted to know how life, how the world—how everything—worked. I wanted to understand what literally made the world go ’round.

It was in those days that I came across my first physics books and realized that I was on to something. I had found a trail that might lead me to the understanding I sought. I read about gravity and magnetism, about strong and weak particles. I formed a mind model of how the universe worked. I gained an understanding—however imperfect it might have been—of how everything interoperated, how it was designed, and how reality as I understood it came down to just a handful of fundamental concepts that I could readily see at work in the natural world around me. I came to know a basic “system” of life, a framework that could explain pretty much everything that existed. Suddenly, the country, nature, and the world as I knew it began to make sense.

Since that time, I have approached almost everything I’ve learned with the same raw curiosity. I want to know how it works; I want to understand it holistically. I work hard not to settle for cursory explanations or shallow understanding. I am driven to know precisely how something is put together and how its component parts interoperate and interrelate. I believe this is the only real way to master something, to truly grasp its raison d’être.

That philosophy was the genesis of this book. I wrote it to pass on what I have learned about how SQL Server and its fundamental technologies are designed, how they work, and how they interoperate. I wrote it because I enjoy exploring SQL Server. I have covered how to use and program SQL Server in previous books; I wrote this book to detail how SQL Server is put together from an architectural standpoint. By doing so, it’s my hope that I can pass on to you the same wonderment, the same love for technology and for all things SQL Server that I have.

It’s my belief that the road to true mastery of SQL Server or any other technology begins with exploring its design. Knowing how to put a technology to practical use is certainly important, but that begins with understanding how it works and how it was intended to be used. Being intimately familiar with how SQL Server is designed will make you a better SQL Server practitioner. It will take you to heights that otherwise would have been unreachable.

I said goodbye to that sandy-haired boy running barefoot through the backwoods of rural Oklahoma long ago. I live in the city now, but the country lives in me still. My mind often drifts back to moonlit walks in the field, the open sky, the wonderment of all that was and all that could be. I still recall the smell of fresh alfalfa on the evening breeze, the unfettered joy of rolling headlong down golden hills, the abandonment of all of life’s cares for that one rapturous moment. I miss the adventure and the oneness with life that I came to know back then. I grow wistful for the echo of the crow in the distance; I miss twilight in the forest. I miss the tire swing over the pond and the taste of fresh corn pulled ripe from the stalk.

As I’ve said, although I left the country, the country never really left me. The same is true of my insatiable desire to explore and understand all that I can about the world around me and the things that pique my interest. Although I’ve moved around a bit and changed jobs from time to time, the sense of adventure that drove me to explore the strange new place I found myself in at the age of eight is with me still. I have spent my life since those days on one journey after another, exploring one new world after another in hopes of learning all that I possibly can. I am still on my quest to learn all that I can about SQL Server. I’ve been working with the technology since 1990, and still there’s plenty left to be discovered. Here’s hoping that you’ll join me as I retrace my path through the technology, exploring new places and discovering sights yet unseen. And here’s hoping that you will enjoy the trip as much as I have.

Ken Henderson
March 11, 2003

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