IBM Peterlee Relational Test Vehicle (PRTV)

PRTV (Peterlee Relational Test Vehicle) was the world's first relational database management system that could handle significant data volumes.

It was a relational query system with powerful query facilities, but very limited update facility and no simultaneous multiuser facility. PRTV was a successor from the very first relational implementation, IS1.


PRTV included several firsts in the relational database area:

  • implemented relational optimizer [1]
  • implemented cost-based relational optimizer [2]
  • handle tables of 1,000 rows up to 10,000,000 rows[3]
  • user-defined functions (UDFs) within an RDB (also a large suite of built-in functions such as trigonometric and statistical)[4]
  • geographic information system based on an RDB (using UDFs such as point-in-polygon).[5]

PRTV was based on a relational algebra, Information Systems Base Language (ISBL) and followed the relational model very strictly. Even features such as user-defined functions were formalized within that model.[6] The PRTV team also introduced surrogates to the relational model[4] to help formalize relational update operations; and a formalisation for updating through views.[7] However neither of these was implemented within PRTV. PRTV emphatically did not implement NULL values, because this conception was introduced only in 1979.[8]

PRTV was itself never available as a product, but the Urban Management System[9] built on it was available as a limited IBM product.


PRTV was written in a mixture of languages. The higher layers were written in MP/3 and PL/I,[2]:297 whereas the lower layers were written in PL/I and System/370 assembler language.[2]:301 MP/3 was a macro processing language developed at Peterlee from 1973 onwards, similar to ML/I or TRAC.[10] PRTV ran on System/370 IBM mainframes.[2]:301


  1. Hall, Patrick A.V. (May 1976). "Optimization of a single relational expression in a relational database system". IBM J. Res. Dev. 20 (3): 244–257. doi:10.1147/rd.203.0244.
  2. Todd, Stephen (1976). "The Peterlee Relational Test Vehicle - A System Overview". IBM Systems Journal. 15 (4): 285–308. doi:10.1147/sj.154.0285.
  3. Storey, R.; W. Trebeljahr; N. Ourusoff; M. Bunzel (1979). "Report of the World Health Organisation Information Systems Programme and IBM UK Scientific Centre study on the design of information systems". UKSC Report 105.
  4. Hall, Patrick A.V.; J. Owlett; Stephen Todd (1976). "Relations and Entities". In Nijssen, G.M. (ed.). IFIP Working Conference on Modelling in Data Base Management Systems 1976. North Holland. pp. 201–220.
  5. Aldred, B.K.; B.S. Smedley (May 1974). "An urban management system — general overview". Rep. No UKSC-53, IBM UK Scientific Center, Peterlee, England.
  6. Hall, Patrick A.V.; P. Hitchcock; Stephen Todd (January 1975). "Conference record of the second ACM Symposium on the Principles of Programming Languages". Palo Alto, California: ACM: 225–232. Cite journal requires |journal= (help); |contribution= ignored (help)
  7. Todd, Stephen (August 1977). "Automatic Constraint Maintenance and Updating Defined Relations". In Gilchrist, Bruce (ed.). Proceedings of the IFIP Congress 1977. Toronto, Canada: North Holland. pp. 145–148.
  8. Codd, Edgar F. (December 1979). "Extending the Database Relational Model to Capture More Meaning". ACM Transactions on Database Systems. 4 (4): 397–434. CiteSeerX doi:10.1145/320107.320109.
  9. Aldred, Barry K.; B.S. Smedley (May 1974). "An urban management system — general overview". Rep. No UKSC-53, IBM UK Scientific Center, Peterlee, England.
  10. A. J. Cole (26 November 1981). "MP/3 - a top end macro processor with system facilities". Macro Processors. CUP Archive. pp. 133–159. ISBN 978-0-521-28560-5.
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