Microsoft's first attempt to sell a relational database product was during the mid 1980s, when Microsoft obtained the license to sell R:Base. In the late 1980s Microsoft developed its own solution codenamed Omega. It was confirmed in 1988 that a database product for Windows and OS/2 was in development. It was going to include the "EB" Embedded Basic language, which was going to be the language for writing macros in all Microsoft applications, but the unification of macro languages did not happen until the introduction of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). Omega was also expected to provide a front end to the Microsoft SQL Server. The application was very resource-hungry, and there were reports that it was working slowly on the 386 processors that were available at the time. It was scheduled to be released in the 1st quarter of 1990, but in 1989 the development of the product was reset and it was rescheduled to be delivered no sooner than in January 1991. Parts of the project were later used for other Microsoft projects: Cirrus (codename for Access) and Thunder (codename for Visual Basic, where the Embedded Basic engine was used). After Access's premiere, the Omega project was demonstrated in 1992 to several journalists and included features that were not available in Access.
After the Omega project was scrapped, some of its developers were assigned to the Cirrus project (most were assigned to the team which created Visual Basic). Its goal was to create a competitor for applications like Paradox or dBase that would work on Windows. After Microsoft acquired FoxPro, there were rumors that the Microsoft project might get replaced with it, but the company decided to develop them in parallel. It was assumed that the project would make use of Extensible Storage Engine (Jet Blue) but, in the end, only support for Microsoft Jet Database Engine (Jet Red) was provided. The project used some of the code from both the Omega project and a pre-release version of Visual Basic. In July 1992, betas of Cirrus shipped to developers and the name Access became the official name of the product.
1992: Microsoft released Access version 1.0 on November 13, 1992, and an Access 1.1 release in May 1993 to improve compatibility with other Microsoft products and to include the Access Basic programming language.
1994: Microsoft specified the minimum hardware requirements for Access v2.0 as: Microsoft Windows v3.1 with 4 MB of RAM required, 6 MB RAM recommended; 8 MB of available hard disk space required, 14 MB hard disk space recommended. The product shipped on seven 1.44 MB diskettes. The manual shows a 1994 copyright date.
With Office 95, Microsoft Access 7.0 (a.k.a. "Access 95") became part of the Microsoft Office Professional Suite, joining Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint and transitioning from Access Basic to VBA. Since then, Microsoft has released new versions of Microsoft Access with each release of Microsoft Office. This includes Access 97 (version 8.0), Access 2000 (version 9.0), Access 2002 (version 10.0), Access 2003 (version 11.5), Access 2007 (version 12.0), Access 2010 (version 14.0), and Access 2013 (version 15.0).
Versions 3.0 and 3.5 of Microsoft Jet database engine (used by Access 7.0 and the later-released Access 97 respectively) had a critical issue which made these versions of Access unusable on a computer with more than 1 GB of memory. While Microsoft fixed this problem for Jet 3.5/Access 97 post-release, it never fixed the issue with Jet 3.0/Access 95.
The native Access database format (the Jet MDB Database) has also evolved over the years. Formats include Access 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 7.0, 97, 2000, 2002, and 2007. The most significant transition was from the Access 97 to the Access 2000 format; which is not backward compatible with earlier versions of Access. As of 2011 all newer versions of Access support the Access 2000 format. New features were added to the Access 2002 format which can be used by Access 2002, 2003, 2007, and 2010.
Microsoft Access 2000 increased the maximum database size to 2GB from 1GB in Access 97.
Microsoft Access 2007 introduced a new database format: ACCDB. It supports links to SharePoint lists and complex data types such as multivalue and attachment fields. These new field types are essentially recordsets in fields and allow the storage of multiple values or files in one field. Microsoft Access 2007 also introduced File Attachment field, which stored data more efficiently than the OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) field.
Microsoft Access 2013 offers traditional Access desktop solutions plus a significantly updated SharePoint 2013 web solution. The Access Web model in Access 2010 was replaced by a new architecture that stores its data in actual SQL Server databases. Unlike SharePoint lists, this offers true relational database design with referential integrity, scalability, extensibility and performance one would expect from SQL Server. The database solutions that can be created on SharePoint 2013 offer a modern user interface designed to display multiple levels of relationships that can be viewed and edited, along with resizing for different devices and support for touch. The Access 2013 desktop is similar to Access 2010 but several features were discontinued including support for Access Data Projects (ADPs), pivot tables, pivot charts, Access data collections, source code control, replication, and other legacy features. Access desktop database maximum size remained 2GB (as it has been since the 2000 version).
Prior to the introduction of Access, Borland (with Paradox and dBase) and Fox (with FoxPro) dominated the desktop database market. Microsoft Access was the first mass-market database program for Windows. With Microsoft's purchase of FoxPro in 1992 and the incorporation of Fox's Rushmore query optimization routines into Access, Microsoft Access quickly became the dominant database for Windows - effectively eliminating the competition which failed to transition from the MS-DOS world.
Access's initial codename was Cirrus; the forms engine was called Ruby. This was before Visual Basic. Bill Gates saw the prototypes and decided that the BASIC language component should be co-developed as a separate expandable application, a project called Thunder. The two projects were developed separately.
Access was also the name of a communications program from Microsoft, meant to compete with ProComm and other programs. This proved a failure and was dropped. Years later, Microsoft reused the name for its database software.