ODBC is a standard which defines an API for DataBase access independent of the underlying DataBase engine. At the most basic level ODBC translates your calls into the engine's preferred flavour of SQL and returns the answer as ODBC result objects.
Both ODBC and the Call-Level Interface it is based on were defined by the SQL Access Group, which formed in 1989 to "define and promote standards for database portability and interoperability". While MicrosoftCorporation was one of the first companies to implement and release a commercial product based on ODBC, contrary to popular belief, they did not define or standardize it.
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