AND TO_NUMBER(TO_CHAR(appt_start_dt + 9/24, 'YYYYMMDDHH24MISS')) <= 

Please can a clever Oracle person explain, in English, the precise semantics of this WHERE clause snippet in the comments below.

I realise this construct and variants thereof have probably been discussed ad infinitum on Oracle WTF but I just don’t get it.

I don’t know whether this SQL was written by a human being or a third party ETL tool but it doesn’t matter. Currently, all ETL tools are written by humans in any case.

Why do people struggle so much with date arithmetic ?

When I was a little boy, I used to say ‘Only 43 days to my birthday now, Dad’. Although I didn’t know it at the time I could have written this as

sysdate + 43 = :my_birthday

I even understand that TRUNC(SYSDATE) is midnight - it just seems fairly intuitive and logical to me.

My tiny brain can even understand the concept of date subtraction - last Wednesday was two days ago and Manchester City’s last trophy was almost 34 years ago.

I understand that a date is a date is a date. I realise that a date is not an orange. I realise that a date is not a string and I only see dates in SQL Developer because that was a design decision to perform an implied conversion using the default date format and a useful user friendly feature.

I understand that if I want to display the date and be assured of the date format I need to convert it to a string using TO_CHAR with the appropriate date format mask.

I understand that Unix systems (and the next generation blogging platform, Habari) stores ‘dates’ internally as the number of seconds that have elapsed since the Unix epoch on 01 January 1970 00:00:00.

But look again at that code snippet. The author is obviously familiar with the Oracle functions TO_CHAR and TO_NUMBER but why in the name of God does he convert a date to a string to a number and then compare the resulting outputs ?

What is the meaning of that generated ’number’ - 20100129143559 ? ‘Twenty billion, one hundred thousand and and one hundred and twenty nine million, one hundred and forty three thousand and five hundred and fifty nine. Or something. Why is that a useful number ?

Why did he waste time and energy doing do all that typing ? Is he working on a top secret defence project that requires him to obfuscate the code ? Maybe he is paid by lines of code ? The author is clearly aware of some elements of date arithmetic in Oracle because he used ‘+ 9/24’ to add 9 hours to the appointment start date.

Maybe there was a useful index defined on APPT_START_DT that he wanted to suppress for performance reasons.

I’m not sure but I have an awful suspicion that the object associated with the bind variable :B1 may already be declared as a DATE data type but hey, let’s convert it to a date using TO_DATE - just to be sure, to be sure.

Why didn’t he simply use

AND appt_start_dt + 9/24 <= [TO_DATE] :B1

Why ?