The great thing about Active Server Pages is that they are parsed completely on the web server before any content is sent to the browser. For example, you can write an ASP page to display the current time, so that the page is unique for every different second in the day. ASP allows you great power, but its true capabilities shine through once you turn your ASP pages into data-driven ASP pages.
What are data-driven ASP pages? These are ASP pages which connect to databases and either retrieve information from the database and display it, or collect information from the user and store this information back into the database.
The next sensible question is, "Why use databases?" Databases give your web pages the ability to serve as a reporting program. Let's say that your company sells widgets, and the number of widgets currently in stock is in a database. You could write an ASP page which would hit this database and display the current number of widgets in stock. That way, the boss could see the inventory count from anywhere in the world!
That's just one example; there are many, many more real-world examples in which data-driven ASP pages can be used.
To connect to a database, ASP uses what is called ActiveX Data Objects, or ADO for short. ADO comes with ASP, and can be used easily from your ASP pages. ADO allows ASP to connect to any ODBC-compliant database. Nowadays, just about every database is ODBC-compliant. The database you are using is most likely ODBC-compliant; here is a short list of the more popular ODBC-compliant databases: MS-SQL Server, Access, Excel, Informix, Oracle, FoxPro.
The next FAQ will deal with the steps needed to connect to an ODBC-compliant database.