Defining The Database

A database consists of an organized collection of data for one or more uses. The active word is organized… That’s what makes the compilation of data a database. It is not just information, it is information that is organized to formulate complex groupings or categories that make up the modern database. There are paper databases such as calendars in organizers, on the wall (or desks), organizing our data into days and dates, months and years around our special occasions and appointments. We have filing systems for filing away data, telephone books recording business and personal contact numbers and addresses, recipe books where recipes are stored by category or alphabetically. These recipes may be stored by food type (such as fish, chicken, vegetable or fruit or they may be stored according to how they are to be prepared (baked, fried, broiled or boiled). We have desk top rolodexes where contacts are stored by names, phone numbers and addresses. The biggest drawback of the paper system is that although it utilizes no computer, the user of the paper system is stuck with a fixed structure. You can’t add to these systems because they have to be accepted and utilized as they are. They have a known layout – In the recipe book, the telephone book and the rolodex they are fixed and you know which order things are in. They are harder to delete. If you want to take someone out of these databases, you need a black marker to take them out. It is a bit sloppy because you now have a black mark to contend with. A digital database is quick for data entry and retrieval, and it is fast and efficient for database updates. It is smaller in space and size requirements (a phone listing for the entire United States can fit in the memory of your mobile phone, on a thumb drive or on a disk that will fit in your pocket). The most significant thing is that you can change the sorting or grouping at any time (in any stage of development). This can’t be done with a paper structure. The paper structure requires you to remove all pages, put them in a new order or reprint the entire database. In a digital database the changing of the sort and group is very quick, efficient and very easy. The most advantageous aspect of the electronic database is the ability to easily change the sorting and the grouping of the data. Access databases allow you to design and build your own structure for the organized storage of data. It also gives us the ability to sort and group that data to meet our needs (and our changing needs). You can actually change the sorting and grouping order at any stage should you need to see the data in a different order (something you can’t do with any form of printed databases). If the phone book is printed in last name and first name order and you want it printed by zip code, you have to reprint the entire phone book. This same requirement is easily accomplished with an electronic database.