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What is a database?

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Databases The concept of what is a database is not exactly taxing in theory, but sometimes it is difficult to visualise what one is. The easiest example that you will be aware of is that little book full of all your friends telephone numbers and addresses. For each of the entries you will record the name, address and telephone number of each person in the book. What you have done is to create a "record" of that person's details, so when you fill in one entry you create 1 record. Of course a little book like this will hopefully not contain just one person's details (although I have to admit that my own social circle is not much larger than 1, my last telephone bill was a little under �3). You will probably enter at least 20 or so people, so you have 20 or records and this makes up a "file". So a file consists of lots of records, and each of the records are made up of name, telephone and address, these 3 things are known as "fields". Not exactly exciting stuff but the definitions are important. In your time you have probably received numerous forms to fill in and may have had a form that is made up of lots of little boxes that you have to fill in with capital letters and only in black ink. ...read more.


time you have finished looking through, it will have got dark and your mum will be telling you to come in for your tea (or something)!!! How I bet you wished that you had a computerised database, you could have just typed in a query like find all records where town=Folkestone (assuming that you live in Folkestone of course). Hey presto, you have a list really very quickly and with a quick jog down the road I'm sure that the snog will follow. This may not be the sort of example that an exam is going to test you about, but it is a little more interesting than what happens with databases in the real world. Normal examples of databases are maybe a debt collector searching through a database of thousands of clients who owe him cash and then sending round a large man to break their legs. I mean these large men cost lots of money so sorting through bits of cards by hand would not be cost effective. OK, so this isn't the best real world example so if you want one imagine a dentist searching through his records to find those customers who have appointments in the next few weeks and just sending out letters to them. Happy now? The whole point is that you can search a database to find those people on the database who match a certain criteria like they owe money, have appointments due or live in certain towns. ...read more.


OK, so at this stage we have thought about the length that a field needs to be, what type of field that it will be and if the field will need to be coded. Now here comes the absolutely essential bit. Every time that I teach a group of children I always try to emphasise this point about 6 or 7 times, however there are always a few who manage to completely ignore this request and just plough on into their projects regardless. When you build a database you will have to have a "key" field and this is going to have to be unique. Let me explain, in our school there are 3 children with the name Christopher Smith and each of them needs an user id to log onto our network. User ids in our school are given out by putting the surname first and then the initial of the first name, for example David Jones would be JONESD. But we have a problem when there are 3 Chris Smiths. So we have a SMITHC, a SMITHCH and a SMITHCHR. What this means is that every person on our network has a unique user id to log on with. The same has to be true of your database. The very first field in any database that you decide to set up must be such a key field, otherwise confusion will be caused if 2 people have the same name. ...read more.

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