What is a database?

This is probably a question you never asked yourself or maybe even wanted to ask, yet here we are. You have probably tried Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets at one time or another in your life, make to make sense of a bunch of information or maybe even to make a simple graph. A database is for all intents and purposes just a supercharged version of that, that multiple people can use at the same time.

Although databases working like Excel or Sheets are by far the most common, there are also a bunch of other database types that work in very different ways, for different purposes. To simplify things though, we will focus on the first one, these are usually also referred to as RDBMS aka Relational DataBase Management System, which is fancy tech speak for a computer that shares a bunch of Excel sheets which are all linked together.

People Network
People can also be linked through information, a bit like databases

By now you are probably asking what you can use a database for, the answer may be that you don’t, but you can most likely find a use for one in your daily life. Lots of things need organisation and a database can be used to store large amounts of information and correlate them with each other. This can then later be grabbed to be used in for example Excel, Sheets or any myriad of other programs, to cross combine in new ways and put back in the database.

It is probably getting a bit confusing by now, but lets use some more relatable scenarios. In a database you could for example add a list of your things, the locations they are in, how many you have of each and any other interesting information you might want to store on them. This way you have a good index of your things and can easily search for an item you have forgotten where is. Now say a friend borrows your comb, now you might actually want to make a new list of locations, as you can then add an address, name, phone number and a bunch of other things.

The way relational database work, you can now link these two lists together by location, so you can search an item and pull out its full descriptive location or you can look at the amount of items at a certain location. These lists or tables as they are called in fancy tech speak can be expanded upon and cross related almost infinitely. This is also why most big tech corporations use them to run their websites, as it can simplify and relate large sets of information with each other.

I hope this helped you get a bit better understanding of databases, as well as inspire you to find new uses for these tools. Just remember that you don’t have to be a tech giant to learn something new or to use it in your daily life.

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