Atomic data are data elements that represent the lowest level of detail. For example, in a daily sales report, the individual items sold would be atomic data, while rollups such as invoice and summary totals from invoices are aggregate data.
The word atomic data is based on the atom where in chemistry and physics is the smallest particle that can characterized a chemical element. In natural philosophy, the atom is the indestructible building blocks of the universe. In the same light, atomic data is the smallest data that has details that come up with a complete meaning.
In the field of computer science specifically in computer programming, atomic data refers to a data type whether it is an action or an object that can no longer be broken down into smaller unites. In other words, the data type is no longer divisible, changeable and always whole.
In general, a data type is a classification of a specific type of information that has properties. Depending on the programming language being used – whether C, Java or Assembly Language – the information varies. Generally, there are three types of data.
They are the integer data type which is a whole number that does not have a fraction component, the floating point data type, which can contain a decimal point and the character, which refers to any readable text. Another atomic data is the Boolean data type which refers to two values only – on or off, yes or no, or true or false.
Atomic data types have a common set of properties which include class name, total data size, byte order referring to how the bits are arranged as they reside in memory, precision which refers to the significant part of a data, offset or the location of the significant data within the entire data itself and padding which identifies that data which is not significant.
In different programming languages, atomic data types can have different manifestations. For instance in a structure query language (SQL), an atomic function either completes its operation or will totally return to the original state if interruptions like power failure occur. In some systems based on the Unix operating systems, the atomic data type cannot be changed. In another language like Lisp, an atomic data types refers to the basic unit of a code that executes.
Relational databases can be the best example of how atomic data are stored and retrieved to form a larger set called aggregate data. There is a need to manage and access data that describe or represent properties or object whether real or imaginary in all computer systems.
A database, which is in its very essence a record keeping system in one example where objects are referred to in terms of item information. An object could be a client or a corporation having many characteristics. Data inside the database is structured into a separate and unassociated atomic data item where each contains relevant information.
The database has a structure called a relationship where a query is executed to combine atomic data into aggregate data and reports are generate for statistical analysis so that an organization can draw a profile of many different aspects.
Atomic data can come from several sources. It can come from the same table or can come from different tables within the same database. The internet is teeming with atomic data traversing the information superhighway every single second. Search engines use a special code called crawlers of spiders to index these atomic data to be later used in ranking pages when a user types the keywords in search engines.