Have you ever wondered the name of a movie you watched years ago, and although it was on the tip of your tongue, the few words of that short title just wouldn’t come out? What about a book you read when you were younger that had a particularly compelling story to tell, and despite every effort on your part to relate that story to a friend, the details simply weren’t in your head anymore?
Perhaps you wish you had kept a simple, personal record of these movies and books, so you could have a quick look at it and easily identify the title that has been bothering you all this time? A database would be perfect for that!
The purest idea of a database is nothing more than a record of things that have happened. Granted, most professionals use databases for much more than storing their favorite movies and books, but at the most basic level, those professionals are simply recording events, too.
Every time you join a web site, your new account information ends up in a database. Have you ever rented movies from Netflix? Their entire web site is essentially one big database, a record of every movie available to rent along with the locations of their copies of that movie among their many warehouses and customers’ homes. The list goes on! Databases are everywhere, and they assist us in performing many essential tasks throughout our daily lives.
You can easily see how databases affect all aspects of our modern lives, since everything you do, from calls you make on your mobile phone to transactions you make at the bank to the times you drive through a toll plaza and used your toll tag to pay, is recorded in a database somewhere.
If these databases did not exist, our lives would surely be much less convenient. In the 21st century, we are so accustomed to using credit cards and printing airline boarding passes at home that, if databases were to suddenly disappear, it would almost seem like we were cavemen again.
Fortunately, we have databases, and there are many people who are skilled at using them and developing software to use alongside them. These people take great pride in their work, as database programming is difficult but nonetheless very rewarding.
Consider, for example, the database team at Amazon.com. They built an enormous database to contain information about books, book reviews, products that are not books at all, customers, customers’ preferences, and tons of other things.
It must have taken them months to get the database just right and ready for customers to use! But, once it started to work well and Amazon.com went live back in 1995, can you imagine the sense of pride those developers had as millions of potential customers poured onto the web site and began to interact with the product they spent so much time perfecting? That must have been an incredible feeling for the database team!
By no means do these brief words do justice to the power, complexity, or utility of modern database platforms. However, they are certain to provide at least a little insight into how significantly databases have changed our lives and how effective they are at providing high quality solutions for difficult problems.
In this series of articles, many of the more noteworthy aspects of databases and database development will be discussed. If this quick introduction piqued your interest, be sure to keep reading, as databases only get more interesting from here!