General Concept

A database is a collection of data. Databases come in many forms. Common databases include mailing lists, encyclopedias, and card files. These examples may not seem to have much in common, but they all share one common feature--they contain information which is sorted or indexed so that it can be retrieved quickly.

A card file containing customer addresses and telephone numbers is an example of a database. Usually, the cards are sorted alphabetically and are separated by tabs so you can find basic information (such as a customer's address) quickly. If the cards were simply scattered in a shoebox, this process would take much longer.

In the card file, the alphabetized tabs act as an index that can direct you to the needed information. However, finding related information (such as all the customers on file who live in Colorado) is much more difficult because the cards are not cross-referenced. Updating the card file is also difficult because it must be performed manually, and the file space often is limited.

A computerized database lets you sort records in many different ways. Because of this, a doctor's office could have one record for each patient, but be able to look up that record by name, insurance company, last date visited, and so forth, making record storage and access more efficient.



A software program that maintains records.



Information that makes up a database.



A term used in a database for a piece of information in a record. For example, a person's first, middle, and last names could be three separate fields.



A group of fields that contain related information usually shown in a single row. For example, a customer's name and address could be considered a record.



Organize information in a field. For example, order by last name in alphabetical (A-Z) or reverse alphabetical (Z-A) order.



Search the database to find a piece of information. For example, find all customers who live in Colorado.





A column contains data of one and the same kind. For example, the column named State.




A row is a group of related data. For example, the information about one customer.