In yesterday’s symposium, Adrian gave the analogy of a database being like a ‘box’ with information in it, that has rules so that one can find the pieces of information they want more easily. As soon as I heard this, I thought of algebra. In year seven I remember being taught that an algebraic equation could be likened to a box or a machine and when you put ‘something’ (a number) into it, it would churn out another ‘something’ based on the rules which ‘occupied’ the box. I’m sure most people would have been given a sheet of paper like the one below when they were beginning to learn about this strand of mathematics as well.
Anyway, I soon realised that the association I had made was based on more than just a similarity in metaphor. Algebra is really the basis for the formulas and algorithms which control computers and in turn databases. For instance, a person’s iTunes music library is a form of database – it is ‘box’ of information that can be ordered alphabetically and can be grouped by artist/genre/album etc. If someone uses the iTunes search bar to try to find a song they want to listen to, they may type the first few letters of the band in and in turn the computer utilises algorithms (rules) to find the corresponding information.
Thus, just as Betty concluded in our symposium, databases aid in ‘searchability’ – making it easier for us to find information efficiently.