Conversations with Gran about Databases

So, what’s going on in your databases world this week, young man? I paused, as always, a little unsure of what I was getting myself into. I’d been having these little “technical chats” with Gran ever since her ‘computer incident’, when a blue screen informing her of a “Fatal error: catastrophic failure“, had thrown her into such a state of panic and confusion that she’d fled the room and locked the door.

I thought it might help restore her confidence. Unwisely though, I’d strayed into explaining what I mainly did, databases, and now she wanted a weekly update. She feared for my safety, I think.

I’d had some notable early success explaining things to her, mainly with the help of the Bible. Tables in a database were no different than the money changers’ accounting tables, famously overturned (John 2:13-16). Also, I pointed out, warming to the theme, the “book, chapter and verse” reference that told us exactly what bit of the bible we meant was also used in databases, except we called it a Primary Key.

However, there seemed only so far one could go with this, and generally, the conversations had been a minefield. She’d pick up phrases, misunderstand their meaning and generally get confused.

  • Concurrency – it that like a bitcoin, one of those cache invalidation things?
  • Many-to-one correspondence – we just called it fan mail in my day.
  • Crash recovery – yes, your granddad was in hospital for weeks. I told him he should have got cyclic protection. He was nearly a flat relation.
  • Dirty pages – well I hope you didn’t look at any of them, young man. That’s a nonrepeatable read if ever I heard one.
  • Middleware – it held our stomachs in, pushed various BLOBs up or down, and concealed your input member and other external predicates.
  • Dump Device – ours was in a shed at the bottom of the garden, down the materialized path and just past our ornamental buffer pool.
  • Little endian – He was a wide character. He used to hang out with that primitive operator, Arthur TerrorBite.
  • High whisker – don’t get me started on your granddad’s eyebrows. They were bushy joins, I can tell you.
  • Hard-coded variables – wouldn’t it be better to try the easy-coded ones first?

Certain concepts, such as denormalization, or dynamic cursors, seemed so obviously fraught with difficulty that I hadn’t gone near them. I was learning to choose the battles carefully.

Now it’s your turn. What are the phrases that would confuse your gran or other base relations? Oh help, it’s caching.

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