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It may be easiest to think of a database as being the computer version of the old-fashioned file cabinet that is filled with folders containing information. The database is the information, and the database specialist is the person who designs or adjusts programs that determine how the information is stored, how separate pieces of information relate and affect one another, and how the overall system should be organized. For example, a specialist may set up an online retailer's customer database to have a separate "record" for each customer, in the same way that the retailer may have had a separate file folder in its file cabinet for each customer. In the retailer's sales database, each sale represented by an invoice will have a separate record. Each record contains many "fields" where specific pieces of information are entered. Examples of fields for a customer database might include customer number, customer name, address, city, state, ZIP code, phone, and contact person. Examples of fields in a sales database might include customer number, item purchased, quantity, price, date of purchase, and total. With information organized in separate fields, the retailer can easily sort customer records or invoices, just like filing folders in a file cabinet. In this way, the retailer could print a list of all its customers in Iowa, for example, or total sales for the month of April.
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