Mignon Emy June 7, 2021 Spreadsheet
Structured Query Language, often referred to as SQL, is a grammar of instructions that allows us to tell a relational database to add, modify or delete data. The key benefit, pardon the pun, of SQL is that it allows us to craft instructions relating large sets of data together. In this way SQL is the natural complement to the single cell and formula based interface of spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel. Imagine you had five hundred appointments from your business calendar laid out in a table. Each appointment might have a day, time, location and description. Now imagine you also had five hundred appointments from your partners business calendar, also each having a day, time, location and description.
Spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel are well suited to tasks involving the manipulation of small amounts of related data. Working out a budget, producing visual reports, organizing lists and calculations that involve many variables are all tasks well suited to a spreadsheet. There are some data related tasks however that spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel are not suited for. Tasks involving the processing and combination of large sets of data for example are generally not well suited to spreadsheets. There is another technology with a long history and theoretical background that specializes in these sorts of tasks. That technology is relational databases. The most common way people insert data into and extract data from relational databases is via the language of Structured Query Language.
Additionally, it would prevent pirating software and Microsoft would be able to have a steady stream of income and continually upgrade their software without having to worry about people stealing their software code. Google of course is beta testing their similar project in order to head Microsoft off at the pass and compete with them for the new paradigm of computing on the Internet. If all your data was stored you would never have to worry about your computer crashing because everything is backed up somewhere else and safe.
Given this data set imagine trying to find out which Fridays you were busy at an appointment at noon while your partner was also busy at an appointment at noon and the descriptions of both of your appointments contained the phrase down town. If you are not familiar with relational databases and SQL it might surprise you to know that the question can be answered by a single simple SQL query. The database and SQL don‘t have it all their own way however. Spreadsheets come in to their own for tasks that benefit from a visual representation. Traditionally databases do not provide a visual way to browse the data in tables without explicitly requesting data.
Lester‘s temporary office at the Factory was glassed on all sides, and surrounded by the sights, sounds, searing temperatures, and smells of the smelting and pouring areas. Originally, the cubbyhole had been used for storing coal and coke until the plant converted to gas-fired furnaces in the mid-‘50s. Over the next three decades a succession of plant superintendents used the room to boink their secretaries, which necessitated its windows being painted a squalid olive drab. During 10 years of performing this chore every six months, Lester had scraped two panes clear, so now he could gaze into the murky, smoky, smelly pit outside as he waited for the grinding computer and clackety printer to spit out a stream of spreadsheets.
He grossed $2,000 a week for his bosses, and earned slightly less than $500 for himself. Still, the wages kept him in seeds, bowling shoes, stick pins, and a Platinum Buddy Holly Fan Club Membership. Lester‘s favorite word was ”crapola,” and he applied it to the ball bearing factory‘s antiquated data processing system in coats as thick as the olive drab membrane clinging to the smudgy glass before him. ”You piteous piece of crapola!” he‘d hiss at the computer when error messages flashed across its screen or its ancient system locked under the demand of crunching numbers to the tenth decimal point. ”Some day I‘ll throw your sorry ass into one of those melting pots out there!”
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