Chantel Enora June 9, 2021 Spreadsheet
Microsoft Excel is a phenomenally powerful calculator. You can create spreadsheets with 10,000 lines of data and calculate subtotals instantly. Indeed, if you change your data, any totals will get automatically updated. Arguably that‘s not too impressive. If we have quarterly revenues of $1m, and we secure another $20k, we can update our subtotal without summing revenues from scratch. So it‘s more impressive that Excel can do the same thing with statistical functions. If you‘ve ever plotted a chart on Excel, you may be aware that you can add a best fit line. These best fit lines are calculated using a method known as regression. Basically, you have to calculate the distance of every single point from the line, and minimise the sum. The maths is a little more sophisticated but the key point is that, every time you change the data, you need to perform the analysis all over again.
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.
There seems to be a move on the Internet to have only terminals for Internet users and all the hard drive would be saved at giant Internet hubs. Microsoft would like to have all their programs at get their location and users would pay a monthly subscription fee for things like Microsoft Word and Microsoft XL. This way people could do there creating at their terminal and all the data would be backed up that Microsoft. Also, everyone could interface together since they all had the latest version with the latest features. It makes a lot of sense to do it this way.
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 P. Goodbinder had suffered another agonizing week in Pittsburgh. The semi-annual audit he conducted at the Bourgeois Ball Bearing Factory stretched into five 14-hour days examining electronic spreadsheets on an archaic computer system installed in the early ‘80s. The equipment churned so abysmally he cleverly joked to himself it was powered by lazy hamsters on treadmills. Not only that, the accounting software loaded on the system was an early version of ”Abacus,” and only slightly faster than a key-punch adding machine but considerably slower than a hand-held calculator.
When Microsoft Excel is used to manipulate, store and analyse data it can become extremely difficult to manage, let alone efficiently work to produce any meaningful insights. This is because with data sets large and small, the data must be meaningful, logical, structured, internally consistent and clean. This holds true regardless of whether the data has been imported into excel from another system or manually entered. In this computing age, most people know that for any data set to be useable it must first be relatively structured and clean. A spreadsheet and its table layout naturally encourages data to be somewhat structured, however ensuring data is clean is also difficult.