Update: I wrote this post a couple of years ago and I have been asked a lot of questions lately about how to explain tech language in a simple way that a child would understand. So, I decided to post it again so that you can understand and use to prepare for your presentation or interview. If you are a tech account manager seeking clients, make sure they understand what you are talking about.
Want to know how to describe the meaning of database to a child?
In a recent conversation, I was asked how to describe the meaning of database to a five year old. Initially, I thought it was a joke but the guy was very serious. I pondered, “why would a 5 year old kindergartner want to know the meaning of database? He or she should be playing with blocks!” And voila! That was my answer.
A database is like a Lego box of building bricks (blocks). How and why? Database = box; Bricks = information, data. When purchased, the bricks come in different colors and usually with a box.
When a child begins to play with the bricks, a typical method is to bring most or in some cases, all the bricks out. Gradually, he or she starts building and putting things back in the box using different methods (one color or multicolor).
A database operates in the same way. Information or data goes in and stays there and when you want to retrieve it, you have to perform an action (in some cases, using SQL, a certain language) to get the info out.
Similarly, when you want to get your bricks out, all you have to do is put your little hands in there and get them out or turn the box over (well, not a tidy method but it works).
Okay, so how did I do?
Whether you are retrieving info from a real database or using a Lego box, an action must be performed. Businessdictionary.com describes database as a: systematically organized or structured repository of indexed information (usually as a group of linked data files) that allows easy retrieval, updating, analysis, and output of data.
So, in my humble and learned opinion, a database is just like a LEGO box of building blocks!
Question: What do you think? Any ideas on how to describe the meaning of a database to a child? How would you describe database in simple terms?
PS. When I started writing this article, I used the term “block” but after a mini research, I discovered that Lego calls it “brick” sometimes even though they can be used interchangeably. So call it block or brick, as long as the message is clear.
Image courtesy of rgb