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How to Eat an Elephant

There is an old joke that asks, "How do you eat an elephant?" 

Learning to work with databases can sometimes feel like trying to eat an elephant. Elephants are big, they might not taste good and they never forget. 

In this way, eating elephants and learning about databases aren't all that different. 

Elephants are big

Elephants are the largest land mammals on the planet. They have big grey elephant ears. They have four great big elephant legs and a big elephant trunk. 

Databases are big too. They are they place that you turn to when you want to store data so they can grow and grow and grow. A well cared for database will grow with use but will still be just the right size. We will learn some ways to make sure that your database is the right size. 

Computer scientists have had many years to determine how to store data.  They have placed much of that information into today's databases. There is a lot to learn and it can seem impossible. It isn't impossible and we will focus on the important parts that will get you up and running. 

Elephants might not taste good

I've never tasted an elephant. 

I've never had a desire taste an elephant. 

I've never wanted to eat a database. 

I don't recommend it.  

Let's move on.

Elephants never forget

Elephants never forget. They must have really good memories. Databases are really good at remembering things too; that is what they were made to do. A database will take the things that you tell it to remember and keep them safe.  When you are ready to remember them you can ask the database for the information and it will return it to you.

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One bite at a time

This is the answer to how to eat an elephant; one bite at a time. Learning to use a database won't happen overnight. It will happen. If you practice regularly, you will have a solid understanding before you know it.

Imagine yourself working confidently with databases.  That can happen sooner than you think. In under a month we will learn basic database skills.  PostgreSQL is the popular database management system that we will be using. 

What is a database?

You may think to yourself what is a database and why should you care? If so, you can go back and review the previous post and it will help to answer your question.

A relational database management system (RDBMS)

PostgreSQL (or Postgres for short) is an open source database management system. It is a popular database solution for building web applications. Web applications need to remember things and Postgres is a popular choice. 

Getting started

The first thing that you will need to do is install Postgres. For this series we will be using version 11.5. Luckily, the good folks over at Enterprise DB have put together easy to install packages for Windows and Mac.  If you are using Linux, please install the version included in your distribution.

Fiddle me this

Alternatively, you will be able to do most lessons on SQL Fiddle or equivalent. This will give you the ability to follow along without installing a database management system.

You've got this!

I hope that you take this opportunity to learn to use databases. How are you feeling about this? Excited? Did you have any problems with installation? Please let me know below.