A Flat File Approach for the Missoula Foodbank


A Flat File Approach.  Initially, it was suggested to me that I work from something that someone else had developed as a DOS based database many years ago.  In this configuration, everything was stored in one table.

Before you look at the table structure you should try to think to yourself about what would be some of the advantages and disadvantages of such a structuring.

I do not have a copy of the printed form.  But based on the list of desired information given in the previous webpage, you should be able to get some sense of how this could organized.

The Data Dictionary looked something like the following.



This really is the data dictionary of someone efforts to develop an Access database.

Notice how the fieldnames seem so unrelated to much of anything.  You should also notice how much DUPNAME-- with some number after it is used as a field name.

  • the first set of DUPNAME-- relate to children and their ages
  • the second set of DUPNAME-- relate to previous visits, their dates and any comments made by the people that did the processing

So think about what it means to have normalized tables.  How is this flat file approach really inferior?

  • what if someone actually has more than nine kids?
    • where will their names and ages fit?
  • there are all kinds of blank entries in the table for people with fewer than nine kids
  • the dates of visits and comments are all most likely to be empty
    • MFB actually had an upper limit of one visit per month per household
  • the field names are worthless for helping someone discern the meaning of the data by looking directly at the table