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Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future by Chris Bishop, John MacCormick

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8

Databases: The Quest for Consistency

“Data! data! data!” he cried impatiently. “I can't make bricks without clay.”

—SHERLOCK HOLMES IN ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE'S The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

Consider the following arcane ritual. A person takes from a desk a specially printed pad of paper (known as a checkbook), writes some numbers on it, and adds a signature with a flourish. The person then tears the top sheet from the pad, puts it in an envelope, and sticks another piece of paper (known as a stamp) on the front of the envelope. Finally, the person carries the envelope outside and down the street, to a large box where the envelope is deposited.

Until the turn of the 21st century, this was the monthly ritual of anyone paying a bill: phone ...

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