Chapter 14. Database Access


I only ask for information.

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Everywhere you find data, you find databases. At the simplest level, every file can be considered a database. At the most complex level, expensive and complex relational database systems handle thousands of transactions per second. In between are countless improvised schemes for fast access to loosely structured data. Perl can work with all of them.

Early in the history of computers, people noticed that flat file databases don’t scale to large data sets. Flat files were tamed using fixed-length records or auxiliary indices, but updating became expensive, and previously simple applications bogged down with I/O overhead.

After some head-scratching, clever programmers devised a better solution. As hashes in memory provide more flexible access to data than do arrays, hashes on disk offer more convenient kinds of access than array-like text files. These benefits in access time cost you space, but disk space is cheap these days (or so the reasoning goes).

The DBM library gives Perl programmers a simple, easy-to-use database. You use the same standard operations on hashes bound to DBM files as you do on hashes in memory. In fact, that’s how you use DBM databases from Perl. You call dbmopen with the name of a hash and the filename holding the database. Then whenever you access the hash, Perl consults or changes the DBM database on disk.

Section 14.1 shows how to create a DBM database ...

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