A Brief History of Databases

by Stephen Fortune


Databases are mundane, the epitome of the everyday in digital society. Despite the enthusiasm and curiosity that such a ubiquitous and important item merits, arguably the only people to discuss them are those with curiosity enough to thumb through the dry and technical literature that chronicles the database’s ascension.1

Which is a shame, because the use of databases actually illuminates so much about how we come to terms with the world around us. The history of databases is a tale of experts at different times attempting to make sense of complexity.