After almost 29 years, I have finally taken on porting our Serenity database records from the ancient FoxPro database management system to a modern DBMS called MySQL. Don’t worry, most of this pondering will not be about programming. LOL
Not only is the FoxPro program ancient in software years, but it requires equally ancient computers to run on. If that’s not enough, the original database was poorly designed by myself as an inexperienced programmer, so it must be maintained by myself as well.
That being said, I am constantly amazed at how well I designed parts of the database and how bug-free and robust FoxPro was for its time. I have to laugh when I think about software that old because I envision it being written just after the invention of the telegraph.
The current Serenity database contains information about some 4,000 local people and their companies—the usual stuff like what company people worked for, their mailing address and phone number and, of course, what ads they ran in which issue and their accounting information.
Since part of the conversion effort is to create a better designed and more powerful tool, porting is not simply a matter of copying the records from the old database to the new.
Initially, I tried to automate the process in order to avoid individually examining some 200,000 data records about the 4,000 people. Alas, there are just some things you cannot teach a computer—like how to recognize the difference between a business address and a home address. That requires someone with a real estate background who is intimately familiar with all of the local streets—like me.
I also thought about not including people from the distant past. Maybe I could narrow down the work to only 2,000. But that gets complicated since the database includes friends and customers whose history goes all the way back to my 44-year beginning in Evergreen. But mostly I surprised myself when I decided that it is really important to maintain history. It’s like remodeling an old cabin by emphasizing its historic value instead of scraping it and building something new. So, I just couldn’t bring myself to delete the people who have passed away. I invented a status column and filled it with “Deceased.”
The most fascinating part of this effort has been the walk down memory lane. There must be a thousand people listed in the database that made their mark on our town and then quietly disappeared. Sadly, a lot of them disappeared from my memory. But, the instant that I read each name, volumes of memories about them came flooding back—from what they looked like to the business they owned and where we may have enjoyed a cocktail. For most, I don’t know why they disappeared, where they went or how they are now. But, they will always be included in my database as part of the history of our people.