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I'm a young upstart programmer and I've never actually seen a database. But computers in large part come in boxes, not in cylinders so I was wondering why they are always represented as a cylinder when people show their architecture drawings.

Is there a reason why or is it just tradition to draw them like that?

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4 Answers 4

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The icon is probably meant to represent an old-school disk pack like this

https://i.sstatic.net/T7dNt.jpg,

mainly because databases typically reside on a large random-access device like an HDD.

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    I like the way the operator is stroking it :)
    – Ian
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 12:00
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Although I don't have a specific reference to cite, I took it to represent a hard drive. Historically, hard drives store data magnetically on round cylinders. Since databases are all about persistance, hard drives are the mechanism for doing so.

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Because their main purpose is to write data to a cylinder (disk).

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    I suppose a platter is a very very short cylinder.
    – Dan Ray
    Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 19:55
  • @DanRay - or you have many platters which resemple a cylinder.
    – JeffO
    Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 19:58
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    Before there were disks, there was drum storage (or drum memory).
    – OldFart
    Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 20:07
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I've always looked at the icon more as a silo than a cylinder: that is, a large high-volume container that can store loads of grain/salt/data.

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