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DATA DEFINITION, PART II
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7.2 More on Datatypes
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Datatypes were introduced in 3. Table 7-1 provides a more complete overview of the most important Oracle datatypes. Table 7-1. Important Oracle Datatypes
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Datatype
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CHAR[(n)] VARCHAR[2](n) DATE TIMESTAMP INTERVAL BLOB CLOB RAW(n) NUMBER NUMBER(n) NUMBER(n,m) BINARY_FLOAT BINARY_DOUBLE
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Description
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Character string with fixed length n (default 1) Variable-length string; maximum n characters Date (between 4712 BC and 9999 AD) Timestamp, with or without time zone information Date/time interval Unstructured binary data (Binary Large Object) Large text (Character Large Object) Binary data; maximum n bytes Can store any number, maximum precision and scale 38 digits Integer; maximum n digits Total of n digits; maximum m digits right of the decimal point 32-bit floating-point number 64-bit floating-point number
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Note If you insert values into a NUMBER(n,m) column and you exceed precision n, you get an error message. If you exceed scale m, the Oracle DBMS rounds the value.
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The Oracle DBMS supports many datatype synonyms for portability with other DBMS implementations and for compliance with the ANSI/ISO standard. For example, CHARACTER is identical to CHAR; DECIMAL(n,m) is identical to NUMBER(n,m); and NUMBER even has multiple synonyms, such as INTEGER, REAL, and SMALLINT.
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DATA DEFINITION, PART II
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Each Oracle datatype has its own precision or length limits, as shown in Table 7-2. Table 7-2. Oracle Datatype Limits
Datatype
NUMBER CHAR VARCHAR2 RAW BLOB CLOB
Limit
38 digits 2000 4000 2000 bytes (4GB 1) (database block size) (4GB 1) (database block size)
Character Datatypes
You may have noticed that Table 7-2 shows 2000 and 4000 for the CHAR and VARCHAR2 datatype limits, respectively. You might wonder in which unit these numbers are expressed. That depends on the value of the NLS_LENGTH_SEMANTICS parameter. The default for the Oracle DBMS is to use BYTE length semantics. If you want to make your SQL code independent of this parameter, you can override its value by using explicit BYTE and CHAR suffixes in your datatype specifications. Here are a couple examples: CHAR(42 BYTE): Fixed string, 42 bytes VARCHAR2(2000 CHAR): Variable string, maximum of 2000 characters
Comparison Semantics
The difference between VARCHAR2 and CHAR datatypes is the treatment of comparisons involving strings of different lengths. There are two different semantics to compare strings of different lengths: padded comparison (padding with spaces) and nonpadded comparison. If you compare two strings, character by character, and all of the characters are identical until the point where the shortest string is processed, nonpadded comparison semantics automatically declares the longest string as being greater than the shorter string. On the other hand, padded comparison semantics extends the shortest string with spaces until the length of the longest string, and continues comparing characters. This means that trailing spaces in strings don t influence padded comparison results. Here are examples of the comparison types: Padded comparison: 'RAID5' = 'RAID5 ' '
Nonpadded comparison: ' RAID5' < ' RAID5
By using the VARCHAR2 datatype, especially in all your SQL script files, you are guaranteed to get nonpadded comparison semantics.
DATA DEFINITION, PART II
Column Data Interpretation
There is an important difference between the RAW and VARCHAR2 datatypes. RAW column data (like BLOB data) is never interpreted by the DBMS in any way. For example, VARCHAR2 column data is converted automatically during transport from an ASCII to an EBCDIC environment. You typically use the RAW and BLOB datatypes for columns containing binary data, such as scanned documents, sound tracks, and movie fragments.
Numbers Revisited
Before we move on to the ALTER TABLE command in the next section, let s briefly revisit numbers. The Oracle DBMS has always stored NUMBER values in a proprietary internal format, to maintain maximum portability to the impressive list of different platforms (operating systems) that it supports. The NUMBER datatype is still the best choice for most columns containing numeric data. However, the internal storage of this datatype implies some processing overhead, especially when you are performing many nontrivial numerical computations in your SQL statements. Since Oracle Database 10g you can also store floating-point numbers in your table columns. Floating-point numbers don t offer the same precision as NUMBER values, but they may result in better response times for numerical computations. You can choose between two floating-point datatypes: BINARY_FLOAT: 32-bit, single precision BINARY_DOUBLE: 64-bit, double precision
You can also specify floating-point constants (literals) in your SQL statements with a suffix f (single precision) or d (double precision), as shown in Listing 7-1. Listing 7-1. Floating-Point Literals SQL> select 5.1d, 42f from dual; 5.1D 42F ---------- ---------5.1E+000 4.2E+001 SQL> We won t use these two floating-point datatypes in this book. See Oracle SQL Reference for more details.
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