variable length field - Computer Definition
A record structure that holds fields of varying lengths. For example, PAT SMITH would take nine bytes and GEORGINA WILSON BARTHOLOMEW would take 27 plus a couple of bytes that would define the length of the field. If fixed length fields were used, at least 27 bytes would have to be reserved for both names. Variable Length Text Fields Years ago, storage was costly, and variable field lengths were more commonly used. Today, storage is dirt cheap by comparison. However, if there are text elements in the database that vary greatly from a few bytes to thousands, variable length fields may be beneficial. More Programming Effort Variable lengths require more programming, because every field has to be encoded into the variable format before being written to disk. Conversely, after being read back into memory, the variable fields have to be converted to fixed length fields for processing. The Compression Alternative The same storage savings can be achieved by compressing the data stored on disk. All blank spaces in fixed length fields would be filtered out. See real-time compression.