RossWal - 6:22 am on Sep 19, 2005 (gmt 0)
COBOL had its heyday and now it's pretty much defunct, except on the few remaining mainframe computers out there.
As to webwork's question, in my experience designing industrial strength databases has always started as a business analysis function with the creation of an Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD). This is a great way to work out the pieces of information you need and the relationships between them.
Usually a data guy will facilitate diagramming sessions with the people who know the business. This is the level at which the team would uncover such things as a customer having a billing address AND a shipping address. Or multiple shipping addressses and one billing address. Or, as we were discussing in the local forum recently, one phone number driving the display of multiple locations (banks using a centralized call center). This is typically a very enlightening process that anyone can understand, and leads to the discovery of design defects and missunderstandings in the early (cheap) phases of the project.
Entity Relationship Models
Data Modeling 101
A database programmer would transform the information catured in the ERD into a physical database design.