The Array


Data Structures:

A variable is a named location in memory which stores a data value.

A data structure is a collection of memory locations, which are joined together.

Operations on Data Structure:

  • Appending – Add a new data value to the end of the data structure
  • Inserting – Add a new data value somewhere else in the data structure
  • Editing – changing the value of one data item
  • Deleting – Removing a data value
  • Traversing – visiting every data item in turn. This is done when searching for an item or printing out every item in the data structure.
  • Sorting – rearrange the data items into alphabetical or numerical order.

The Array:

An array is a fixed series of memory locations. Each location can store a value or be empty.

The computer can access any of the locations in a single operation. The size of the array does not change.

Array Operations:

  • Set up an empty array of n
  • Add a value to any of the empty slots.
  • If you know the index number of an element, you can access it in a single operation.
  • If you don’t know the index number of the value you are looking for, you will have to search the array. You can traverse the entire array with a ‘for loop.

Array VS List:

Features: Array: List:
Size Fixed when the array is made Size changes as you add or delete elements
Elements: Each element always keeps the same index number Index numbers can change as the list grows or shrinks
Empty Spaces: Can have empty spaces No empty spaces in the list


Advantages of an Array:

  • Compared to a stack or queue you can access any value, stored anywhere in the array.
  • Once a value has been put into the array, it stays in that numbered memory location.
  • The computer can access any value in the array in one operation if it knows the index number
  • The computer can search and sort the array. This can take more operations.



Disadvantages of an Array:

  • Every time you delete an element, you leave an empty space. This can lead to a lot gaps, which is a waste of space.
  • When you add an element, the computer will look through for an empty slot, which is a waste of time.
  • If you need to insert an element at a particular point in the array, you will have to move all the other elements along to make space. This is very slow.

Visualising an Array:

Make an Array:

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8



0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
“A” “B”



0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
“A” “B” “E”



0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
“A” “E”


Inserting a value into an Array:

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
“A” “B” “C” “D” “E” “F” “G”


Let’s say you wanted to insert the value “X” at position array[0]

You wouldn’t be able to because array[0] is currently storing the value “A”

So you have to move every value up by one in order to make a free memory location for “X”

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
“A” “B” “C” “D” “E” “F” “G”


Now you can insert the new value:

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
“X” “A” “B” “C” “D” “E” “F” “G”



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