Introduction to Abstract Data Types

K08 Δομές Δεδομένων και Τεχνικές Προγραμματισμού

Κώστας Χατζηκοκολάκης

Abstract Data Type (ADT)

  • A collection of data and operations that

    • have precisely described behaviour (we know what they do)
    • but no precise implementation (we don't know how they do it)
  • ADTBookStore (from the first lecture)

    • insert(title)
    • remove(title)
    • find(title)
  • Do we know any such type?

Native types

  • How is int implemented?
  • What does int a = -2; store in memory?
    • 10...10 (sign-magnitude)
    • 1111101 (1-complement)
    • 1111110 (2-complement)
    • bit order? (little vs big endian)
    • size? (16, 32, 64 bits)
    • at least $3 \cdot 2 \cdot 3 = 18$ possibilities! The choice dependes on the CPU.
  • How is a++ implemented?

Native types

  • Even simple native types and operations are in reality abstract
  • We know what they do but not how
  • int a = 1 stores some representation of 1 in a
  • a++ stores the representation of $a+1$ in a
    • where $a$ is the number represented in a
  • printf("%d", a) prints the number $a$ represented in a


  1. We can write programs without thinking (or even knowing) about how these operations are implemented

    • use complicated algorithms easily
  2. We can change the implementation of int (eg change the CPU) without changing the code

    • easy maintenance

It would be impossible to write complex programs without these features!

Writing our own ADTs

  • ADTFoo will be represented by the module ADTFoo.h

    • Declare a list of functions, constants, typedefs, etc
    • Describe what the module does, with documentation!
  • To use ADTFoo

    • #include "ADTFoo.h"
    • Call its methods, eg foo_create()
    • Link with foo.o (or some library containing it)
  • To implement ADTFoo

    • Create foo.c, implementing all functions
    • The implementation should match the advertised behaviour


  • The ADTs we learn in this class are containers

    • They allow to insert data (stored in the container)
    • Then retrieve it in different ways
    • And remove it
  • Store values of any type: void*

  • They have similar interfaces

    • Differ in the way data is inserted/removed/retrieved

ADT Overview

ADT Description
ADTVector An abstract growable “array”
ADTList Insert at any position, no “random access”
ADTQueue First-in, First-out
ADTStack Last-in, First-out
ADTPriorityQueue Fast-access of the maximum element
ADTMap Associate key => value (array with any type of index)
ADTSet Ordered collection of unique items


  • We use different names for ADTs and Data Structures

    • eg. ADTVector implemented by a Dynamic Array
  • Loosely following the naming of the C++ standard library

  • Be careful: each ADT/DS is known under many different names

    • also: the same name is often used for ADTs and DSs
  • Remember the substance, not just the names!

A typical container ADTFoo

// ADTFoo.h

// Ένα foo αναπαριστάται από τον τύπο Foo. Ο χρήστης δε χρειάζεται να
// γνωρίζει το περιεχόμενο του τύπου αυτού, απλά χρησιμοποιεί τις συναρτήσεις
// foo_* που δέχονται και επιστρέφουν Foo.

typedef struct foo* Foo;
  • We use an incomplete struct to hide the implementation
  • The user cannot create struct foo variables or access their content
  • We can only store pointers to struct foo created by the module
    • called handles
    • using the Foo typedef we forget that they are pointers!
  • And pass them to other methods

A typical container ADTFoo

// Δημιουργεί και επιστρέφει ένα νεό foo

Foo foo_create();

// Επιστρέφει τον αριθμό στοιχείων που περιέχει το foo

int foo_size(Foo foo);

// Προσθέτει την τιμή value στο foo

void foo_insert(Foo foo, Pointer value, ...);

// Αφαιρεί και επιστρέφει μια τιμή από το foo

Pointer foo_remove(Foo foo, ...);

// Βρίσκει και επιστρέφει ένα στοιχείο από το foo

Pointer foo_find(Foo foo, ...);

// Ελευθερώνει όλη τη μνήμη που δεσμεύει το foo

void foo_destroy(Foo foo);

A typical use of ADTFoo

// program.c

#include "ADTFoo.h"

int main() {
    Foo foo = foo_create();

    // insert
    int a = 1, b = 2;
    foo_insert(foo, &a);
    foo_insert(foo, &b);

    // remove
    foo_remove(foo, ...);

    // find
    int* value = foo_find(foo, ...);
    printf("found: %d", *value);

    // free memory

Many containers allow iterating

Using the concept of node.

Foo foo = foo_create();
// ...insert...

// Διάσχιση όλων των στοιχείων (η σειρά εξαρτάται από τον ADT)

for(FooNode node = foo_first(foo);          // ξενικάμε από τον πρώτο κόμβο
    node != FOO_EOF;                        // μέχρι να φτάσουμε στο EOF
    node = foo_next(foo, node)) {           // μετάβαση στον επόμενο κόμβο

    int* value = foo_node_value(foo, node); // η τιμή του συγκεκριμένου κόμβου
    printf("value: %d\n", *value);