DEV Community

Cover image for 10 Key Data Structures We Use Every Day
Emmanuel Uchenna
Emmanuel Uchenna

Posted on

10 Key Data Structures We Use Every Day

Data structures are like the building blocks for organizing information in our daily lives. While they might not be explicitly called out, these structures underlie many of the things we do. Here are 10 key data structures we use every day:

  1. Lists: These are ordered collections of items, like a grocery list, a to-do list, or the songs in your music playlist. You can easily add, remove, or rearrange items on a list.

  2. Arrays: Similar to lists, arrays hold a fixed number of items in a specific order. Imagine the buttons on a calculator or the channels on your TV – you access them by their position in the sequence.

  3. Stacks: These follow a "Last In, First Out" (LIFO) principle. Think of a stack of plates – you can only add or remove plates from the top. This structure is used in things like browser history (you visit the most recently accessed page first) or when undoing actions on a computer program.

  4. Queues: Unlike stacks, queues operate on a "First In, First Out" (FIFO) basis. Imagine a line at a coffee shop – the person who has been waiting the longest gets served first. Queues are used in waiting lists, task scheduling, and even traffic flow management (vehicles that enter the queue first exit first).

  5. Trees: Hierarchical structures that mimic real-world trees. Imagine a family tree or an organizational chart. They represent relationships between items, with a root element at the top and branches (sub-elements) connecting to it.

  6. Graphs: These represent connections between objects. Think of a social media network where users are connected to their friends, or a map where cities are connected by roads. Graphs help us visualize and analyze relationships between different entities.

  7. Hashes: Used for fast retrieval of information. Imagine a phonebook – you look up a name (key) to find the corresponding phone number (value). Hash tables store data with unique keys for efficient access.

  8. Sets: Collections of unique items, like the unique words in a document or the different types of fruits in a fruit basket. Sets ensure no duplicates exist within the collection.

  9. Associative Arrays (Dictionaries): Similar to hash tables, these store key-value pairs but allow for more complex data types as values. Imagine a recipe book where the recipe name (key) is associated with a list of ingredients and instructions (value).

  10. Linked Lists: These are linear data structures where elements (nodes) are not stored contiguously in memory. Each node holds data and a reference (link) to the next node in the sequence. They are useful for dynamic data (frequently changing size) like managing musical playlists or social media feeds.

Understanding these underlying data structures allows us to better appreciate the organization that underpins seemingly simple aspects of our daily lives.

Which data structure do you find most surprising in everyday use? Why? or Have you encountered any data structures in your hobbies or work that aren't on this list? Share your experiences!

Top comments (0)