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Benefits of Social Networking

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Chapter 6

Basic data structures
A data structure, sometimes called data type, can be thought of as a category of data. Integer is a data category which can only contain integers. String is a data category holding only strings. A data structure not only defines what elements it may contain, it also supports a set of operations on these elements, such as addition or multiplication. Strings and numbers are the core data structures in Python. In this chapter, you’ll see a few more, almost as important, data structures. In the next chapter, you’ll se how you can design your own, customary data structures. The concept of a sequence is so fundamental to programming that I’ve had a very hard time avoiding it so far. And as you, alert and perky, have noticed, I actually haven’t, since I involuntarily had to introduce sequences in Section 4.4 when talking about the for loop. In Python, the word “sequence” covers several phenomena. Strings are sequences of characters, and you heard about those in Chapter 3. In the coming sections, you’ll hear about the two other basic types of sequence supported by Python: Lists and tuples. Later in this chapter, we’ll get around to talking about sets and dictionaries. Strings and integers represent concrete data objects; a string or a number represents true data in itself.1 Lists, tuples and dictionaries are designed to organize other data, to impose structure upon it; they do not necessarily represent true data in their own right. For this reason, they are also called abstract data structures.

6.1

Lists and tuples — mutable vs. immutable

As I mentioned back in Section 4.4, lists and tuples are indexed just like strings: The first item of a sequence of length l has index 0, and the last has index l-1. You can get the length of a sequence with the built-in function len. You may use negative indices (e.g. −1 for the last item in the sequence),...

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