In computer science and computer programming, a data type or simply type is an attribute of data which tells the compiler or interpreter how the programmer intends to use the data. Most programming languages support basic data types of integer numbers (of varying sizes), floating-point numbers (which approximate real numbers), characters and Booleans. A data type constrains the values that an expression, such as a variable or a function, might take. This data type defines the operations that can be done on the data, the meaning of the data, and the way values of that type can be stored. A data type provides a set of values from which an expression (i.e. variable, function, etc.) may take its values.
Data types are used within type systems, which offer various ways of defining, implementing, and using them. Different type systems ensure varying degrees of type safety.
Almost all programming languages explicitly include the notion of data type, though different languages may use different terminology.
Common data types include:
For example, in the Java programming language, the type int represents the set of 32-bit integers ranging in value from −2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647, as well as the operations that can be performed on integers, such as addition, subtraction, and multiplication. A color, on the other hand, might be represented by three bytes denoting the amounts each of red, green, and blue, and a string representing the color's name.
Most programming languages also allow the programmer to define additional data types, usually by combining multiple elements of other types and defining the valid operations of the new data type. For example, a programmer might create a new data type named "complex number" that would include real and imaginary parts. A data type also represents a constraint placed upon the interpretation of data in a type system, describing representation, interpretation and structure of values or objects stored in computer memory. The type system uses data type information to check correctness of computer programs that access or manipulate the data.
Most data types in statistics have comparable types in computer programming, and vice versa, as shown in the following table:
|real-valued (interval scale)||floating-point|
|real-valued (ratio scale)|
|count data (usually non-negative)||integer|
|categorical data||enumerated type|
|random vector||list or array|
|random matrix||two-dimensional array|
( Parnas, Shore & Weiss 1976 ) identified five definitions of a "type" that were used—sometimes implicitly—in the literature. Types including behavior align more closely with object-oriented models, whereas a structured programming model would tend to not include code, and are called plain old data structures.
The five types are:
The definition in terms of a representation was often done in imperative languages such as ALGOL and Pascal, while the definition in terms of a value space and behaviour was used in higher-level languages such as Simula and CLU.
Primitive data types are typically types that are built-in or basic to a language implementation.
All data in computers based on digital electronics is represented as bits (alternatives 0 and 1) on the lowest level. The smallest addressable unit of data is usually a group of bits called a byte (usually an octet, which is 8 bits). The unit processed by machine code instructions is called a word (as of 2011 [update] , typically 32 or 64 bits). Most instructions interpret the word as a binary number, such that a 32-bit word can represent unsigned integer values from 0 to or signed integer values from to . Because of two's complement, the machine language and machine doesn't need to distinguish between these unsigned and signed data types for the most part.
Floating-point numbers used for floating-point arithmetic use a different interpretation of the bits in a word. See Floating-point arithmetic for details.
Machine data types need to be exposed or made available in systems or low-level programming languages, allowing fine-grained control over hardware. The C programming language, for instance, supplies integer types of various widths, such as
long. If a corresponding native type does not exist on the target platform, the compiler will break them down into code using types that do exist. For instance, if a 32-bit integer is requested on a 16 bit platform, the compiler will tacitly treat it as an array of two 16 bit integers.
In higher level programming, machine data types are often hidden or abstracted as an implementation detail that would render code less portable if exposed. For instance, a generic
numeric type might be supplied instead of integers of some specific bit-width.
The Boolean type represents the values true and false. Although only two values are possible, they are rarely implemented as a single binary digit for efficiency reasons. Many programming languages do not have an explicit Boolean type, instead interpreting (for instance) 0 as false and other values as true. Boolean data refers to the logical structure of how the language is interpreted to the machine language. In this case a Boolean 0 refers to the logic False. True is always a non zero, especially a one which is known as Boolean 1.
The enumerated type has distinct values, which can be compared and assigned, but which do not necessarily have any particular concrete representation in the computer's memory; compilers and interpreters can represent them arbitrarily. For example, the four suits in a deck of playing cards may be four enumerators named CLUB, DIAMOND, HEART, SPADE, belonging to an enumerated type named suit. If a variable V is declared having suit as its data type, one can assign any of those four values to it. Some implementations allow programmers to assign integer values to the enumeration values, or even treat them as type-equivalent to integers.
unsignedin C and C++). May also have a small number of predefined subtypes (such as
longin C/C++); or allow users to freely define subranges such as 1..12 (e.g. Pascal/Ada).
Composite types are derived from more than one primitive type. This can be done in a number of ways. The ways they are combined are called data structures. Composing a primitive type into a compound type generally results in a new type, e.g. array-of-integer is a different type to integer.
Many others are possible, but they tend to be further variations and compounds of the above. For example a linked list can store the same data as an array, but provides sequential access rather than random and is built up of records in dynamic memory; though arguably a data structure rather than a type per se, it is also common and distinct enough that including it in a discussion of composite types can be justified.
Character and string types can store sequences of characters from a character set such as ASCII. Since most character sets include the digits, it is possible to have a numeric string, such as
"1234". However, many languages treat these as belonging to a different type to the numeric value
Character and string types can have different subtypes according to the required character "width". The original 7-bit wide ASCII was found to be limited, and superseded by 8 and 16-bit sets, which can encode a wide variety of non-Latin alphabets (such as Hebrew and Chinese) and other symbols. Strings may be either stretch-to-fit or of fixed size, even in the same programming language. They may also be subtyped by their maximum size.
Note: Strings are not a primitive data type in all languages. In C, for instance, they are composed from an array of characters.
Any data type that does not expatiate on the concrete representation of the data is an abstract data type. Instead, a formal specification based on the data type's operations is used to describe it. Any implementation of a specification must fulfill the rules given. Abstract data types are used in formal semantics and program verification and, less strictly, in design.
Beyond verification, a specification might immediately be turned into an implementation. The OBJ family of programming languages for instance bases on this option using equations for specification and rewriting to run them. Algebraic specificationwas an important subject of research in CS around 1980 and almost a synonym for abstract data types at that time. It has a mathematical foundation in Universal algebra. The specification language can be made more expressive by allowing other formulas than only equations.
A typical example is the hierarchy of the list, bag and set data types. All these data types can be declared by three operations: null, which constructs the empty container, single, which constructs a container from a single element and append, which combines two containers of the same type. The complete specification for the three data types can then be given by the following rules over these operation:
|- null is the left and right neutral:||append(null,A) = A, append(A,null) = A.|
|- for a list, append is associative:||append(append(A,B),C) = append(A,append(B,C)).|
|- bags add commutativity:||append(B,A) = append(A,B).|
|- finally, a set is also idempotent:||append(A,A) = A.|
Access to the data can be specified likely, e.g. a member function for these containers by:
|- member(X,single(Y)) = eq(X,Y)|
|- member(X,null) = false|
|- member(X,append(A,B)) = or(member(X,A), member(X,B))|
Types can be based on, or derived from, the basic types explained above. In some languages, such as C, functions have a type derived from the type of their return value.
The main non-composite, derived type is the pointer, a data type whose value refers directly to (or "points to") another value stored elsewhere in the computer memory using its address. It is a primitive kind of reference. (In everyday terms, a page number in a book could be considered a piece of data that refers to another one). Pointers are often stored in a format similar to an integer; however, attempting to dereference or "look up" a pointer whose value was never a valid memory address would cause a program to crash. To ameliorate this potential problem, pointers are considered a separate type to the type of data they point to, even if the underlying representation is the same.
While functions can be assigned a type, too, their type is not considered a data type in the setting of this article. Here, data is viewed as opposed to algorithms. In programming, functions are strongly related to the latter. But because a central motive of universal data processing is, that algorithms can be represented as data, e.g. textual description and binary programs, the contrast of data and functions has its limits. Reversely, functions can be used to encode data, too. Many contemporary type systems strongly focus on function types and many modern languages construe functions as first-class citizens.
To conceptually exclude functions from the subject is not uncommon in related fields. Predicate logic for instance does not allow to apply the quantifiers on function nor predicate names.
Some programming languages represent the type information as data, enabling type introspection and reflection. To the contrary, higher order type systems, while allowing to construct types from other types and pass them through functions like they were values, typically avoid basing computational decisions on them.
For convenience, high-level languages may supply ready-made "real world" data types, for instance times, dates and monetary values and memory, even where the language allows them to be built from primitive types.
A type system associates types with computed values. By examining the flow of these values, a type system attempts to prove that no type errors can occur. The type system in question determines what constitutes a type error, but a type system generally seeks to guarantee that operations expecting a certain kind of value are not used with values for which that operation does not make sense.
A compiler may use the static type of a value to optimize the storage it needs and the choice of algorithms for operations on the value. In many C compilers the
float data type, for example, is represented in 32 bits, in accord with the IEEE specification for single-precision floating point numbers. They will thus use floating-point-specific microprocessor operations on those values (floating-point addition, multiplication, etc.).
The depth of type constraints and the manner of their evaluation affect the typing of the language. A programming language may further associate an operation with varying concrete algorithms on each type in the case of type polymorphism. Type theory is the study of type systems, although the concrete type systems of programming languages originate from practical issues of computer architecture, compiler implementation, and language design.
Type systems may be variously static or dynamic, strong or weak typing, and so forth.
In computer science, an abstract data type (ADT) is a mathematical model for data types. An abstract data type is defined by its behavior (semantics) from the point of view of a user, of the data, specifically in terms of possible values, possible operations on data of this type, and the behavior of these operations. This mathematical model contrasts with data structures, which are concrete representations of data, and are the point of view of an implementer, not a user.
In computer programming, a string is traditionally a sequence of characters, either as a literal constant or as some kind of variable. The latter may allow its elements to be mutated and the length changed, or it may be fixed. A string is generally considered as a data type and is often implemented as an array data structure of bytes that stores a sequence of elements, typically characters, using some character encoding. String may also denote more general arrays or other sequence data types and structures.
In programming languages, a type system is a logical system comprising a set of rules that assigns a property called a type to the various constructs of a computer program, such as variables, expressions, functions or modules. These types formalize and enforce the otherwise implicit categories the programmer uses for algebraic data types, data structures, or other components. The main purpose of a type system is to reduce possibilities for bugs in computer programs by defining interfaces between different parts of a computer program, and then checking that the parts have been connected in a consistent way. This checking can happen statically, dynamically, or as a combination of both. Type systems have other purposes as well, such as expressing business rules, enabling certain compiler optimizations, allowing for multiple dispatch, providing a form of documentation, etc.
In computer science, primitive data type is either of the following:
The syntax of the C programming language is the set of rules governing writing of software in the C language. It is designed to allow for programs that are extremely terse, have a close relationship with the resulting object code, and yet provide relatively high-level data abstraction. C was the first widely successful high-level language for portable operating-system development.
In computer science, a pointer is an object in many programming languages that stores a memory address. This can be that of another value located in computer memory, or in some cases, that of memory-mapped computer hardware. A pointer references a location in memory, and obtaining the value stored at that location is known as dereferencing the pointer. As an analogy, a page number in a book's index could be considered a pointer to the corresponding page; dereferencing such a pointer would be done by flipping to the page with the given page number and reading the text found on that page. The actual format and content of a pointer variable is dependent on the underlying computer architecture.
In computer science, a union is a value that may have any of several representations or formats within the same position in memory; that consists of a variable that may hold such a data structure. Some programming languages support special data types, called union types, to describe such values and variables. In other words, a union type definition will specify which of a number of permitted primitive types may be stored in its instances, e.g., "float or long integer". In contrast with a record, which could be defined to contain a float and an integer; in a union, there is only one value at any given time.
ActionScript was an object-oriented programming language originally developed by Macromedia Inc.. It is influenced by HyperTalk, the scripting language for HyperCard. It is now an implementation of ECMAScript, though it originally arose as a sibling, both being influenced by HyperTalk.
In computer science, type conversion, type casting, type coercion, and type juggling are different ways of changing an expression from one data type to another. An example would be the conversion of an integer value into a floating point value or its textual representation as a string, and vice versa. Type conversions can take advantage of certain features of type hierarchies or data representations. Two important aspects of a type conversion are whether it happens implicitly (automatically) or explicitly, and whether the underlying data representation is converted from one representation into another, or a given representation is merely reinterpreted as the representation of another data type. In general, both primitive and compound data types can be converted.
In computer science, arbitrary-precision arithmetic, also called bignum arithmetic, multiple-precision arithmetic, or sometimes infinite-precision arithmetic, indicates that calculations are performed on numbers whose digits of precision are limited only by the available memory of the host system. This contrasts with the faster fixed-precision arithmetic found in most arithmetic logic unit (ALU) hardware, which typically offers between 8 and 64 bits of precision.
In computer science, the Boolean data type is a data type that has one of two possible values which is intended to represent the two truth values of logic and Boolean algebra. It is named after George Boole, who first defined an algebraic system of logic in the mid 19th century. The Boolean data type is primarily associated with conditional statements, which allow different actions by changing control flow depending on whether a programmer-specified Boolean condition evaluates to true or false. It is a special case of a more general logical data type —logic doesn't always need to be Boolean.
CMS-2 is an embedded systems programming language used by the United States Navy. It was an early attempt to develop a standardized high-level computer programming language intended to improve code portability and reusability. CMS-2 was developed primarily for the US Navy’s tactical data systems (NTDS).
The computer programming languages C and Pascal have similar times of origin, influences, and purposes. Both were used to design their own compilers early in their lifetimes. The original Pascal definition appeared in 1969 and a first compiler in 1970. The first version of C appeared in 1972.
In the C programming language, data types constitute the semantics and characteristics of storage of data elements. They are expressed in the language syntax in form of declarations for memory locations or variables. Data types also determine the types of operations or methods of processing of data elements.
SystemVerilog, standardized as IEEE 1800, is a hardware description and hardware verification language used to model, design, simulate, test and implement electronic systems. SystemVerilog is based on Verilog and some extensions, and since 2008 Verilog is now part of the same IEEE standard. It is commonly used in the semiconductor and electronic design industry as an evolution of Verilog.
In computer programming, an enumerated type is a data type consisting of a set of named values called elements, members, enumeral, or enumerators of the type. The enumerator names are usually identifiers that behave as constants in the language. An enumerated type can be seen as a degenerate tagged union of unit type. A variable that has been declared as having an enumerated type can be assigned any of the enumerators as a value. In other words, an enumerated type has values that are different from each other, and that can be compared and assigned, but are not specified by the programmer as having any particular concrete representation in the computer's memory; compilers and interpreters can represent them arbitrarily.
EXPRESS is a standard data modeling language for product data. EXPRESS is formalized in the ISO Standard for the Exchange of Product model STEP, and standardized as ISO 10303-11.
This article compares a large number of programming languages by tabulating their data types, their expression, statement, and declaration syntax, and some common operating-system interfaces.
The computer programming languages C and Pascal have similar times of origin, influences, and purposes. Both were used to design their own compilers early in their lifetimes.