Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024
Difficulty: Easy

# Difference between array and stack

## Introduction

Arrays and stacks are fundamental data structures in computer science, often used as building blocks for more complex algorithms and systems. Understanding these concepts is crucial for anyone venturing into software development or computer science. This article aims to demystify arrays and stacks, offering clear explanations and practical examples.

Additionally, we will compare these two structures, highlighting their differences and applications in programming. Finally, we will delve into a complexity analysis of both, providing a comprehensive understanding of their efficiency and usage in various scenarios.

## What is an Array?

An array is a collection of items stored at contiguous memory locations. It is one of the simplest and most widely used data structures in computer science. Arrays are used to store multiple items of the same type together, making it easier to calculate the position of each element by simply adding an offset to a base value, typically the memory location of the first element of the array.

## Example

Consider a scenario where you want to store the marks of 50 students. Instead of creating 50 variables, you can create an array that holds all these values.

# Python Example

``student_marks = [85, 72, 90, 65, 88] # An array of 5 students' marks``

In this example, student_marks is an array that stores integers. The array index starts from 0, so student_marks[0] will give you the first student's marks, student_marks[1] the second, and so on.

## What is a Stack?

A stack is a linear data structure that follows a particular order in which operations are performed. The order is Last In First Out (LIFO), meaning the last element added to the stack will be the first one to be removed. This structure is analogous to a stack of plates or books; you can only take the top item off first.

## Practical Example

Imagine you're editing a document, and each time you make a change, it's saved to a stack. When you hit "undo," the most recent change is the first to be reversed. Here's how you might implement a basic stack in Python:

# Python Example for Stack Implementation

• Python

### Python

``class Stack:    def __init__(self):        self.items = []    def is_empty(self):        return self.items == []    def push(self, item):        self.items.append(item)    def pop(self):        return self.items.pop()# Example Usageedit_stack = Stack()edit_stack.push("Added a sentence.")edit_stack.push("Deleted a word.")edit_stack.push("Changed font style.")# Undoing the last actionlast_edit = edit_stack.pop()  # "Changed font style."``

In this example, the Stack class provides basic functionality like push to add items and pop to remove the top item. When pop is called, it returns "Changed font style," which is the last edit we made.

## Difference Between Stack and Array Data Structures

To clearly differentiate between stacks and arrays, we'll create a comparative table based on various aspects such as definition, order of operations, size flexibility, and typical use cases.

## Complexity Analysis Table

Here, we'll analyze the complexity of various operations for both arrays and stacks, providing insights into their performance characteristics.

Also See, binary search algorithm

### Can a stack be implemented using an array?

Yes, a stack can be implemented using an array. In such an implementation, one end of the array is considered the top of the stack, and elements are added or removed from this end.

### Why is random access not possible in a stack?

Random access contradicts the fundamental LIFO principle of a stack. A stack is designed to only allow access to the top element, ensuring that the last element added is the first to be removed.

### How does dynamic resizing work in arrays?

In dynamic arrays, when the array is full and a new element needs to be added, a new, larger array is created. The elements from the old array are copied to the new one, and the new element is added. This process allows arrays to accommodate more elements than their initial size.

## Conclusion

In summary, arrays and stacks are integral data structures in computer science with distinct characteristics and uses. Arrays offer direct access to elements, making them ideal for scenarios where quick retrieval and modification are required. On the other hand, stacks, with their LIFO behavior, are well-suited for situations where the most recent element needs to be accessed first, such as in undo operations in applications or function call management in programming. Understanding the differences and applications of these data structures is crucial for efficient algorithm design and implementation.

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Topics covered
1.
Introduction
2.
What is an Array?
3.
Example
4.
What is a Stack?
5.
Practical Example
5.1.
Python
6.
Difference Between Stack and Array Data Structures
7.
Complexity Analysis Table
8.