In computer science, an abstract data type (ADT) is a mathematical model for a certain class of data structures that have similar behavior; or for certain data types of one or more programming languages that have similar semantics.

An abstract data type is defined indirectly, only by the operations that may be performed on it and by mathematical constraints on the effects (and possibly cost) of those operations.

For example, an abstract stack could be defined by three operations: push, that inserts some data item onto the structure, pop, that extracts an item from it (with the constraint that each pop always returns the most recently pushed item that has not been popped yet), and peek, that allows data on top of the structure to be examined without removal.

When analyzing the efficiency of algorithms that use stacks, one may also specify that all operations take the same time no matter how many items have been pushed into the stack, and that the stack uses a constant amount of storage for each element.

Abstract data types are purely theoretical entities, used (among other things) to simplify the description of abstract algorithms, to classify and evaluate data structures, and to formally describe the type systems of programming languages.

However, an ADT may be implemented by specific data types or data structures, in many ways and in many programming languages; or described in a formal specification language.

ADTs are often implemented as modules: the module's interface declares procedures that correspond to the ADT operations, sometimes with comments that describe the constraints.

This information hiding strategy allows the implementation of the module to be changed without disturbing the client programs.

Casiano Rodriguez León 2015-01-07