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Beginning Programming ALL-IN-ONE DESK REFERENCE FOR DUMMIES® by Wallace Wang

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Chapter IV.1. Sorting Algorithms

Every program handles data (numeric or text). Besides saving data, most programs also need to organize that data in some way, which involves sorting that data in a specific order, such as alphabetically or numerically. A database needs to sort names alphabetically by last name or by sales region whereas a video game needs to sort the top ten highest scores.

Despite the simple idea behind sorting a list of names or numbers, sorting is practically a field of computer science in itself. Computer scientists constantly study different ways to sort through data to find the fastest, most efficient method possible. Each of these different sorting methods is a sorting algorithm.

An algorithm is a fancy term for a method of doing something, so a sorting algorithm is a specific method for telling the computer how to sort data. The reason computer scientists keep creating and studying sorting algorithms is because no single sorting algorithm is best for all purposes.

Some sorting algorithms are easy to create but work slowly. Other sorting algorithms are much harder to create but work much faster. Ironically, some sorting algorithms work horribly when sorting a small number of items, such as a dozen numbers, but work quickly when sorting thousands of items.

Four factors for considering sorting algorithms include

  • Ease of implementation

  • Speed

  • Memory requirements

  • Stability

Ease of implementation defines how complicated the sorting algorithm is to implement in any programming ...

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