Stripped of its numerous complexities, data indexing is the high-tech version of the tedious indexing process familiar to any 20th-century textbook author and results in the same benefits for the reader. The major difference is that computers are doing both the indexing and the accessing of the indexes. Just as with a textbook index, the basic goal behind data indexing is to prevent the reader (in this case, the computer) from having to search and sift through an entire data set—a prohibitively slow process—to find only the specific information it needs. More formally, this allows the reader random access to indexed elements, which is much more efficient than sequential access. Data indexes, crucially important data structures in computer science, make possible a vast number of ...

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