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In providing services to people, and in computer science, transport and operations research a queue is a First-In-First-Out FIFO process — the first element in the queue will be the first one out. This is equivalent to the requirement that whenever an element is added, all elements that were added before have to be removed before the new element can be removed.
This article discusses the queue data structure.
One characteristic of a queue is that it does not have a specific capacity. Regardless of how many elements are already contained, a new element can always be added. It can also be empty, at which point removing an element will be impossible until a new element has been added again.
A practical implementation of a queue usually does have some capacity limit, that depends on the concrete situation it is used in. For a data structure the executing computer will eventually run out of memory, thus limiting the queue size. For a waiting queue of people, eventually there might not be enough space to squeeze into, or people might decide that the queue is already too long and not bother adding themselves to it.
In computer science, compare:
- Data structure
- Priority queue
- Linked list
- Stack (the "opposite" of a queue — first in, last out)
Implementation in Scheme
The following functional implements queues as a persistent data structure, representing the queue as a pair of lists. The queue elements are the elements in the front followed by (in reverse order) the elements in the back. The time for enqueue and dequeue are O(1) amortized time.
(define make-queue cons) (define queue-front car) (define queue-back cdr) (define empty-queue (cons '() '())) (define (enqueue Q x) (make-queue (queue-front Q) (cons x (queue-back Q)))) (define (dequeue Q) (cond [(and (null? (queue-front Q)) (null? (queue-back Q))) (error "dequeue: The queue is empty")] [(null? (queue-front Q)) (dequeue (make-queue (reverse (queue-back Q)) '()))] [else (values (car (queue-front Q)) (make-queue (cdr (queue-front Q)) (queue-back Q)))]))
The Oroogu programming language relies on queues as its only data structure
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