What Is an Abstract Data Type C++?


Larry Thompson

An abstract data type (ADT) in C++ is a high-level description of a set of operations that can be performed on a particular data type, without specifying the implementation details. It provides a logical representation of the data and defines the operations that can be performed on it, without exposing the internal workings.

What is an ADT?
An ADT defines a blueprint for creating objects and performing operations on them. It encapsulates the data and its associated operations into a single entity, allowing for easier organization and manipulation. By separating the interface from the implementation, an ADT promotes modularity and code reusability.

Advantages of ADTs:
Abstraction: ADTs hide the complexity of implementation details, allowing programmers to focus on using the data structure rather than understanding its inner workings.
Data Encapsulation: The internal representation and structure of data are hidden from external access, preventing unauthorized modifications.
Code Reusability: Since ADTs separate interface from implementation, they can be reused in different programs without modifying or rewriting the existing code.

The Role of ADTs in C++

C++ supports various built-in abstract data types such as arrays, structures, classes, and templates. These provide encapsulation of related data members and member functions within a single unit.

ADTs in C++ are commonly implemented using classes. The class represents the abstract data type while its member functions provide the operations that can be performed on it. These member functions define how to manipulate or access the underlying data.

Example: Stack as an Abstract Data Type

Let’s consider an example to understand how an abstract data type is implemented in C++. We will use a stack as our abstract data type.

First, we define our class “Stack” with private member variables to hold the data and size of the stack. We also define member functions to perform operations like push, pop, and check if the stack is empty.

class Stack {
int data[100];
int size;

Stack(); // Constructor
void push(int element);
void pop();
bool isEmpty();

In this example, the class “Stack” represents our abstract data type. The member functions provide the operations that can be performed on the stack.

  • push: This function adds an element to the top of the stack.
  • pop: This function removes the topmost element from the stack.
  • isEmpty: This function checks if the stack is empty or not.

Using ADTs in C++ Programs

To use our Stack abstract data type, we need to create an instance of the class and call its member functions.

int main() {
Stack myStack;

while (!myStack.isEmpty()) {
cout << "Element: " << myStack.top() << endl; myStack.pop(); } return 0; } ``` In this example program, we create a new instance of our Stack class called "myStack". We then push three elements onto it and use a loop to print each element and pop them off until the stack becomes empty.


Abstract data types provide a way to define high-level representations of data structures and their associated operations. By encapsulating data and its behavior within a single entity, ADTs promote code reusability, modularity, and abstraction. C++ supports ADTs through classes, enabling developers to create their own abstract data types and use them in their programs.

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