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In computer science, a linked list is a linear collection of data elements, called nodes, each pointing to the next node by means of a pointer.It is a data structure consisting of a group of nodes which together represent a sequence.
Linked lists were developed in 1955–1956 by Allen Newell, Cliff Shaw and Herbert A.
Simon at RAND Corporation as the primary data structure for their Information Processing Language.
IPL was used by the authors to develop several early artificial intelligence programs, including the Logic Theory Machine, the General Problem Solver, and a computer chess program.
More complex variants add additional links, allowing efficient insertion or removal from arbitrary element references.
Linked lists are among the simplest and most common data structures.
They can be used to implement several other common abstract data types, including lists (the abstract data type), stacks, queues, associative arrays, and S-expressions, though it is not uncommon to implement the other data structures directly without using a list as the basis of implementation.
The principal benefit of a linked list over a conventional array is that the list elements can easily be inserted or removed without reallocation or reorganization of the entire structure because the data items need not be stored contiguously in memory or on disk, while an array has to be declared in the source code, before compiling and running the program.
Linked lists allow insertion and removal of nodes at any point in the list, and can do so with a constant number of operations if the link previous to the link being added or removed is maintained during list traversal.
On the other hand, simple linked lists by themselves do not allow random access to the data, or any form of efficient indexing.
Thus, many basic operations — such as obtaining the last node of the list (assuming that the last node is not maintained as separate node reference in the list structure), or finding a node that contains a given datum, or locating the place where a new node should be inserted — may require sequential scanning of most or all of the list elements.
The advantages and disadvantages of using linked lists are given below.