Mapping with continguous ranges of keys

Thomas Nyberg tomuxiong at
Thu Dec 15 16:30:20 EST 2016

On 12/15/2016 12:48 PM, Terry Reedy wrote:
> On 12/15/2016 12:27 PM, Thomas Nyberg wrote:
>> I haven't dealt with a data structure exactly like this, but it's
>> basically a sparse array.
> A sparse array has at least half missing values.  This one has none on
> the defined domain, but contiguous dupicates.

I'm sorry for devolving into semantics, but there certainly isn't a 
single definition of "sparse array" out there. For example, the 
definition in wikipedia ( 
doesn't agree with you:

"In computer science, a sparse array is an array in which most of the 
elements have the default value (usually 0 or null)."

Personally my usage of sparse arrays in scipy has _always_ had all 
defined values it's just that the default value was 0. I never deal with 
"missing" values.

>> (I'm sure it has a name somewhere in the
>> academic literature, but I couldn't find it with a quick search right
>> now...)
> 'Sparse array' is the name for sparse arrays.  I cannot think of one for
> blocks of duplicates.

Yeah that's why I said "basically a sparse array". It has the same 
defining characteristics. It is a situation where you have a large 
number of values associated to a small number of values in such a way 
that you can fairly easily describe the association without needing to 
simply write out all pairs. For regular sparse arrays it's easy because 
you associate them to a single value by default and only specify the 
ones that aren't. In this case that doesn't work, but due to the fact 
that you have long runs of repeated values you can use that to encode 
and compress the mapping.

Still not sure what to call it. I like D'Arcy's idea of subclassing a 
dict in combination with Peter's idea of using bisect (I had no idea 
that module existed!) so maybe I'll change my own not so great 
terminology to "basically a sparse map".


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