# arrays and lamda terms

**oleg@pobox.com
**
oleg@pobox.com

*Tue, 4 Feb 2003 20:36:06 -0800 (PST)*

Cagdas Ozgenc wrote:
>* Is it possible to encode an array using lamda terms only, and recover
*>* the term specified by an index term in O(1) time?
*
I'd like to go on a limb and argue that there is generally no such
thing as O(1) array access operation. On the conventional hardware,
the fastest access to the i-th element of an array 'ar' is expressed
by the following formula, which underlies C "arrays":
ar[i] = *(ar + i)
The formula involves the addition of two numbers -- which is,
generally, a O(log(n)) operation. Granted, if we operate in the
restricted domain of mod 2^32 integers, addition can be considered
O(1). If we stay in this domain however, the size of all our arrays is
limited to M (which is 2^32, often less). If we implement our arrays
as linked lists, the cost of accessing one element will not exceed
M*2*cost(dereference), which is constant, which is O(1). Thus
pedantically speaking, within the restricted integral domain, any
terminating array access method is O(1).
The choice of "hardware" may greatly affect the apparent
complexity. For example, associative memory access is difficult on
conventional architectures and fast for holographic memory.
>* Or is it possible in any rewriting system?
*
If all your arrays are limited in size to 2^32, and if your re-writing
system offers projection operators pi_0, pi_1, ... pi_4294967295
(i.e., the right "hardware"), well, then it is possible.