Understanding arrays


For the last month I have read about JavaScript ( ECMAScript ) and how it works. To say the least I am one step closer to not being as bald as I thought I would be. JavaScript is a great language to learn and has so much potential behind it and for it.

What caught me a little off guard was the term object-oriented. For the longest time I hadn’t the slightest idea what that meant. I finally reached that pivotal moment when it hit me. That little moment of: that makes total sense.

What are arrays?

Arrays, simply put, are lists. Yes, it does sound sort of strange but it is true. Arrays are lists. In just about any programming language arrays are used to store not only information but information about that information. Yes, more information within information.

A great way of thinking what arrays are is to think of them as lists; which is kind of what they are. A good example is the little JavaSvript snippet:

var groceries = new Array( 'tomato', 'cucumber', 'squash', 'zucchini' );

Simple right? Now, what if we want to deal with and store more information? For that we introduce associative arrays.

Associative Arrays

Not the suit wearing type but the mathematical type. At least for me it makes sense. Not sure if it will help anybody else but here goes. An associative array is an array within an array.

Inception much?

A really great way to look at this is by not only looking at the code but thinking about lists. Yes, lists. Again. A great example of this is a restaurant’s menu.

$menu = array(
    'pizza' => array( 'cheese', 'pepperoni', 'sausage' ),
    'potato' => array( 'fried', 'baked', 'chopped', 'chip' ),
    'drink' => array(
        'soda' => array( 'diet', 'regular' ),
        'alcohol' => array( 'beer', 'wine' )
    'salad' => array( 'house', 'caesar' )

Wow! That is quite a bit of code to show my point but I will run through it pretty quickly.

We start with the basic menu items: pizza, potato, drink and salad. Each one of those items then has its own bit of information attached to it. Pizza has the toppings, potato shows how it is cooked, the drink one is a little tricky in that it has two different arrays for soda and alcohol.

Get it? Got it?

And there we have a small glimpse of how I am capable of understanding arrays and associative arrays. Very dumbed down but it is a very clear way of looking at it.