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Time and Space Complexity. Justin Kovacich. What are they, exactly?. Time Complexity – The amount of time required to execute an algorithm Space Complexity – The amount of memory required to execute an algorithm. Big O Notation.

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Time and space complexity

Time and Space Complexity

Justin Kovacich

What are they exactly
What are they, exactly?

  • Time Complexity – The amount of time required to execute an algorithm

  • Space Complexity – The amount of memory required to execute an algorithm.

Big o notation
Big O Notation

  • Used to describe the amount of time a given algorithm would take in the worst case, based on the input size n.

  • For the sake of analysis, we ignore constants:

  • O(C * f(n)) = O(g(n)) or O(5N) = O(N)

Algorithm analysis time
Algorithm Analysis Time!

void bubblesort(int []array, intlen){

boolean unchanged = false;

while(unchanged == false) {

unchanged = true;

for(inti = 0; i < len -1; i++)

if(a[i] > a[i+1]){

swap (a[i], a[i+1])

unchanged = false;




Sample data lets follow along
Sample data, lets follow along!

The following represents a sample input array of size n = 6 to our bubble sort algorithm. This is a look after each pass of the for loop, where it must go from 0 to n -1.

Time to add it up
Time to add it up…

  • 2 + 4(n-1) + 2 + 4(n-2) + 2(i) + … + 2 + 2(n-1)

  • N loops through while *(N-1 ) loops through for = N2 – N

  • As size of N grows larger, only the N2 factor is important.

  • O(f(n)) = O(N2)

  • The best case for any sort algorithm is O(N), and bubblesort can achieve that if its data is already sorted.

  • On average, it is one of the worse sorting algorithms.

Other ways to measure time complexity
Other Ways to Measure Time Complexity

  • The Average Case – More difficult to compute because it requires some knowledge of what you should expect on average, but is a best measure of an algorithm. Bubble sort shares the same worst case time complexity with insertion sort, but on average is much worse.

  • The Best Case – Not exactly the best measure of an algorithm’s performance because unless it is likely to continually be the best case comparisons between algorithms are not very meaningful.

A quick look at space complexity
A quick look at Space Complexity

  • In our previous example, our array consisted of an n integer array, and 3 other variables.

  • Space complexity is typically a secondary concern to time complexity given the amount of space in today’s computers, unless of course its size requirements simply become too large.

Why is time complexity important
Why is time complexity important?

  • Allows for comparisons with other algorithms to determine which is more efficient.

  • We need a way to determine whether or not something is going to take a reasonable amount of time to run or not…Time complexities of 2n are no good. For n = 100, would be 1267650600228229401496703205376 operations (which would take a super long time.)

Time complexity the bigger picture
Time Complexity, the bigger picture.

  • One of the big questions in Computer Science right now is the finding a way to determine if an NP-Complete problem can be computed in polynomial time.

  • NP-Complete problems are problems that cannot, to our knowledge, be solved in polynomial time, but whose answer can be verified in polynomial time.

Homework assignment
Homework Assignment!

  • Without any fore-knowledge of the data you’re going to be operating on, what is the best case time complexity for a sorting algorithm and why?


  • Dewdney, A.K. The New Turing Omnibus. New York: Henry Holt, 1989. 96 – 102

  • “Computational Complexity Theory”, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_complexity_theory. Accessed 1/28/08, last modified 1/15/08.