The idea of the radix sort is to do digit by digit sorting startng from the least significant digit to the high significant digit.
Radix sort uses counting sort as a subroutine to sort.
Do following for each digit i where i varies from least significant digit to the most significant digit.
- Sort input array using counting sort (or any stable sort) according to the i’th digit.
Original, unsorted list: 170, 45, 75, 90, 802, 24, 2, 66
Sorting by least significant digit (1s place) gives: [*Notice that we keep 802 before 2, because 802 occurred before 2 in the original list, and similarly for pairs 170 & 90 and 45 & 75.]
170, 90, 802, 2, 24, 45, 75, 66
Sorting by next digit (10s place) gives: [*Notice that 802 again comes before 2 as 802 comes before 2 in the previous list.]
802, 2, 24, 45, 66, 170, 75, 90 Sorting by the most significant digit (100s place) gives: 2, 24, 45, 66, 75, 90, 170, 802
What is the running time of Radix Sort?
Let there be d digits in input integers. Radix Sort takes O(d*(n+b)) time where b is the base for representing numbers, for example, for the decimal system, b is 10. What is the value of d? If k is the maximum possible value, then d would be O(logb(k)). So overall time complexity is O((n+b) * logb(k)).
Is Radix Sort preferable to Comparison based sorting algorithms like Quick-Sort?
If we have log2n bits for every digit, the running time of Radix appears to be better than Quick Sort for a wide range of input numbers. The constant factors hidden in asymptotic notation are higher for Radix Sort and Quick-Sort uses hardware caches more effectively. Also, Radix sort uses counting sort as a subroutine and counting sort takes extra space to sort numbers.
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