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Definition: alignment

(1) Arranging data to line up with a required format on a screen or printed form.

(2) Arranging data in memory in increments of the fundamental "word size" of the computer in order to improve response times. Although memory may be wasted such as a one-byte variable taking up four bytes to conform to a 32-bit word, data are accessed faster when stored within word boundaries. While only nanoseconds are saved with each byte of memory retrieved, programmers create numerous counters to keep track of internal operations that collectively may be accessed millions of times per second. In the x86 PC world, data alignment in memory is important for parallel multimedia operations (see SSE). See word.