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The concept of abstract data types is extended to associate performance information with each abstract data type representation. The resulting performance abstract data type contains a functional part which describes the functional properties of the data type and a performance part which describes the performance characteristics of the data type. The performance part depends upon 1) the algorithms and data representation selected to represent the data type, 2) the particular machine on which the software realization of the data type is realized, and 3) the statistical properties of the actual data represented by the data objects involved in the data type. Methods for determining the necessary information to specify the performance part of the representation are discussed.