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This paper considers content addressability and discusses its potential impact on software engineering in the context of its affinity to, and thus efficient implementation of, common abstract data types. More generally, the authors present an approach to language design based on the abstracted characteristics of the implementing hardware. Based on the perceived needs of common data types, a prototype MOS VLSI content addressable memory component is designed together with enhancements leading to large fault-tolerant memory systems. A novel computer architecture is introduced to include this component and to provide an example target machine. The specification of a high level programming language, using a tractable set of extensions to conventional language syntax, then completes the programming environment.