In the realm of computer science, particularly in data structures and algorithms, a stack stands out as a simple yet powerful tool for managing data. Imagine a stack of plates at a buffet, where you can only take the top plate and add a new plate to the top. This real-world analogy perfectly encapsulates the essence of a stack in computing: a linear data structure that follows the Last In, First Out (LIFO) principle. In this blog, we’ll break down the concept of stacks, their operations, and provide examples to make it easy to understand for students embarking on their data structures journey.

What is a Stack?

A stack is a collection of elements with two principal operations: push, which adds an element to the collection, and pop, which removes the most recently added element. The last element added is the first one to be removed, hence the Last In, First Out (LIFO) principle. It’s like a stack of books; you can only remove the book on top, and any new book gets added on top of the pile.

Key Operations

  1. Push: Add an element to the top of the stack.
  2. Pop: Remove and return the top element from the stack.
  3. Peek or Top: Return the top element of the stack without removing it.
  4. IsEmpty: Check if the stack is empty.


Let’s dive into some examples to better understand how stacks work:

Example 1: Stack of Plates

Consider a stack of plates. When you add a new plate, you place it on top of the stack. When you need a plate, you take the one at the top. If you want to look at the top plate without taking it, you’re essentially “peeking” at the stack.

Example 2: Browser Back Button

A more technical example is the way a web browser tracks the pages you’ve visited. Every time you visit a new page, the browser “pushes” that page onto a stack. When you hit the back button, the browser “pops” the current page from the stack, taking you back to the previous page.

Implementing a Stack

Here’s a simple implementation of a stack in Python:

class Stack:
    def __init__(self):
        self.items = []

    def is_empty(self):
        return self.items == []

    def push(self, item):

    def pop(self):
        return self.items.pop()

    def peek(self):
        return self.items[-1]

# Example usage
stack = Stack()
stack.push('A')  # Stack: ['A']
stack.push('B')  # Stack: ['A', 'B']
print(stack.peek())  # Output: 'B'
stack.pop()  # Stack: ['A']
print(stack.peek())  # Output: 'A'

Applications of Stacks

Stacks are widely used in various computer science applications, including:

  • Expression Evaluation: Stacks are used to evaluate arithmetic expressions, such as infix to postfix conversion.
  • Function Calls: The call stack keeps track of function calls in a program, allowing for function execution and return.
  • Undo Mechanisms: Many applications use stacks to keep track of operations for undo functionalities.


Stacks are a fundamental data structure in computer science, with a wide range of applications from web browsing to programming language compilers. Understanding how to implement and use stacks is a crucial step in mastering data structures and algorithms. By grasping the LIFO principle and practicing with real-world examples, students can develop a solid foundation in computer science concepts and problem-solving strategies.