(max) data types and symbols

I’m going to break down some of the topics covered in the last few classes. Hopefully these shorter posts will be informative and perhaps easier to sort and follow.

Data Types

Like most computer programming languages, Max handles a wide variety of data types, and different Max objects have different expectations for incoming data. We have dealt so far with integer and floating point numbers (representing two different data types), and symbols. Symbols can most easily be thought of as text and not numbers. In the first tutorial, you printed “hello world” to the Max window. The words “hello world” represent a symbol, or more specifically a list of symbols. Each word is separated by a space.

Eventually we will add audio as a data type. Although digital audio is simply a string of numbers, the rate and amount of numbers transmitted as audio far surpasses most control functions. Therefore, Max treats audio as its own data type.


Some symbols are special, or reserved in Max for specific functions. “bang” is such a special symbol in Max, output by pressing a button, or sending the button any message in its inlet. Objects that react to bang are programmed to perform a special function when receiving bang.

At first, we will use symbols for specially formatted arguments, and to change object attributes.


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