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The ierarchical data format HDF is a file format for sharing data in a distributed environment. It is mostly used in scientific computing environments. HDF was developed at NCSA at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. which maintains a suite of free, open source software to deal with HDF. In 1993 NASA chose HDF to be the standard file format for storing data from the Earth Observing System (EOS), which is a data gathering system of sensors (mainly satellites) supporting the Global Change Research Program. There are several types of HDF object; rasters, palettes, tables, and multi-dimensional arrays. HDF5 can store two primary objects; datasets and groups. A dataset is essentially a multi-dimensional array of data elements, and a group is a structure for organising objects in an HDF5 file.

Simplicity, Clarity, Generality B.W. Kernighan, R. Pike, in "The Practice of Programming".