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In computing, the term stream is used in a number of ways, in all cases referring to a sequence of data elements made available over time. A stream can be thought of as a conveyor belt that allows items to be processed one at a time rather than in large batches. On Unix and related systems based on the C language, a stream is a source or sink of data, usually individual bytes or characters. Streams are an abstraction used when reading or writing files, or communicating over network sockets.