Is variable storage logically contiguous?

Hello

I have an application in which I would like to read variable data stored
in a netCDF file without using the netCDF routines, but rather using for
example - "read"s in C.  My question is -- Assuming I know where the data
for a variable starts, what its format is and how many elements it has, can
I just start reading the appropriate number of bytes (without jumping around)?
If it makes a difference -- the variable is multi-dimensional.

If yes, what is the probability of this ever changing?

How about for HDF formatted files created with an netCDF front end?

Also, what is the status of the netCDF (and related HDF) port to VMS on the
Alpha?

And finally -- Are there any plans to merge the netCDF and HDF formats or
make them more compatible?

Thanks in advance.

Brad Beattie
Dept. of Neurolgy
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
beattie@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx