Learning GNU C

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Learning GNU C Ciaran O'Riordan

Copyright © 2002 Ciaran O'Riordan

This file is a C programming tutorial using the GNU C compiler and GNU Libc.

Copyright © 2002 Ciaran O'Riordan.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

with the no Invariant Sections, with the Front-Cover Texts being "Richard Stallman Rules", and with the Back-Cover Texts being "This is a Free book, Free as in Freedom. Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and edit this book under the GNU Free Documentation License".


  1. This document was originally taken from here.
  2. The author Ciaran O'Riordan's homepage is here.



Target Audience

Welcome to Learning GNU C. The aim of this book is to teach GNU users how to write software in C. It is written primarily as a tutorial for beginners but should be thorough enough to be used as a reference by experienced programmers. The basics are laid down in full in the first few chapters. Beginners will read these chapters carefully while those with prior experience can skim through them. All the information is there, no prior knowledge of programming is assumed.

The reader is assumed to have access to a computer with a GNU system installed. Although the target audience is GNU users, the content of the book should also be 98% relevant to users of OpenBSD, FreeBSD, or NetBSD. Some familiarity with using your computer from the shell (the command line) would be helpful, although all commands will be shown alongside programming examples. The only piece of software you do need experience with is a text editor. Any text editor will do. GNU Emacs is an especially good one for programmers. It has been in development for over twenty years and contains hundreds of useful features. GNU Nano is a simple text editor you could use. Some programmers like to use vi (pronounced 'vee eye'). If you already have a favorite text editor, you can use that. There are also graphical editors geared towards programmers such as Anjuta and KDevelop, but most programmers prefer text based editors.

Scope of this text

The contents of this book can be divided into two topics: the core C language, and the standard functionality made available to the programmer. The standard functionality I mention is provided by GNU Libc. This is a library of C functionality that is part of every GNU system. Neither of these topics is of much use without the other but there is a focus on the core language near the beginning and more discussion on Libc near the end. The ordering of topics is designed to teach C programming in an incremental fashion where each chapter builds on the previous one. Some aspects of the core language are only really of use to experienced programmers and so appear near the end.

The C language on its own can make decisions, repeat commands, store data, and perform mathematics. Equally importantly, it provides a method to make use of extra functionality such as Libc.

Libc provides functionality such as reading and writing files, sorting and searching data, getting input from the user, displaying data to the user, communicating across networks, creating easily translatable programs, and many other things.

Why learn C?

C is a standard. It is the programmers' programming language. It is the standard programming language of GNU and BSD-based systems. The majority of these systems and the applications that run on them are written in C. C was developed over thirty years ago for writing operating systems and applications. Its small, extensible design has allowed it to evolve with the computer industry. Because of its age and popularity, C is a very well supported language. Many tools exist to make C programming easier and these tools are often very mature and of a high standard. All the software we will use in this book is written in C.

Why use GNU?

GNU is a complete, Unix-like operating system that has been in development for just over twenty years. GNU software is known for its stability and standard compliance.

Most GNU systems use Linux as a kernel. These systems are often known as GNU/Linux systems.

Why Free Software?

The greatest thing about GNU is that the entire system is what is known as Free Software. Software is Free Software when people have the freedom to: use the software for any purpose, make changes to the software, share the software with others, and distribute modified versions of the software.

Software that isn't Free Software is called proprietary software. It is so-called because a person claims the software to be their property and bans others from sharing and making changes to it.

From an ethical standpoint, writing Free Software is a much more social way to act. Free Software empowers its users by allowing them to help themselves by making changes they want to the software (or getting someone else to make these changes). It allows people to help their neighbors by sharing the software. Proprietary software does the opposite: it makes sharing illegal, telling people that it is a criminal offense to say "yes" when someone asks for help. And Free Software allows people to help their community by distributing improved versions of the software.

Free Software also doesn't discriminate against poorer people or people from developing nations. By allowing them all the above freedoms it permits them to use computers without having to pay impossible amounts of money for the "privilege".

Finally, there are the technical benefits. Free Software is free from marketing plots. It doesn't restrict itself to force users to buy extra pieces of software. Each piece of GNU is designed to be as useful as possible. As a programmer, you can use the same C programming software that is used in major projects.

Non-Free programs are generally distributed in a machine readable form only. This means that the user cannot see what is going on inside a program. In contrast, Free Software is required to come with source code in a human readable format. As a programmer, you can read the source code for any piece of Free Software you like. If there are errors in a program, you can fix them.

This freedom to fix errors and add functionality is what has made GNU software so good. All code is available for peer review.

Free Software will change the world for the better

Introduction to C

What are Programming Languages?

A programming language defines a format for laying out ordered sets of instructions to be executed by a computer. Programming languages can be sorted into three three categories: interpreted languages, compiled languages, and machine languages. Of these types, only machine languages can be understood directly by a computer.

A machine language is the set of instructions that a computer's CPU (central processing unit) understands. All instructions and information are represented by numbers; very fast for computers, very hard for human brains to read or write. To ease the task of computer programming, people created easier languages called assembly languages. An assembly language is one which provides textual names for the available machine language commands. This, along with the fact that assembly languages allowed programmers to add spaces and tabs to their code, made assembly languages far easier to program with. Assembly code can then be fed to an assembler which translates it into the machine language of the target computer's CPU.

The use of assembly languages spread very fast, they became known as "second generation languages" but there was still two problems with assembly languages. Firstly, each command does only a very basic task such as add two numbers or load a value from memory. Using these small commands was quite tedious. The second problem was much bigger. Programs written in an assembly language are bound to a particular type of CPU. Each type of CPU has its own machine language and, therefore, its own assembly language. The next task was to design a language that could be translated into the machine language of many CPUs.

These new machine-independent languages were known as third generation or high-level languages. Designed to be easy to read, these languages were made up of English words, basic mathematical symbols and a few punctuation characters. These languages allow simple statements to be expressed concisely, for example, adding two numbers and storing the result in memory could be expressed as:

data = 10 + 200;

rather than:

Load R1, 10
Load R2, 200
Addi R1, R2
Store R2, L1

What is C?

A tool called a compiler is used to convert the high-level code into machine language. A program can be written in C and compiled for any computer. It's up to the compiler to get the hardware-specific instructions right.

To see just how readable C is compared to Assembly language, take a look at the following tiny program written in each:

Example 1-1. C vs. Assembly language

          .section  .rodata
          .string   "Tax Due: %d\n"
          .align 2
.globl main
          .type     main,@function
          pushl     %ebp
          movl      %esp, %ebp
          subl      $24, %esp
          andl      $-16, %esp
          movl      $0, %eax
          subl      %eax, %esp
          movl      $1000, %eax
          movl      $400, %edx
          movl      $0x3e6147ae, -12(%ebp)
          subl      %edx, %eax
          pushl     %eax
          fildl     (%esp)
          leal      4(%esp), %esp
          fmuls     -12(%ebp)
          fnstcw    -18(%ebp)
          movw      -18(%ebp), %ax
          movb      $12, %ah
          movw      %ax, -20(%ebp)
          fldcw     -20(%ebp)
          fistpl    -16(%ebp)
          fldcw     -18(%ebp)
          subl      $8, %esp
          pushl     -16(%ebp)
          pushl     $.LC0
          call      printf
          addl      $16, %esp
          movl      $1, %eax
          .size     main,.Lfe1-main

And the program in C:

#include <stdio.h> 

int main() {
  int wages = 1000;
  int tax_allowance = 400;
  float tax_rate = 0.22;
  int tax_due; 
  tax_due = (wages - tax_allowance) * tax_rate; 
  printf("Tax Due: %d euro\n", tax_due); 
  return 0;

Which did you find easier to understand, even without knowing C? The output of both programs is the same: "Tax Due: 131 euro". The Assembly code shown is written in the "80386" instruction set and will not work on machines that use a different instruction set. The C code can be compiled for practically any computer.

Programming Tools

GNU comes with a compiler called GCC. Originally, this stood for "GNU C Compiler" but since it can now compile languages other than C, its name was changed to "GNU Compiler Collection". To check if you have GCC installed, type the following:

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ gcc --version
gcc (GCC) 4.1.2 20070925 (Red Hat 4.1.2-27)
Copyright (C) 2006 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions.  There is NO

The version of GCC you have installed may be different, anything similar, such as "2.95.2" or "3.3.0", is ok. If you get an error message saying command not found, then you don't have GCC installed. If you installed GNU from a CD, you should find GCC there. If you don't know how to install applications from a CD, then get a friend or the person who installed your GNU system to do it for you.

Introducing GCC

Now we're going to show you a tiny bit of C code and how to compile it. The point here is to show you how to use GCC so we won't explain the C code yet. Here's the smallest C program that GCC will compile. It does nothing.

Example 1-2. tiny.c

main() {

Type this piece of code into your text editor and save it to a file called tiny.c. You can choose any name so long as it ends with .c. This is the extension used by C programs, and GCC checks for this extension when compiling a program. With the file saved, you can now compile it into an executable program by typing:

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ gcc tiny.c

This command should succeed with no output. If you got any error messages, check that you typed the program in correctly. Weighing in at eight characters, we'll assume you've gotten this much correct and move on. A file called a.out should have appeared in your directory. This is the machine language program created from the above code. If you run it you will see that it really does nothing at all. The name a.out exists for historical reasons, it is short for assembler output.

Although GCC will compile this code, it isn't strictly complete. If we enable GCC's warnings, we will be told what is missing. You are not expected to understand the warning messages right now, we show this only to demonstrate GCC's warnings. You enable warnings by adding the -Wall switch to your compilation command.

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ gcc -Wall tiny.c
tiny.c:2: warning: return-type defaults to `int'
tiny.c: In function `main':
tiny.c:3: warning: control reaches end of non-void function

These warnings appear because our program is not strictly complete. To get rid of these warnings we must add two more lines. So here's the smallest valid C program:

Example 1-3. tiny2.c

int main() {
  return 0;

When we compile this with the -Wall option we will get no warnings. Another option: -o filename can be used to specify the name you want to give to your program (instead of a.out).

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ gcc -Wall -o tiny-program tiny2.c

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ ls
tiny2.c  tiny-program
ciaran@pooh:~/book$ ./tiny-program

Who defines Valid C?

For you, the programmer, "valid C" is defined by the compiler. There are many dialects of C in existence, thankfully they are all very similar. There are also other languages that are based on C such as Objective C and C++. These languages are very like C in their appearance, but their usage is quite different. GCC understands many dialects of C as well as many other languages (including Objective C and C++).

"K&R" C

C was created by Dennis Ritchie between 1969 and 1973. In 1978, Dennis Ritchie along with Brian Kernighan published an excellent C tutorial, "The C programming language". This was the first formal definition of the language. Being the original C dialect, it is sometimes called Traditional C. Unfortunately, the book left many aspects of the language undefined. This meant that people writing compilers had to make decisions as to how to handle these aspects. The result was that a piece of code would behave differently depending on what compiler was used. This dialect is no longer used, and GCC supports it only for compiling very old programs. We mention it here purely for historical purposes.


In 1983, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) set up a committee to draw up a more exact standard and fix a few shortcomings they saw in the language. In 1989, they finalized this standard which was accepted by the International Standards Organization (ISO). This new dialect became known as "C89". It is also called "ISO C" or "ANSI C". GCC is one of the most conforming compilers available.


The ANSI C committee meets infrequently to update the standard. The latest updated standard was released in 1999 and is known as "C99". Few compilers fully support C99 yet; making changes to one of the most important pieces of software to an operating system takes time. GCC's C99 support is mostly complete (at the time of this writing) but the developers are working on it.


GNU C is most similar to C89 but has a lot of the new features of C99 added and a few other extensions. These extensions have been added conservatively by the developers, as problems are found that C99 doesn't provide good solutions to. GNU C is the default dialect of GCC and is the dialect we will use in this book. We will try our best to point out GNU extensions when we use them but in general, it is better to make full use GNU C. Use of ISO C is limiting your programs to the lowest common denominator and should only be used in special cases.

Choosing a Dialect

If you would like to use a dialect other than the default, you can specify your choice with the -std= switch followed by name of the dialect. The names are: c89, c99, gnu89 and, gnu99. "gnu89" is the current default but "gnu99" will become the default when C99 support is complete. The change will not be very noticeable.

Future Standards

Extensions such as those added by GCC are the main source of inspiration for new ISO C standards. When the ANSI C group see a lot of compilers implementing an extension, they review the necessity of that feature and if they decide it would be of benefit, they work out a standard way to implement it. Some of GCC's extensions may make it into the next standard, some will not.


This concludes our introduction. Hopefully, you now have a grasp of what programming is. In the next chapter we'll start writing basic programs that actually do something and explain how they do it.

Starting With Functions

What are functions?

Functions are the building blocks of C programs. The majority of a C program is made up of named blocks of code called functions. When you write a program, you will write many functions to perform the tasks you need. There are, however, a lot of common tasks, such as displaying text to the screen, that a lot of programmers will need. Instead of having everyone reinventing the wheel, GNU systems come with libraries of pre-defined functions for many of these tasks. Over the years, thousands of such functions have accumulated. If you were writing a program that plays the game, BINGO, you would have to write the game specific functions yourself but you would find that others have already written functions for generating random numbers, displaying results to the screen, getting input from the player, etc.

Every C program must have a function called main(). This is where execution of the program begins. The code of a program could be completely contained in main(), but it is more usual to split a program into many small functions.

The first piece of useful code we will look at is a classic. When compiled and run, it will display a simple greeting to your screen. This program defines a function called main() and calls (uses) a function called printf(). printf() is a function provided for us by the "Standard Device Input/Output library". This library comes with every GNU system. Here's our little program:

Example 2-1. hello.c

#include <stdio.h> 
int main() {
  printf("hello, world\n"); 
  return 0;

Compile and run this program before moving on. If all goes well, it will display the text string "hello, world" to your terminal (the standard output device). Here's the compilation command just in case you've forgotten:

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ gcc -Wall -o hello hello.c
ciaran@pooh:~/book$ ./hello
hello, world

If you got any error or warning messages, check that your code matches the code in this book exactly. Any messages you got should tell you the line of code where your mistake is. If you've typed the code in correctly, you will get no such messages.

A Line-by-Line Dissection

We'll do a quick description of what each line does. Don't worry if you're not sure about some parts, we'll do plenty more examples.

#include <stdio.h>   

This line tells GCC to include information about how to use the functions from the Standard Device Input/Output library. Usually, the standard input device is your keyboard and the standard output device a terminal (which is displayed on your monitor. This library is very widely used. We'll come across a lot of functions from it in this book.

int main()

This line begins the definition of the function main(). We'll explain the first of these two lines later.


The open curly braces signals the beginning of a block of code. All code between this curly brace and its matching closing brace is part of the function main().

 printf("hello, world\n");

This line is a function call, the function is already defined for you. When you call printf(), you must pass it an argument to tell it what to display.

 return 0;

The return statement ends execution of the function main(), any statements after this line would not be executed. When main() ends, your program exits. When a function ends, it can pass a value back to whoever called it. This is done by placing the value after return. main() always returns an integer (a positive or negative number with no decimal point). We tell the compiler to expect this by preceding the definition of main() with int. When returning from main(), it is convention to return zero if no problems were encountered.


The closing curly brace signals the end of the block of code that makes up main().

The two lines that make up the body of main() are known as statements. More specifically, they are simple statements (as opposed to compound statements which we will encounter in chapter 4). Statements are to C what sentences are to spoken languages. A semi-colon ends a simple statement. The blank lines in the program are optional, C never requires a blank line but they make code much easier to read.

We mentioned that our function main() returns the value zero. For most functions, the return value can be used within the program, but since returning from main() signals the end of the program, it returns it to the shell. The return value of a program is stored by the shell, if you want to see it, type the following:

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ gcc -Wall -o hello hello.c
ciaran@pooh:~/book$ ./hello
hello, world
ciaran@pooh:~/book$ echo $?


Comments are a way to add explanatory text to your program. They are ignored by the compiler, so they don't affect your program in any way. As the programs you write get larger, you will find it helpful to have comments in your code to remind you what you are doing. In the examples in this book we will use comments to explain what is going on. There are two ways to insert a comment into your program, the most common way is to start and end your comments with /* and */ respectively. Comments of this sort can span multiple lines. The second way is by placing // at the start of your comment. Comments of this sort are terminated at the end of a line. Here's our "hello, world" program with comments.

Example 2-2. hello2.c

/* The purpose of this program is to
 * display some text to the screen
 * and then exit.

#include <stdio.h> 
int main() {
  /* printf() displays a text string */
  printf("hello, world\n"); 
  return 0;  //zero indicates there were no errors

When compiled, this code will produce exactly the same executable. Lines 2 and 3 of the comment at the top start with an asterisk. This is not necessary, but it makes it clear that the comment extends for four lines.

Making Your Own Functions

In that last example we defined just one function. To add another function you must generally do two things. First, you must define the function, just like we defined main(). Also, you you must declare it. Declaring a function is like telling GCC to expect it. We didn't have to declare main() because it is a special function and GCC knows to expect it. The name or identifier you give to a function must appear in both the definition and the declaration.

Function identifiers can be made up of the alphabetic characters "a"-"z" and "A"-"Z", the numeric characters "0"-"9" and the underscore character "_". These can be used in any order, as long as the first character of the identifier is not a number. As we said earlier, C is case-sensitive, so My_Function is completely different from my_function. A function identifier must be unique. Identifiers can safely be up to 63 characters long or as short as 1 character.

Along with its identifier, you must give each function a type and a block of code. The type tells the compiler what sort of data it returns. The return value of a function can be ignored. printf() returns an integer saying how many characters it displayed to the terminal. This information wasn't important to us, so we ignored it in our program. In the next chapter we'll discuss types of data in detail. Until then we'll gloss over return values.

Here's a program that defines three functions:

Example 2-3. three_functions.c

#include <stdio.h> 
/* function declarations */
int first_function(void);
int goodbye(void); 

int main() {            // function definition
  printf("the program begins...\n");
  return 0;

int first_function() {  // function definition
  /* this function does nothing */
  return 0;
int goodbye() {         // function definition
  printf("...and the program ends.\n"); 
  return 0;

In the above example we wrote first_function(), which does nothing, and goodbye(), which displays a message. Functions must be declared before they can be called. In our case, this means they must appear before our definition of main(). In practice, function declarations are generally grouped at the top of a file after any #include lines and before any function definitions.

2.5. Multiple Files

Programs do not have to be written in just one file. Your code can split up into as many files as you want. If a program is comprised of forty functions, you could put each function into a separate file. This is a bit extreme though. Often, functions are grouped by topic and put into separate files. Say you were writing a program that worked out the price of a pizza and displayed the result. You could put the calculation functions into one file, the display functions into another, and have main() in a third one. The command you would use to compile your program would look something like this:

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ gcc -o pizza_program main.c prices.c display.c

Remember: If you define a function in prices.c and you want to call this function in main.c, you must declare the function in main.c.

Header Files

Keeping track of function declarations can get messy. For this reason, header files are used to house C code that you wish to appear in multiple files. You have actually already used a header file. stdio.h is a header file which contains many function declarations. It contains the function declarations for printf(). Once you have placed the function declarations you wish to share into a header file, you can #include your header in each C file that needs the information. The only difference is that you surround your filename in quotes instead of angle brackets ("my_header.h") instead of (<system_header.h>). To illustrate these points, we'll write that pizza program I mentioned earlier.

A Larger (non)Program

The small amount of programming we have shown so far isn't enough to make a decent interactive program. To keep it simple, we will write just a skeleton program so you can see the structure and usage of header files without getting bogged down in new concepts. In Chapter 3 we will write a full version of this program. The code here can be compiled and run, but it will not ask the user for any input or calculate the price.

First we have main.c. This will only contain the function main(). main() will call some of the functions we define in other files. Note that main.c doesn't have a line #include <stdio.h> as it does not use any of the functions in the Standard Device I/O library.

Example 2-4. main.c

#include "display.h"
#include "prices.h" 
int main() {
  return 0;

Next, we have display.c. This contains two functions, both of which are called from main() and so we put their declarations in a header file display.h.

Example 2-5. display.c

#include <stdio.h> 
int display_options() {
  printf("Welcome to the pizza parlor\n");
  printf("What size pizza would you like? (in inches)"); 
  return 0;
int display_price() {
  printf("Your pizza will cost 0.00\n"); 
  return 0;

Example 2-6. display.h

/* header file just contains function declarations, an file that wants
* to use either of these functions just has to #include this file */
int display_options(void);
int display_price(void);

Finally, we have prices.c, which contains the functions for getting input from the user and calculating the total cost of the pizza. Only one of these functions is called from main(), the declarations for the other two are therefore put at the top of the file. We'll fill in the code for these functions in Chapter 3.

Example 2-7. prices.c

int get_size(void);
int get_toppings(void); 
int calculate_price() {
  /* insert code here.  Will call get_size() and get_toppings(). */
  return 0;
int get_size() {
  /* insert code here */
  return 0;
int get_toppings() {
  /* insert code here */
  return 0;

Example 2-8. prices.h

int calculate_price(void);

This can then be compiled with the command: gcc -Wall -o pizza_program main.c prices.c display.c. When run, it will display a greeting and announce that your pizza costs "£0.00".

Another New Function

Before we move on, let's take a look at one more function from the Standard Device I/O Library: printf(). The "Print Formatted" command is an advanced form of printf(). The string you pass to printf() can contain character sequences which have special meanings. Unlike printf(), there is no automatic new-line at the end of a string displayed by printf() to insert a new-line you add the characters \n.

Primer Summary

What we've covered so far shouldn't be too hard. If you'd like to experiment, try writing similar programs that output a few lines. Split your program into a couple of functions and divide them into two files.

Always enable GCC's warnings when compiling your program. Warnings mean your code is unclear or incomplete, GCC will guess at the correct meaning and will usually get it right but you should not rely on this. Looking at and correcting the warnings will help you get used to the language. Most warnings are accompanied by the line number where the problem is. If you can't see anything wrong with that line check the line above it; if a statement is incomplete, GCC won't notice that it is an error until it encounters the beginning of the following statement. Don't forget your semi-colons.

Data and Expressions

Really useful programs take in data, perform actions on it and output it somewhere. In C, you use named pieces of memory called variables to store data. C programs can change the data stored in a variable at any time, hence the name. Every variable has an identifier which you can use to refer to it's data when you want to use or change it's value. An expression is anything that can be evaluated i.e. 1 + 1 is an expression of the value 2. In this expression, the plus sign is a binary operator; it operates on two values to create a single value.

The rules for naming a variable are the same as for naming a function, you can use letters, numbers, and the underscore character and the first character must not be a number. Also like functions, variables must be declared before they can be used. The identifier you give to a variable should say what the the variable will be used for, this makes you code much easier to read. You can define your own variables or you can use one of the types already defined for you. Before we get bogged down in terminology let's look at a quick code example to show how simple it all is. In this example we will use two variables of the pre-defined type int.

Example 4-1. bicycles.c

#include <stdio.h>
int  main()  {
   int number_of_bicycles;
   int number_of_wheels;

   number_of_bicycles = 6;
   number_of_wheels = number_of_bicycles * 2;

   printf("I have %d bicycles\n", number_of_bicycles);
   printf("So I have %d wheels\n", number_of_wheels);

   return 0;

Bicycle Dissection

There are a few new things to look at here, we'll break the program into chunks to explain them.

   int number_of_bicycles;
   int number_of_wheels;

These two lines each declare a variable. int is one of the built-in data types of the C language. Variables of type int can store positive or negative whole numbers.

  number_of_bicycles = 6;

This line stores the value 6 in the variable number_of_bicycles. The equals sign is known as "the assignment operator", it assigns the value on the right hand side of it to the variable on the left hand side.

  number_of_wheels = number_of_bicycles * 2;

Again, this line uses the assignment operator but it also uses the multiplication operator. The asterisk is another binary operator, it multiplies two values to create a single value. In this case it creates the value 12 which is then stored in number_of_wheels.

  printf("I have %d bicycles\n", number_of_bicycles);
  printf("So I have %d wheels\n", number_of_wheels);

Here we see printf() again but it's being used unlike we have seen before. Here it is taking two arguments which are separated by a comma. The first argument to printf() is known as the format string. When a %d is encountered in the format string, printf() knows to expect an extra argument. The %d is replaced by the value of this extra argument. One addition argument is expected for each %d encountered.

With this new knowledge it should be no surprise that when we compile and run this piece of code we get the following:

I have 6 bicycles
So I have 12 wheels

As always, don't worry if you are unsure about certain parts. We'll do plenty more examples.

Data Types

All the data types defined by C are made up of units of memory called bytes. On most computer architectures a byte is made up of eight bits, each bit stores a one or a zero. These eight bits with two states give 256 combinations (28). So an integer which takes up two bytes can store a number between 0 and 65535 (0 and 216. Usually however, integer variables use the first bit to store whether the number is positive or negative so their value will be between -32768 and +32767.

As we mentioned, there are eight basic data types defined in the C language. Five types for storing integers of varying sizes and three types for storing floating point values (values with a decimal point). C doesn't provide a basic data type for text. Text is made up of individual characters and characters are represented by numbers. In the last example we used one of the integer types: int. This is the most commonly used type in the C language.

The majority of data used in computer programs is made up of the integer types, we'll discuss the floating point types a little later. In order of size, starting with the smallest, the integer types are char, short, int, long and long long. The smaller types have the advantage of taking up less memory, the larger types incur a performance penalty. Variables of type int store the largest possible integer which does not incur this performance penalty. For this reason, int variables can be different depending what type of computer you are using.

The char data type is usually one byte, it is so called because they are commonly used to store single characters. The size of the other types is dependent on the hardware of your computer. Most desktop machines are "32-bit", this refers to the size of data that they are designed for processing. On "32-bit" machines the int data type takes up 4 bytes (232). The short is usually smaller, the long can be larger or the same size as an int and finally the long long is for handling very large numbers.

The type of variable you use generally doesn't have a big impact on the speed or memory usage of your application. Unless you have a special need you can just use int variables. We will try to point out the few cases where it can be important in this book. A decade ago, most machines had 16-bit processors, this limited the size of int variables to 2 bytes. At the time, short variables were usually also 2 bytes and long would be 4 bytes. Nowadays, with 32-bit machines, the default type (int) is usually large enough to satisfy what used to require a variable of type long. The long long type was introduced more recently to handle very large numeric values.

Some computers are better at handling really big numbers so the size of the data types will be bigger on these machines. To find out the size of each data type on your machine compile and run this piece of code. It uses one new language construct sizeof(). This tells you how many bytes a data type takes up.

Example 4-2. sizeof_types.c

#include <stdlib.h> 
int main() {
  printf("sizeof(char) == %d\n", sizeof(char));
  printf("sizeof(short) == %d\n", sizeof(short));
  printf("sizeof(int) == %d\n", sizeof(int));
  printf("sizeof(long) == %d\n", sizeof(long));
  printf("sizeof(long long) == %d\n", sizeof(long long));

  return 0;

Running sizeof_types.c returns the following:

sizeof(char) == 1
sizeof(short) == 2
sizeof(int) == 4
sizeof(long) == 4
sizeof(long long) == 8

Another Example of Assignment

Time for another example. This bit of code demonstrates a few more new things which we'll explain in a minute.

Example 4-3. displaying_variables.c

#include <stdio.h>

int main() {
  short first_number = -5;
  long second_number, third_number;

  second_number = 20000 + 10000;

  printf("the value of first_number is %hd\n", first_number);
  printf("the value of second_number is %ld\n", second_number);
  printf("the value of third_number is %ld\n", third_number);

  return 0;

We've used a short and two long variables. We could have used int variables but chose to use other types to show how similar they are. In the first line of main() we declare a variable and give it a value all in one line. This is pretty normal. The second line declares two variables at once by separating them with a comma. This can be handy, but code is often more readable when variable declarations get a line to themselves.

The third line is very like some code from the first example, the addition operator produces the value 30000 which gets stored in second_number. The last thing to point out is that instead of %d, the format string of printf() contains %hd for the short variable and %ld for the long variables. These little groupings of characters are called conversion specifiers. Each type of variable has it's own conversion specifier. If you want to print a single percent sign ("%") you must write %%.

When you compile and run this you will see the value of your variables.

the value of first_number is -5
the value of second_number is 30000
the value of third_number is 9901008

The value of third_number is strange. This is because it was never assigned a value. When you declare a variable, the operating system allocates some memory for it. You have no way of know what this memory was used for previously. Until you give your variable a value, the data stored in it is essentially random. Forgetting to assign a value to a variable is a common mistake among beginning programmers.

Table Source was taken from here

Other Print Conversion Specifiers:

Specifier Argument Type Converted Value Default Base Precision
%c int x (unsigned char)x
%lc wint_t x wchar_t a[2] = {x}
%d int x (int)x 10 1
%hd int x (short)x 10 1
%ld long x (long)x 10 1
%e double x (double)x 10 6
%Le long double x (long double)x 10 6
%E double x (double)x 10 6
%E long double x (long double)x 10 6
%f double x (double)x 10 6
%Lf long double x (long double)x 10 6
%g double x (double)x 10 6
%Lg long double x (long double)x 10 6
%G double x (double)x 10 6
%LG long double x (long double)x 10 6
%i int x (int)x 10 1
%hi int x (short)x 10 1
%li long x (long)x 10 1
%n int *x
%n int *x
%hn short *x
%ln long *x
%o int x (unsigned int)x 8 1
%ho int x (unsigned short)x 8 1
%lo long x (unsigned long)x 8 1
%p void *x (void *)x
%s char x[] x[0]... large
%ls wchar_t x[] x[0]... large
%u int x (unsigned int)x 10 1
%hu int x (unsigned short)x 10 1
%lu long x (unsigned long)x 10 1
%x int x (unsigned int)x 16 1
%hx int x (unsigned short)x 16 1
%lx long x (unsigned long)x 16 1
%X int x (unsigned int)x 16 1
%hX int x (unsigned short)x 16 1
%lX long x (unsigned long)x 16 1
%% none '%'

Quick Explanation of printf()

You may have noticed two characters near the end of our printf() statements \n. These don't get displayed to the screen, they are the notation printf() uses to represent "newline". '\' is the c escape character when it is encountered within quotes the following character usually has a special meaning. Another example is \t which is used to represent a TAB.

Another special character that printf() looks out for is '%', this tells it to look at the next few characters and be ready to replace them with the value of a variable. %d is the character sequence that represents a variable of type int to be displayed using the decimal counting system (0 .. 9). For every %d in the format string you must tell printf() what variable you want it replaced with. Here's some more use of printf() in code:

Example 4-4. more_printf.c

# include <stdio.h>
int main() {
  int one = 1;
  int two = 2;
  int three = 4;  /* the values are unimportant here */

  printf( "one ==\t%d\ntwo ==\t%d\nthree ==\t%d\n", one, two, three );

  return 0;

Simple Arithmetic

We mentioned at the start of this chapter that point of a program usually involves performing actions on data. By using standard mathematical symbols, arithmetic in C is easily readable.

Example 4-5. wages.c

# include <stdio.h>
int main() {
  int hours_per_day;
  int days_per_week;

  hours_per_day = 8;
  days_per_week = 5;

  printf("I work %d hours a week.\n", (days_per_week * hours_per_day) );

  printf("%d days %d hours \n", days_per_week, hours_per_day);

  return 0;

Global Variables

These have there place but are often used to fix badly written code. If two functions need to operate on a variable you should use pointers to share this variable rather than make it available to every function.

Constant Variables

A good rule to follow is to never use numbers other than 1 and 0 in your code. If you require another numeric constant you should make it a const variable; this way it gets a nice meaningful name. The number 40 has little meaning, however, the identifier HOURS_WORKED_PER_WEEK tells us something about what a function is doing. Another benefit is that you can change the value of a const variable in one place rather than having to change all occurrences of 40. Using the latter method it is easy to make a mistake by changing an unrelated occurrence of 40 or forgetting to change an occurrence.

Flow Control

Taking actions based on decisions - C provides two styles of decision making: branching and looping. Branching is deciding what actions to take and looping is deciding how many times to take a certain action.


Branching is so called because the program chooses to follow one branch or another. The if statement is the most simple of the branching statements. It takes an expression in parenthesis and an statement or block of statements (surrounded by curly braces). If the expression is true (evaluates to non-zero) then the statement or block of statements gets executed. Otherwise these statements are skipped. if statements take the following form:

if (expression)


if (expression)

Here's a quick example:

Example 4-1. using_if.c

#include <stdio.h>
int main() {
  int cows = 6;

  if (cows > 1)
    printf("We have cows\n");

  if (cows > 10)
    printf("loads of them!\n");

  return 0;

When compiled and run this program will display:

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ gcc -Wall -Werror -o cows using_if.c
ciaran@pooh:~/book$ ./cows
We have cows

The second printf() statement does not get executed because it's expression is false (evaluates to zero).

if ... else

A second form of if statement exists which allows you to also specify a block of code to execute if the test expression is false. This is known as an if ... else statement and is formed by placing the reserved word else and another block of code after the usual if statement. You program will execute one of the two blocks of code based on the test condition after the if.

Here's what it looks like:

Example 4-2. cows2.c

int main() {
  int cows = 0;

  if (cows > 1)
      printf("We have cows\n");
      printf("%d cows to be precise\n", cows);
      if (cows == 0)
        printf("We have no cows at all\n");
        printf("We have only one cow\n");

  if (cows > 10)
    printf("Maybe too many cows.\n");

  return 0;

You should be able to guess the output by now:

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ ./cows2
We have no cows at all

In the last example there was an if .. else statement inside another if .. else statement. This is perfectly legal in C and is quite common. There is another form of branching you can use but it's a little more complex so we'll leave it to to end of the chapter.


Loops provide a way to repeat commands and control how many times they are repeated. Say you wanted to print the alphabet to the screen, you could do this with a call to printf(). This is one solution but it doesn't scale very well. What if you wanted to print all the numbers between one and one thousand in a column? This could be handled by one big printf() or loads of printf() calls but repetitive work should be done by the computer, leaving you more time to work on the interesting parts of your program.

To perform a loop, one needs to use the while or for function.


The most basic loop in C is the while loop. A while statement is like a repeating if statement. Like an if statement, if the test condition is true the statements get executed. The difference is that after the statements have been executed, the test condition is checked again. If it is still true the statements get executed again. This cycle repeats until the test condition evaluates to false. If the test condition is false the first time, the statements don't get executed at all. On the other hand if it's test condition never evaluates to false it may continue looping infinitely. To control the number of times a loop executes it's code you usually have at least one variable in the test condition that gets altered in the subsequent block of code. This allows the test condition to become false at some point.

Here's the quick example you are probably expecting. It's a simple guessing game, very simple for the person who is writing the code as they know the answer. When testing this program remember to guess the wrong answer a few times.

Example 4-3. guess_my_number.c

#include <stdio.h>
int main() {
  const int MAGIC_NUMBER = 6;
  int guessed_number;

  printf("Try to guess what number I'm thinking of\n");
  printf("HINT: It's a number between 1 and 10\n");

  printf("enter your guess: ");
  scanf("%d", &guessed_number);

  while (guessed_number != MAGIC_NUMBER){
      printf("enter your guess: ");
      scanf("%d", &guessed_number);

  printf("you win.\n");

  return 0;

The block of code following within the while statement will be executed repeatedly until the player guesses the correct number. Note: the while function does not require the line ending ; at the end. The curly brackets indicate that you wish to perform the action within the while function until the conditions are met. To end the while function without allowing for input merely allows input once; if the input is true, then it will not end and since there is no room for input when there is not a variable allotted, then the loop will not read as false.

The similar expression to while is the do .. while function, which is just like a while loop except that the test condition is checked at the end of the loop rather than the start. This has the effect that the content of the loop is always executed at least once.

Example 4-4. guess_my_number.c

#include <stdio.h>
int main() {
  const int MAGIC_NUMBER = 6;
  int guessed_number;

  printf("Try to guess what number I'm thinking of\n");
  printf("HINT: It's a number between 1 and 10\n");

      printf("enter your guess: ");
      scanf("%d", &guessed_number);
  while (guessed_number != MAGIC_NUMBER);

  printf("you win.\n");

  return 0;


for is similar to while, it's just written differently. for statements are often used to process lists such a range of numbers:

Example 4-5. for_ten.c

#include <stdio.h>
int main() {
  int i;

  /* display the numbers from 0 to 9 */
  for (i = 0; i < 10; i++)
    printf("%d\n", i);

  return 0;

Will return:

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ gcc for_ten.c
ciaran@pooh:~/book$ ./a.out


The switch statement is much like a nested if .. else statement. Its mostly a matter of preference which you use; however, switch statement can be slightly more efficient and easier to read.

The Conditional Operator

The ?: operator is just like an if .. else statement except that because it is an operator you can use it within expressions.

Here's an example:

Example 4-6. apples.c

#include <stdio.h>
int main() {
  int apples = 6;

  printf("I have %d apple%s\n", apples, (apples == 1) ? "" : "s");

  return 0;

?: is a ternary operator in that it takes three values, this is the only ternary operator C has.

Break & Continue

You've see break already, we ended each case of our switch statement with one. break exits out of a loop.

continue is similar to break in that it short circuits the execution of a code block but continue brings execution back to the start of a loop.


The Basics

A limitation you may have noticed is that functions can only affect your program via their return value, so what do you do when you want a function to alter more than one variable? You use pointers. A pointer is a special kind of variable. Pointers are designed for storing memory address i.e. the address of another variable. Declaring a pointer is the same as declaring a normal variable except you stick an asterisk * in front of the variables identifier. There are two new operators you will need to know to work with pointers. The "address of" operator & and the "dereferencing" operator *. Both are prefix unary operators. When you place an ampersand in front of a variable you will get it's address, this can be store in a pointer. When you place an asterisk in front of a pointer you will get the value at the memory address pointed to. As usual, we'll look at a quick code example to show how simple this is.

Example 5-1. pointers_are_simple.c

#include <stdio.h>

int main() {
  int my_variable = 6, other_variable = 10;
  int *my_pointer;

  printf("the address of my_variable is    : %p\n", &my_variable);
  printf("the address of other_variable is : %p\n", &other_variable);

  my_pointer = &my_variable;

  printf("\nafter \"my_pointer = &my_variable\":\n");
  printf("\tthe value of my_pointer is %p\n", my_pointer);
  printf("\tthe value at that address is %d\n", *my_pointer);

  my_pointer = &other_variable;

  printf("\nafter \"my_pointer = &other_variable\":\n");
  printf("\tthe value of my_pointer is %p\n", my_pointer);
  printf("\tthe value at that address is %d\n", *my_pointer);

  return 0;

The output shows you the address of the two variables, the addresses your system assigns to the variables will be different to mine. In printf() you'll notice we used %p to display the addresses. This is the conversion specifier for all pointers. Anyway, here's the output I got:

the address of my_variable is    : 0xbffffa18
the address of other_variable is : 0xbffffa14

after "my_pointer = &my_variable":
        the value of my_pointer is 0xbffffa18
        the value at that address is 6

after "my_pointer = &other_variable":
        the value of my_pointer is 0xbffffa14
        the value at that address is 10

There. That's not too complicated. Once you are comfortable with pointers you're well on your way to mastering C.

The Address of a Variable

When your program is running and a variable declaration is encountered, you program makes a request for some memory. The operating system finds a spare piece of memory that is large enough and tells your program the address of this piece of memory. Any time your program wants to read the data stored in that variable, it looks at it's memory address and reads the number of bytes equal to the size of the data type of that variable.

If you run the example from the start of this chapter a second time you may or may not get the same result for the addresses, this depends on your system but even if you repeatably get the same addresses right now there is no guarantee that you will get the same result tomorrow, in fact it's rather unlikely.

Pointers as Function Arguments

One of the best things about pointers is that they allow functions to alter variables outside of there own scope. By passing a pointer to a function you can allow that function to read and write to the data stored in that variable. Say you want to write a function that swaps the values of two variables. Without pointers this would be practically impossible, here's how you do it with pointers:

Example 5-2. swap_ints.c

#include <stdio.h>
int swap_ints(int *first_number, int *second_number);
int main() {
  int a = 4, b = 7;
  printf("pre-swap values are: a == %d, b == %d\n", a, b)
  swap_ints(&a, &b);
  printf("post-swap values are: a == %d, b == %d\n", a, b)
  return 0;

int swap_ints(int *first_number, int *second_number) {
  int temp;
  /* temp = "what is pointed to by" first_number; etc... */
  temp = *first_number;
  *first_number = *second_number;
  *second_number = temp;
  return 0;

As you can see, the function declaration of swap_ints() tells GCC to expect two pointers (address of variables). Also, the address-of operator (&) is used to pass the address of the two variables rather than their values. swap_ints() then reads

Pointer Arithmetic

Arithmetic can be performed on pointers just like any other variable, this is only useful in a few cases though. If you were (for some reason) to divide a pointer by two it would then point to an area of your computers memory that would probably not belong to your program. If your program tried to read or write to this area of memory the text segmentation fault will display and your program will abort. A "segmentation fault" occurs when a program tries to access a segment of memory that it does not have permission to access.

There are times however when simple addition can be used on a pointer. We'll see this in the next chapter when we discuss arrays (multiple variables at consecutive memory addresses). In the case of addition (and subtraction), arithmetic is performed in units equal to the size of the pointers data type.

Generic Pointers

When a variable is declared as being a pointer to type void it is known as a generic pointer. Since you cannot have a variable of type void, the pointer will not point to any data and therefore cannot be dereferenced. It is still a pointer though, to use it you just have to cast it to another kind of pointer first. Hence the term Generic pointer.

This is very useful when you want a pointer to point to data of different types at different times.

Here is some code using a void pointer:

Example 5-3. generic_pointer.c

int main() {
  int i;
  char c;
  void *the_data;

  i = 6;
  c = 'a';

  the_data = &i;
  printf("the_data points to the integer value %d\n", *(int*) the_data);

  the_data = &c;
  printf("the_data now points to the character %c\n", *(char*) the_data);

  return 0;

Structured Data Types

Contiguous and structured data

What is Structured data?

C provides two methods for defining structured or aggregate data types: arrays and structs. Both can contain any of the standard data types, including pointers and other structs and arrays. Arrays contain many variables of the same type while structs can contain any mixture of types.


An array is a data type which contains many variables of the same type. Each element of the array is given a number by which you can access that element. For an array of 100 elements, the first element is 0 (zero) and the last is 99. This indexed access makes it very convenient to loop through each element of the array.

Declaring and Accessing Arrays

Declaring an array is much the same as declaring any other variable except that you must specify the array size. The size (or number of elements) is an integer value placed in square brackets after the arrays identifier.

Example 6-1. first_arrays.c

 #include <stdio.h>
 int main() {
   int person[10];
   float hourly_wage[4] = {2, 4.9, 10, 123.456};
   int index;
   index = 4;
   person[index] = 56;
   printf("the %dth person is number %d and earns $%f an hour\n",
          (index + 1), person[index], hourly_wage[index]);
 return 0;

NOTE: it is up to you to make sure you don't try to access an element that is not in the array such as the eleventh element of a ten element array. Attempting to access a value past the end of an array will either crash your program or worse, it could retrieve garbage data without telling you that an error occurred.

Initializing Arrays

In the above example we initialized the array hourly_wage by placing a comma separated list of values in curly braces. Using this method you can initialize as few or as many array elements as you like however you cannot initialize an element without initializing all the previous elements. If you initialize some but not all elements of an array the remaining elements will be automatically initialized to zero.

To get around this inconvenience, a GNU extension to the C language allows you to initialize array elements selectively by number. When initialized by number, the elements can be placed in any order withing the curly braces preceded by [index]=value. Like so:

Example 6-2. initialize_array.c

#include <stdio.h>
int main() {
    int i;
    int first_array[100] = { [90]=4, [0]=5, [98]=6 };
    double second_array[5] = { [3] = 1.01, [4] = 1.02 };
    printf("sure enough, first_array[90] == %d\n\n", first_array[90]);
    printf("sure enough, first_array[99] == %d\n\n", first_array[99]);
    for (i = 0; i < 5; i++)
      printf("value of second_array[%d] is %f\n", i, second_array[i]);
    return 0;

Multidimensional Arrays

The array we used in the last example was a one dimensional array. Arrays can have more than one dimension, these arrays-of-arrays are called multidimensional arrays. They are very similar to standard arrays with the exception that they have multiple sets of square brackets after the array identifier. A two dimensional array can be though of as a grid of rows and columns.

Example 6-3. number_square.c

 #include <stdio.h>
 const int num_rows = 7;
 const int num_columns = 5;
 int main() {
   int box[num_rows][num_columns];
   int row, column;
   for(row = 0; row < num_rows; row++)
     for(column = 0; column < num_columns; column++)
       box[row][column] = column + (row * num_columns);
   for(row = 0; row < num_rows; row++) {
       for(column = 0; column < num_columns; column++) {
           printf("%4d", box[row][column]);
   return 0;

If you compile and run this example you'll get a box of numbers like this:

  0   1   2   3   4
  5   6   7   8   9
 10  11  12  13  14
 15  16  17  18  19
 20  21  22  23  24
 25  26  27  28  29
 30  31  32  33  34

The above array has two dimensions and can be called a doubly subscripted array. GCC allows arrays of up to 29 dimensions although actually using an array of more than three dimensions is very rare.

Arrays of Characters (Text)

Text in C is represented by a number of consecutive variables of type char terminated with the null character '\0'

Defining Data Types

The C language provides only the most basic, commonly used types, many languages provide a larger set of types but this is only for convenience. C's way of handling text strings is a good example of this. At times you may think it would be handy if there were other data types which could store complex data. C allows you to define your own.

Structured Data

In C you can create a new type e.g. Person. Person can store an int called age, a string called name and another int called height_in_cm. Here's the code to make this new type:

struct Person {
   char *name;
   int age;
   int height_in_cm;

This code creates a variable called struct Person. You can declare variable and pointers to variables of this type in the usual way. Say you declared a variable john of type struct Person. To access the age field you would use john.age. I'll make this clearer with a quick example using the previous definition of struct Person:

Example 6-4. person_struct.c

#include <stdio.h>

struct Person {
   char *name;
   int age;
   int height_in_cm;

int main() {
   struct Person hero = {"Robin Hood", 20, 191};
   struct Person john;

   john.age = 31;
   john.name = "John Little";
   john.height_in_cm = 237;

   printf("%s is %d years old and stands %dcm tall in his socks.\n",
          john.name, john.age, john.height_in_cm);
   printf( "He is often seen with %s.\n", hero.name );
   return 0;

When compiled and executed this will display:

John Little is 31 years old and stands 237cm tall in his socks.
He is often seen with Robin Hood.


C also supports types that can have dynamic types, a variable that can be and int at one point, a double later and an unsigned long long after that. These data types are declared just like a struct except they use the union keyword. Their behavior is completely different to a struct.

Run-Time Memory Allocation

Run-time memory allocation refers to requesting memory at run-time.

Why Do You Need This?

Often, when you write a program, you don't actually know how much data you will have to store or process. In previous examples, we've read in some text from the user and we've used large character arrays to store this data. But what happens if the user enters more text than we can handle? Your program crashes. Disaster. However, at run-time, an application can make a request for more memory.

Dynamic Memory Functions

glibc provides functions for requesting extra memory. malloc() is the first function we will show you. You must have a pointer to start with.

Run-Time Memory Summary

Forgetting to free memory (using the free() function) when you are finished with it is one of the worst programming mistakes you can make. Is losing pointers a common problem? pointer falls out of scope?

Strings and File I/O

Input/Output in C

Like many other programming languages, C programs read in (input) or write out (output) characters. Of note is that most any underlying computer (executing C code) also generally has a mechanism by which a single character may be input or output. This input or output of a single character will often be the only way for a program to accomplish I/O functionality.

The typical way that I/O is accomplished for a C program is to use a standard (always provided) library of I/O functions. The example C program given used the printf function to print out a string (a bunch of characters). To include the standard I/O library, the line

#include <stdio.h>

appears at the top of the C source code.

These notes are a guide to a very few of the standard I/O functions. Much more complete information is available in the Kernighan and Ritchie book. stdin and stdout

The C language (the Unix operating system, really) has a notion of input coming from a place known as standard input. It is written as stdin. By default, standard input comes from the keyboard.

And, output goes to a place known as standard output. It is written as stdout. By default, standard output goes to the screen.

getchar() and putchar()
and also getc() and putc()

The function getchar() retrieves a single character from standard input. Its signature appears as

int getchar(void)

This function's return value will be:

1. the next input character or 2. the constant value EOF at the end of file

The function putchar() sends a single character to standard output. Its signature appears as

int putchar(int)

The character to be output is passed as a parameter. The return value of the function will be:

1. the character output


2. the constant value EOF if an error occurred

These two I/O functions are rather similar to the I/O available with our 354 MIPS simulator. It has a standard way to get a single character (from standard input) or output a single character (to standard output).

The functions getc() and putc() are much the same. The difference between these and getchar() and putchar() are an extra parameter that identifies a file (through the use of a file descriptor or file pointer) for input to come from, or output to go to. The structure FILE defined in <stdio.h> gives access to file pointers and files.

NOTE: The simulator used for 354 adds extensions to the assembly language, such that there appears to be new MIPS assembly language instructions that do input and output. This makes it ever so much easier for the assembly language programmer to write code that does I/O. As the simulator (a program) was originally written in C, these I/O pseudoinstructions mimic getc() and putc(), and even have the mnemonics getc and putc. scanf() and printf()

printf() is a function that "converts, formats, and prints it arguments on the standard output. . .". It is similar to Java's System.out.print method. It takes a variable number of arguments, so its signature appears as

int printf(char *format, argument1, argument2, ... )

The integer returned by this function is the number of characters printed. The first argument is a string, which describes the formatting of what is printed. This string contains 2 types of items: characters to be copied onto the output (very much like in Java), and specifications of placement and how the arguments are to be formatted. Each of these specifications (which require a further argument within the list of arguments), is a set of characters that is identified by the percent character (%). The percent character may be followed by a modifier (see the list on page 153, section 7.2 in Kernighan and Ritchie), and is ended by what is known as a conversion character. Examples are

1. d to print the next argument within the argument list as a decimal number.

2. c to print the next argument within the argument list as a character.

3. x to print the next argument within the argument list as a hexadecimal number.

4. s to print the next argument within the argument list as a null-terminated string.

An (optional) modifier specifies things such as maximums and minimums for number of characters to be printed, and number of digits of precision for floating point values. A quick code example:

x = 25;
y = 1;
printf("The value of x is %d, and the value of y is %d.\n", x, y);

The output (to standard output) will appear as

The value of x is 25, and the value of y is 1.

Further output will start at the beginning of the next line, due to the newline character (\n).

Here is a short example, to help with the spacing and number of characters that get printed when using a modifier. This not a program, as what the output looks like has been written in to the right of the line that would generate that particular output.

#include <stdio.h>

        int x;                        OUTPUT

        x = 354;
        printf("[%d]\n", x);          [354]
        printf("[%1d]\n", x);         [354]
        printf("[%2d]\n", x);         [354]
        printf("[%3d]\n", x);         [354]
        printf("[%4d]\n", x);         [ 354]
        printf("[%-4d]\n", x);        [354 ]

scanf() is similar to printf, but it reads input. The first argument will be a format string, which specifies the expected form of the input. Further arguments are pointers to variables. According to the format string, variable values are assigned as encountered. They must be pointers. Like printf, it takes a variable number of arguments, so its signature appears as

int scanf(char *format, addr of argument1, addr of argument2, ... )

scanf returns the number of successfully matched and assigned input items. Here is a quick code fragment example:

if ( scanf("%d %d\n", &x, &y) != 2 ) {
        printf("bad input\n");

If the input typed appeared as

-3 6

then in this code fragment, scanf returns the value 2, and the value of variable x will be -3, and the value of variable y will be 6.

Reference: Miller, Karen. " Input/Output in C." CS/ECE 354: Machine Organization and Programming. 2008. University of Wisconsin. 12 Feb 2008 <http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~cs354-1/cs354/karen.notes/C.io.html>.

Storage Classes

9.1. What are Storage Classes?

You will have noticed that variables in functions lose their values every time the function exists, this is done for reasons of efficiency, the operating system doesn't know if you will need the data again so it releases the memory allocated to your program back to the system.

9.2. Auto

By default, variables in C use the auto storage class. This is so called because the variables are automatically created when needed and deleted when they fall out of scope.

You can specify a variable to have the auto storage class by prefixing the variables declaration with the auto keyword but this has no effect, the keyword was introduced into the language for symmetry with the other storage specifiers.

9.3. Static

Static variables are variables that don't get deleted when they fall out of scope, they are permanent and retain their value between calls to the function. Here's an example:

Example 9-1. list_squares.c

#include <stdio.h>
  int get_next_square(void);
  int main() {
    int i;
     for(i = 0; i < 10; i++)
       printf("%6d\n", get_next_square());
     printf("and %6d\n", get_next_square());
     return 0;

   int get_next_square() {
     static int count = 1;
     count += 1;
     return count * count;

This will list the squares of the numbers from zero to ten. Zero to nine are printed by the loop and the square of ten is printed afterwards just to show it still has it's value.

9.4. Extern

When you declare a variable as extern your program doesn't actually reserve any memory for it, extern means that the variable already exits external to the function or file.

If you want to make a variable available to every file in a project you declare it globally in one file, that is, not inside a function, and add an extern declaration of that variable to a header file that is included in all the other files.

9.5. Register

The register storage class is used as a hint to the compiler that a variable is heavily used and access to it should be optimised if possible. Variables are usually stored in normal memory (RAM) and passed back and forth to the computers processor as needed, the speed the data is sent at is pretty fast but can be improved on. Almost all computer processors contain cpu registers, these are memory slots on the actual processor, storing data there gets rid of the overhead of retrieving the data from normal memory. This memory is quite small compared to normal memory though so only a few variables can be stored there. GCC will always make use of registers by deciding what variables it thinks will be accessed often, this works well but will never be perfect because GCC doesn't know the purpose of your program. By using the register keyword you can tell GCC what needs to be optimised.

One problem with placing a variable into a cpu register is that you can't get a pointer to it, pointers can only point to normal memory. Because of this restriction GCC will ignore the register keyword on variables whos address is taken at any point in the program.

The resulting program will contain a request, on creation of the variable that it be placed in a cpu register, the operating system may ignore or honor this request.

9.6. The Restrict Type Qualifier

This is something to do with pointers, I think it tells the compiler that a specific pointer is the only pointer to a section of memory, the compiler can optimize code better with this knowledge. I think.

9.7. typedef

typedef isn't much like the others, it's used to give a variable type a new name. There are two main reasons for doing this. The most common is to give a name to a struct you have defined so that you can use your new data type without having to always precede it with the struct keyword.

The second use for typedef is for compatibility. Say you want to store a 32-bit number. If you use int you are not guaranteed that it will be 32-bit on every machine. To get around this you can use preprocessor directives to selectively typedef a new type to the right size.

Example 9-2. battleships.c

#include <stdio.h>

  /* type, position coordinates and armament */
  struct _ship {
    int type;
    int x;
    int y;
    int missiles;
 typedef struct _ship ship;

 int main() {
   ship battle_ship_1;
   ship battle_ship_2 = {1, 60, 66, 8};
   battle_ship_1.type = 63;
   battle_ship_1.x = 54;
   battle_ship_1.y = 98;
   battle_ship_1.missiles = 12;

   /* More code to actually use this data would go here */
   return 0;

The C Preprocessor

When & how to use them

What is the C Preprocessor

The C Preprocessor is a simple macro-expander that is run on source code files before passing them to the compiler. Lines that begin with the hash symbol '#' are directives to the C preprocessor.

When you create a macro you assign a name to a C expression. You can then use this name in your code just as you would have used the expression. The preprocessor replaces all occurences of that name with the expression.

What is it used for?

Macros are snippets of code that get processed before compilation. This is done by the C preprocessor, #define statements are macros. Take a look at this piece of code:

Example 11-1. box_of_stars.c

#define SIZE_OF_SQUARE 4

int main() {
  int i, j;
  for(i = 0; i < SIZE_OF_SQUARE; i++) {
    for(j = 0; j < SIZE_OF_SQUARE; j++) {
      printf("*"); // print an asterisk for each column
    printf("\n"); // and a newline at the end of each row

The output of this code will be a box:


The C preprocessor simply replaces the macro SIZE_OF_BOX with the value "4". This very useful for two reasons:

Firstly the size of the box can be changed by just editing one line. This isn't a huge advantage in the above example as there are just two uses of SIZE_OF_BOX but in larger programs this make life much easier and removes the possibility of forgetting to change one of the values.

Secondly it makes the code more readable, meaningful names can be given to values such as

#define PI 3.142857143.

Some Sample Macros

Some of the small function in glibc are implemented as macros, getc() is one

Caveats for Macros

Macros can be miss-used and it's hard to catch the bugs because the macro no longer exists when the code gets to the compiler. The most error is the macro argument with side effect. Take the this small example:

Example 11-2. max_macro.c

#define MAX(a, b) (a > b ? a : b)

int main() {
  int cows = 10, sheep = 12;
  printf("we have %d of our most common animal\n", MAX(cows, sheep));
  return 0;

We compile and execute this code and get:

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ ./a.out
we have 12 of our most common animal

Yup, everything looks good. Try this next example:

Example 10-3. max_macro_problem.c

#define MAX(a, b) (a > b ? a : b)

int main() {
  int cows = 10, sheep = 12;
  printf("We have %d of our most common animal\n", MAX(cows, sheep));
  printf("Hang on, we just bought another one.\n");
  printf("Now we have %d.\n", MAX(cows, ++sheep));
  return 0;

Can you see what's going to happen?

ciaran@pooh:~/book$ ./a.out
We have 12 of our most common animal
Hang on, we just bought another one.
Now we have 14.

When the text substitution occurs there will be two instances of ++sheep. Another more sinister way for this bug may manifest itself is when you pass use a function as an argument to a macro. If the function modifies a global or static variable then this modification may occur multiple times. These bugs can be very hard to find, the code is perfectly valid so the compiler has nothing to complain about, the bug will only be noticed at run time and wont occur every time the macro is called, only when it is called with an argument that has a side effect.

Are Macros Necessary?

The preprocessor was commonly used to make up for small deficiencies of the language, however, as the language has evolved these defiances have be all but done away. It's still good to know how to use and understand preprocessor macros, they are very common. Macros have been part of the language for longer than their replacements and people have gotten used to them.

Replacing Simple Macros

If you are thinking that a const int global variable could replace a simple #define you are right. const variables have some advantages, one small advantage is that you can get their address when you need to pass around a pointer to their value, in this way they are more flexible than macros. If you don't take the address of the const variable then GCC can optimise it to a level similar to a #define.

Replacing Complex Macros

Complex macros, that is functions implemented as macros, can be replaced by inline functions.

Variable Length Arguments

The VA_ARGS macros etc.

What are Variable Length Arguments?

Variable length argument lists are something you have already come across. Think of printf(), how would you write the prototype for this function when you don't know how many arguments will be passed to it?

Variable Length Argument Tutorialon Cprogramming.com has a write up on variable length arguments.

Tricks with Functions.

Pointers to Functions.

What are Virtual Functions?

Another use of the void data type is for making pointers to functions. This is a fairly advanced programming technique but a very useful one once you become comfortable with it.

Here is an example of a function pointer:

Example 12-1. virtual_function.c

 int main() {
 /* oh, crap, better go write one... */
 return 0;

Nesting Functions

GCC permits functions to be defined within other functions. Functions defined like this are known as nested functions and obey the same scoping rules as variables. When the parent function exits, the child function falls out of scope and is unavailable.

The benefits of nested functions

Probably the main reason for nested functions being allowed by GCC for flexibilities sake although small performance increases can be gained by using them correctly. Nested functions obey Lexical scoping, they have access to the variables of the function that contains them.

For this reason, they can accomplish tasks that would usually require functions taking pointers as arguments. There is a slight performance loss when pointers are used because a variable that has a pointer cannot be stored in a machine register. Pointers never point to machine registers so how would the pointer work?

Declaring and Defining Nested Variables.

Example 12-2. Simple Nested Function

#include <stdio.h>

  int main() {
  int swap (int *a, int *b)
      int c;
      c = *a;
      *a = *b;
      *b = c;
      return 0;
  int first = 12, second = 34;
  printf("f is %d and s is %d\n", first, second);
  swap(&first, &second);
  printf("f is %d and s is %d\n", first, second);
  return 0;

You don't have to declare nested functions like you do normal functions however you can if you like. The only reason for doing so would be for the sake of readability, you might like the function definition to appear near where it is used. It's up to you, but if you do decide to declare you nested function you must explicitly declare it as auto.


Nested functions have local scope, declaring a nested function as extern will cause an error. static and inline are both valid.

Taking Command Line Arguments

How does C Handle Command Line Arguments?

A program starts by the operating system calling a programs main() function. Every one of your programs so far have defined main() as a function taking no arguments but this is not always the case. main() is the only function in C that can be defined in multiple ways. It can take no arguments, two arguments or three arguments. The two and three argument forms allow it to receive arguments from the shell. The three argument form is not particularly useful and is never necessary, we'll cover it briefly at the end of this chapter.

The two argument form takes an int and an array of strings. When defining main() you can give these arguments any name but it is convention to call them argc and argv[]. The first argument holds a count of how many elements there are in the array of strings passed as the second argument. The array is always null terminated so argv[argc] == NULL.

Here's a short program demonstrating the use of

Example 13-1. list_args.c

int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
  int i;
  for(i = 0; i < argc; i++)
    printf("argv[%d] == %s\n", i, argv[i]);
  return 0;

to be passed to main() via two arguments: an int and a *char[] (an array of strings). The int is usually called argc which is short for "argument count", as the name suggests, it stores the number of arguments passed to main(). The second argument, usually called argv is an array of strings.


C's method of getting command line arguments is pretty simple but when your program has a lot of options it can get complex. To solve this, Glibc provides a series of functions to perform command tasks for you. The "argp_*" functions perform much of the work for you and they do it in a standard way which makes you program more familiar to users. Here's an short program using argp:

Example 13-2. simple_argp.c

/* put a tiny argp program here */

When you run this program you will see...

Using More of the Argp Functionality

Here's a longer program, it uses four global variables to store information about your program:

Example 13-3. better_argp.c

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <argp.h>

const char *argp_program_version = "simple_argp 0.1";
const char *argp_program_bug_address =

static char doc[] =
"short program to show the use of argp\nThis program does little";

static char args_doc[] = "ARG1 ARG2";

/* initialise an argp_option struct with the options we except */
static struct argp_option options[] =
  {"verbose", 'v', 0,      0, "Produce verbose output" },
  {"output",  'o', "FILE", 0, "Output to FILE" },
  { 0 }

/* Used by `main' to communicate with `parse_opt'. */
struct arguments {
  char *args[2];                /* ARG1 & ARG2 */
  int silent, verbose;
  char *output_file;

/* Parse a single option. */
static error_t
parse_opt (int key, char *arg, struct argp_state *state) {
  /* Get the INPUT argument from `argp_parse', which we
     know is a pointer to our arguments structure. */
  struct arguments *arguments = state->input;

  switch (key) {
    case 'q': case 's':
      arguments->silent = 1;
    case 'v':
      arguments->verbose = 1;
    case 'o':
      arguments->output_file = arg;

    case ARGP_KEY_ARG:
      if (state->arg_num >= 2)
        /* Too many arguments. */
        argp_usage (state);

      arguments->args[state->arg_num] = arg;


    case ARGP_KEY_END:
      if (state->arg_num < 2)
        /* Not enough arguments. */
        argp_usage (state);

      return ARGP_ERR_UNKNOWN;
  return 0;

/* Our argp parser. */
static struct argp argp = { options, parse_opt, args_doc, doc };

int main (int argc, char **argv) {
  struct arguments arguments;

  /* Default values. */
  arguments.silent = 0;
  arguments.verbose = 0;
  arguments.output_file = "-";

  /* Parse our arguments; every option seen by `parse_opt' will
     be reflected in `arguments'. */
  argp_parse (&argp, argc, argv, 0, 0, &arguments);

  printf ("ARG1 = %s\nARG2 = %s\nOUTPUT_FILE = %s\n"
          "VERBOSE = %s\nSILENT = %s\n",
          arguments.args[0], arguments.args[1],
          arguments.verbose ? "yes" : "no",
          arguments.silent ? "yes" : "no");

  exit (0);

This is pretty simple. no?

Environment Variables

BLAH, talk about how to use the three argument form and the other way of getting at environment variables, show a toy example.

Using and Writing Libraries

What are Libraries?

Libraries are files that contain several functions, much like the ones you create when writing your own programs. The functions in libraries can be used in other applications by linking the application to the library. There are two kinds of libraries that you can use and create on Unix systems: static libraries and shared (or dynamic) libraries.

Static libraries are collections of object files that are linked into the program during the linking phase of compilation.

Shared (or dynamic) libraries are linked into the program in two steps. The first phase occurs during compilation. In this step, the linker verifies that all the symbols (functions, variables, etc.) required by the program, are either linked into the program, or in one of its shared libraries. The object files within the dynamic library are not inserted into the executable file. Instead, when the program is started, a dynamic loader checks to see which shared libraries were linked with the program, loads them to memory, and attaches them to the copy of the program in memory.

Writing a library

Writing a library is similar to writing a program. The first obvious difference is that there is no main(). Libraries are very handy for functions you use regularly or functions you think others may find useful.

To make your own library, you must first compile each of your sources into an object.

     gcc -c multiplication.c -o multiplication.o
     gcc -c division.c -o division.o

Stages of Compilation

The three main stages in compiling a program are preprocessing, compilation and linking. In C code, lines that begin with the hash symbol "#" are commands for the preprocessor, GCC includes a preprocessor called CPP (C Preprocessor). #define and #include are by far the most common preprocessor commands The compilation process is broken down into many smaller stages. One of these stages is called compilation. Compilation is the process of converting source code to object code. You do this by invoking GCC with "-c". When programs become large it can take time to compile them, by splitting a program into smaller files you can re-compile only the files that you have changed. First you must tell gcc to only compile the source files.

The main tool used to create static libraries is a program called 'ar', which means 'archiver'. In addition to creating these static libraries (which are archive files), this program can be used to modify object files in the static library, list the names of object files in the library, etc. You use the 'ar' command to create a static library and put the objects in it. The following command does this.

     ar rvs mathstuff.a multiplication.o division.o 

Each letter in 'rvs' means something. The 'r' flag tells 'ar' to replace object files in the library with new ones. Since there are no object files in this library, this essentially means add them to the library. The next time you run the command, it will replace the old version with the new version. Other options are to extract and delete objects in the library. The 'v' in 'rvs' means verbose, which tells 'ar' to keep you informed about what it is doing. The 's' flag tells 'ar' to create a symbol table, which is an additional element that gcc needs when using a library. 'ar' can be used to make libraries of anything - text, images, sounds, etc. When using 'ar' to make libraries of objects, however, use the 's' flag.

Using libraries

To use the library, add the name of the library to the list of object file names given to the linker, using a special flag. For example:

     gcc main.c mathstuff.a -o main.exe 

The order in which you list the libraries is very important. In the process of scanning the command line, gcc pulls in what it needs at that point. Each time it sees an object, it adds it to the program. Whenever it sees a library, it pulls in only the objects that it needs then. Libraries should always be listed after the objects.

If you are building a system library (like the C library, libc.a), you need to carry out three steps: give the library a special name, put it in a special place, and use a special option for it.

1. The name of your library must start with lib,e.g. libc.a or libstuff.a. The 'lib' prefix is a convention that identifies your file as a system library.

2. Your library must be moved into djgpp's lib directory. For example, lib/libc.a and lib/libm.a are in there. gcc looks in djgpp's lib directory for system libraries.

3. When linking your program, you use the -l flag to specify only the middle part of your library. For example, if your library is libstuff.a you would use gcc -lstuff to link your library (you must list -lstuff after the objects). The '-l' flag tells the linker where to look.


Easy optimisations: Low hanging fruit

C is well know as the fastest high-level language available

About Optimising

There are two times you will optimise your code: while you're writing it and after it's performance disappoints you.

As a rule, it is said that ninety percent of your an applications running time is taken up by ten percent of it's code. There is little point in optimising a function that is rarely called.

What are Function Attributes?

Function attributes are a GNU extension to the C language. They allow you to give GCC more information about a function. This information can be used for many purposes including optimisation and stricter checking.

Function Attribute Syntax

Function attributes are specified as part of a function declaration. After the closing parenthesis of the functions arguments the keyword __attribute__ followed by the desired attributes in a set of double parenthesis. Here's a function with the pure attribute.

int my_func(int first, int second) __attribute__ ((pure));

Functions can have multiple attributes, to do this, separate the attributes with commas inside the double parenthesis.

What are pure and const?

A pure function is one which do not affect anything outside of it's own scope. This means it may read global variables or variables to which it was passed a pointer but it may not write to such variables. It should not read from volatile variables or external resources (such as files).

const is a stricter version of pure, it tells GCC that a function will not read any data other that of variables that are passed to it. Data cannot be read by dereferencing a pointer passed to a const function.

The only effect a pure or const function can have on your program is it's return value. Having such a function return void would make it pointless.

GCC can use this information to perform common subexpression elimination (!). This means it may call the function fewer times than it was told to as it knows the outcome will be the same each time. For example: if you had a function which converted Celsius to Fahrenheit, and it was placed in a loop calculating the same value each time, GCC would could replace this function call with the value returned. GCC knows this is safe if the conversion function is const.

Appendix A. GNU Free Documentation License

Version 1.2, November 2002

Copyright (C) 2000,2001,2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Free Software Foundation, Inc.
59 Temple Place, Suite 330,
Boston, MA 02111-1307 USA

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.


The purpose of this License is to make a manual, textbook, or other functional and useful document "free" in the sense of freedom: to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it, with or without modifying it, either commercially or noncommercially. Secondarily, this License preserves for the author and publisher a way to get credit for their work, while not being considered responsible for modifications made by others.

This License is a kind of "copyleft", which means that derivative works of the document must themselves be free in the same sense. It complements the GNU General Public License, which is a copyleft license designed for free software.

We have designed this License in order to use it for manuals for free software, because free software needs free documentation: a free program should come with manuals providing the same freedoms that the software does. But this License is not limited to software manuals; it can be used for any textual work, regardless of subject matter or whether it is published as a printed book. We recommend this License principally for works whose purpose is instruction or reference.


This License applies to any manual or other work, in any medium, that contains a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it can be distributed under the terms of this License. Such a notice grants a world-wide, royalty-free license, unlimited in duration, to use that work under the conditions stated herein. The "Document", below, refers to any such manual or work. Any member of the public is a licensee, and is addressed as "you". You accept the license if you copy, modify or distribute the work in a way requiring permission under copyright law.

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If the Cover Text requirement of section 3 is applicable to these copies of the Document, then if the Document is less than one half of the entire aggregate, the Document's Cover Texts may be placed on covers that bracket the Document within the aggregate, or the electronic equivalent of covers if the Document is in electronic form. Otherwise they must appear on printed covers that bracket the whole aggregate.


Translation is considered a kind of modification, so you may distribute translations of the Document under the terms of section 4. Replacing Invariant Sections with translations requires special permission from their copyright holders, but you may include translations of some or all Invariant Sections in addition to the original versions of these Invariant Sections. You may include a translation of this License, and all the license notices in the Document, and any Warrany Disclaimers, provided that you also include the original English version of this License and the original versions of those notices and disclaimers. In case of a disagreement between the translation and the original version of this License or a notice or disclaimer, the original version will prevail.

If a section in the Document is Entitled "Acknowledgements", "Dedications", or "History", the requirement (section 4) to Preserve its Title (section 1) will typically require changing the actual title.


You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Document except as expressly provided for under this License. Any other attempt to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Document is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.


The Free Software Foundation may publish new, revised versions of the GNU Free Documentation License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns. See http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/.

Each version of the License is given a distinguishing version number. If the Document specifies that a particular numbered version of this License "or any later version" applies to it, you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that specified version or of any later version that has been published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation. If the Document does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation.

ADDENDUM (How to use this License for your Documents)

To use this License in a document you have written, include a copy of the License in the document and put the following copyright and license notices just after the title page:

Copyright © YEAR YOUR NAME.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

If you have Invariant Sections, Front-Cover Texts and Back-Cover Texts, replace The "with...Texts." line with this:

with the Invariant Sections being LIST THEIR TITLES, with the Front-Cover Texts being LIST, and with the Back-Cover Texts being LIST.

If you have Invariant Sections without Cover Texts, or some other combination of the three, merge those two alternatives to suit the situation.

If your document contains nontrivial examples of program code, we recommend releasing these examples in parallel under your choice of free software license, such as the GNU General Public License, to permit their use in free software.


Obfuscated code is source code or intermediate language in terms of computer programming that is very hard to read and understand, often intentionally. Some languages are more prone to obfuscation than others.[1][2] C,[3] C++[4] and Perl[5] are most often cited as easily obfuscatable languages. Macro preprocessors are often used to create hard-to-read code by masking the standard language syntax and grammar from the main body of code. The term shrouded code has also been used.

Obfuscators may be used to compact object code or interpreted code without affecting its behaviour when size is important. Common cases include MIDlets – in which the meaningful identifiers embedded in the Java class files are replaced with shorter ones – and Javascript code on the web. Code is sometimes obfuscated deliberately for recreational purposes. There are programming contests which reward the most creatively obfuscated code: the International Obfuscated C Code Contest, Obfuscated Perl Contest, International Obfuscated Ruby Code Contest, and Obfuscated PostScript Contest.

An example of C obfuscated code that will print out the verses of the song "12 Days of Christmas":

#include <stdio.h>
main(t,_,a)char *a;{return!0<t?t<3?main(-79,-13,a+main(-87,1-_,
main(2,_+1,"%s %d %d\n"):9:16:t<0?t<-72?main(_,t,
;#q#n+,/+k#;*+,/'r :'d*'3,}{w+K w'K:'+}e#';dq#'l \
q#'+d'K#!/+k#;q#'r}eKK#}w'r}eKK{nl]'/#;#q#n'){)#}w'){){nl]'/+#n';d}rw' i;# \
){nl]!/n{n#'; r{#w'r nc{nl]'/#{l,+'K {rw' iK{;[{nl]'/w#q#n'wk nw' \
iwk{KK{nl]!/w{%'l##w#' i; :{nl]'/*{q#'ld;r'}{nlwb!/*de}'c \
;;{nl'-{}rw]'/+,}##'*}#nc,',#nw]'/+kd'+e}+;#'rdq#w! nr'/ ') }+}{rl#'{n' ')# \
"!ek;dc i@bK'(q)-[w]*%n+r3#l,{}:\nuwloca-O;m .vpbks,fxntdCeghiry"),a+1);}

This information on obfuscated code was taken from here.

This website writes code in the following way to print out Hello World:

main(){int i,n[]={(((1<<1)<<(1<<1)<<(1<<
    1)<<(1<<(1>>1)))+((1<<1)<<(1<<1))), (((1
    1<<1)<<(1<<1))+((1<<1)<<(1<<(1>>1)))+ (1
    <<(1>>1))),(((1<<1)<<(1<<1)<<(1<<1)<< (1
    <<1))-((1<<1)<<(1<<1)<<(1<<(1>>1)))- ((1
    )))-((1<<1)<<(1<<(1>>1)))),(((1<<1)<< (1
    -((1<<1)<<(1<<(1>>1)))),((1<<1)<< (1<<1)
    1)<<(1<<1)<<(1<<1)<<(1<<1))-((1<<1)<< (1
    <<1)<<(1<<(1>>1)))-(1<<(1>>1))), (((1<<1
    )<<(1<<1)<<(1<<1)<<(1<<1))- ((1<<1)<< (1
    <<1)<<(1<<(1>>1)))+(1<<1)), (((1<<1)<< (
    1<<1)<<(1<<1)<< (1<<1))-((1<<1)<< (1<<1)
    <<(1<<(1>>1)))-((1<<1) <<(1<< (1>>1)))),
    (((1<<1)<< (1<<1)<<(1<<1)<< (1<<1))- ((1
    <<1)<<(1<<1)<<(1<<1))+((1<<1)<< (1<<(1>>
    1)))), (((1<<1)<<(1<<1) <<(1<<1))+(1<<(1
    >>1))),(((1<<1)<<(1<<1))+((1<<1)<< (1<<(
    1>>1))) + (1<< (1>>1)))}; for(i=(1>>1);i
    <(((1<<1) <<(1<<1))+((1 <<1)<< (1<<(1>>1
    ))) + (1<<1)); i++) printf("%c",n[i]); }

Here is an example of obfuscated code that prints out about 3000 digits of the 'e' value. The code is written in the shape of 'Pi': Taken from here. This website also contains more examples of obfuscated code.

	  ],__3141[3141];_314159[31415],_3141[31415];main(){register char*
      _3_141,*_3_1415, *_3__1415; register int _314,_31415,__31415,*_31,
   -1]=1[__3141]=5;__3_1415=1;do{_3_14159=_314=0,__31415++;for( _31415
  =0;_31415<(3,14-4)*__31415;_31415++)_31415[_3141]=_314159[_31415]= -
__3_1415    +__3141;for			(_31415 = 3141-
	   __3_1415  ;			_31415;_31415--
	   ,_3_141 ++,			_3_1415++){_314
	   +=_314<<2 ;			_314<<=1;_314+=
	  *_3_1415;_31			 =_314159+_314;
	  if(!(*_31+1)			 )* _31 =_314 /
	  __31415,_314			 [_3141]=_314 %
	  __31415 ;* (			 _3__1415=_3_141
	 )+= *_3_1415			  = *_31;while(*
	 _3__1415 >=			  31415/3141 ) *
	 _3__1415+= -			  10,(*--_3__1415
	)++;_314=_314			  [_3141]; if ( !
	_3_14159 && *			  _3_1415)_3_14159
	=1,__3_1415 =			  3141-_31415;}if(
	_314+(__31415			   >>1)>=__31415 )
	while ( ++ *			   _3_141==3141/314
       )*_3_141--=0			   ;}while(_3_14159
       ) ; { char *			   __3_14= "3.1415";
       write((3,1),			   (--*__3_14,__3_14
       ),(_3_14159			    ++,++_3_14159))+
      3.1415926; }			    for ( _31415 = 1;
     _31415<3141-			    1;_31415++)write(
    31415% 314-(                            3,14),_3141592654[
  _31415    ] +				   "0123456789","314"
  [ 3]+1)-_314;				   puts((*_3141592654=0
,_3141592654))				    ;_314= *"3.141592";}