The C Programming
Language
Eric Vidal
CS 280
What is C?
Originally: System programming language for
the UNIX operating system
 Today: One of the most dominant
development languages for general purpose
applications, especially for low-level software

Sample C Programs

Hello, world!
#include <stdio.h>
int main(int argc, char *argv[], char *envp[])
{
printf("Hello, world!\n");
return 0;
}
Sample C Programs

Quicksort
#include <stdio.h>
/* move pivot to the center of the array */
if (array[start] > array[last_start])
start--;
swap = array[last_start];
array[last_start] = array[start];
array[start] = swap;
void quicksort(int *array, int start, int end)
{
int last_start = start, last_end = end, swap;
/* we do not need to sort zero/one item arrays */
if (start >= end)
return;
/* move items greater than pivot to the end */
/* and keep items less than pivot at the start */
start++;
while (start < end)
{
if (array[start] > array[last_start])
{
swap = array[start];
array[start] = array[end];
array[end--] = swap;
}
else
start++;
}
/* recursively sort array before and after pivot */
quicksort(array, last_start, start - 1);
quicksort(array, start + 1, last_end);
}
int main(int argc, char *argv[], char *envp[])
{
int foo[7] = { 4, 1, 6, 10, 9, 7, 3 };
int i;
quicksort(foo, 0, 6);
for (i = 0; i < 7; i++)
printf("%d\n", foo[i]);
return 0;
}
Real-World C Applications
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Most modern operating systems
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Most modern compilers
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Kernel – Linux kernel, NT kernel, etc.
Command line processors – bash, csh, cmd.exe, etc.
Native windowing system – X Window System, Windows
Shell
Other utilities – grep, make, etc.
GNU Compiler Collection – gcc, g++, etc.
Visual Studio’s base compilers – cl.exe, rc.exe, etc.
Most modern PC and console games 
Evolution of C

CPL – Cambridge Programming Language or
Combined Programming Language (1963)
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Invented by Christopher Strachey, et al.
Heavily influenced by Algol 60
Too complex to implement on existing computers
BCPL – Basic CPL (1966)
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Invented by Martin Richards
Programming language of choice for the Multics
systems in Bell Laboratories
Evolution of C
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B Programming Language (1969)
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Invented by Ken Thompson
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Implemented on a DEC PDP-7 with 8K
18-bit words of memory
Intended as the system implementation
language for UNIX
Revision of an earlier language, “Bon”
Not named after the B in BCPL, but
heavily influenced by it
Evolution of C
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BCPL versus B versus C
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BCPL and B are both typeless; C has types
Pointers and arrays are both integer indexes to the memory
array
In BCPL:
let v = vec 10
v!i = 42
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In B:
auto v[10];
v[i] = 42;
In C:
int v[10];
v[i] = 42;
In B (unlike in BCPL and C), output is not native code, but
threaded code which operates on a stack machine
BCPL (unlike B and C) allows nested procedures, and links
between separately compiled modules must be explicitly
stated
Evolution of C
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NB – New B (1971)
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Invented by Dennis Ritchie
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On the DEC PDP-11 with 12K 16-bit words
of memory, character data is not accessed in
words but in bytes
Required two distinct data types: int and
char
Floating point arithmetic will also require a
new float data type
NB compiles to native code
Evolution of C
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NB versus C
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Previously, arrays and pointers are the same, but
Ritchie wanted to implement structures:
struct direntry
{
int inumber;
char name[14];
};

Pointer to an array != actual array in the structure
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Inconvenient for reading from disk
Evolution of C
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C Programming Language (1972)
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Also invented by Ritchie, proper successor to B
In C, arrays are still similar to pointers
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Pointer to an array is created only when the array name
is mentioned in an expression
Generalization of pointers:
int i, *pi, **ppi;
int fi(), *fpi(), (*pfi)();
int *api[10], (*pai)[10];
Evolution of C
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K&R C – first C standard (1978)
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Appeared in The C Programming Language by Brian
Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie
&& and || operators
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Previously & and | means both logical and bitwise AND and OR
Unfortunately, precedence was never fixed (to preserve compatibility with B):
if (a & mask == b) /* logical error */
Preprocessor
#include <header.h>
#define MACRO

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unsigned, long, union, enum
Type casts
Evolution of C

ANSI C or C89 – first official C standard (1989)
 Produced by the ANSI X3J11 working group
 Required the types of formal arguments in the type
signature of the function:
In K&R C:
double sin();
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In ANSI C:
double sin(double);
const, volatile
Ratified a Standard C Library
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Should be implemented by all ANSI C-compliant vendors
Evolution of C
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ISO/IEC 9899 C90 – second official C standard
(1990)
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Exactly the same as C89, with changes to numbering to
reflect ISO practice
ISO/IEC 9899 C99 – current official C standard (1999)
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Produced by the ISO/IEC/JTC/SC22/WG14 working group
Added invariant ISO646 and multibyte support extensions
Clarified the existing standard via technical corrigenda:
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ISO/IEC 9899 TCOR1 (1995)
ISO/IEC 9899 TCOR2 (1996)
Available at: http://std.dkuug.dk/JTC1/SC22/WG14/
Disadvantages of C
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Ambiguity in variable use
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Type safety (integers versus pointers)
Fence post errors (arrays versus pointers)
Indirection problems
int *fp();
int (*pf)();
int *(*pfp)();
Treats strings as null-terminated character arrays
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Finding the length of the string is O(n)
Generally not well-suited for string processing
Disadvantages of C
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Array problems
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Dynamically changing the size of an array is clumsy
Functions expecting multiple pointers to arrays cannot be
optimized fully for SIMD or vector machines; arrays may
overlap
Modularization problems
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Only two levels of naming: external (global) and internal
(function)
Developers must create their own modularization
conventions
Disadvantages of C
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Memory problems
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C itself only provides two types of storage:
automatic (in the stack segment) and static (in the
data segment)
Dynamically allocated storage in the heap
(malloc() and free()) is tedious and errorprone
Automatic garbage collection is difficult
Advantages of C
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Low-level functionality
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High-level syntax
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Bitwise operators
Pointers
Type looseness
Abstract enough to describe underlying algorithms
Result: A language that can do practically
everything, is portable to other systems, and runs
as fast as assembly
Advantages of C
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Small and simple
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Easy to parse; compilers occupy very little memory
Ties with UNIX
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Language not designed in isolation, but in a real
environment with emphasis on practicality
Meets the needs of programmers, but does not supply too
much
Compatibility with old programs – C has been remarkably
stable through the years (unlike FORTRAN or Pascal)
Compilers for C
First C compiler, cc, is developed by Dennis
Ritchie
 First portable C compiler, pcc, is developed
by Steve Johnson (1978)
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Became the reference implementation for K&R C
Currently a ton of compilers available
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Mostly because compiler theory classes use a
subset of C for their final project 
Compilers for C
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Generally available C compilers (also works
for C++):
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Borland C++Builder
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Microsoft Visual C++ .NET
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http://www.borland.com/cbuilder/
http://msdn.microsoft.com/visualc/
The GNU Compiler Collection
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For Linux: http://gcc.gnu.org/
For Windows: http://www.mingw.org/
References
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Ritchie, Dennis M. The Development of the C
Language. April 1993. Internet on-line. Available
from <http://cm.belllabs.com/cm/cs/who/dmr/chist.html> [31 July 2003]
International Standards Organization. 2003. ISO/IEC
JTC1/SC22/WG14 – C. Denmark: International
Standards Organization, 2003 [cited 31 July 2003].
Available from World Wide Web:
(http://std.dkuug.dk/JTC1/SC22/WG14/)
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The C Programming Language