craigrallen
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pointers Flashcards on pointers, created by craigrallen on 05/01/2013.

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craigrallen
Created by craigrallen almost 6 years ago
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Question Answer
variables memory cells that can be accessed using their identifiers
memory cells The memory of your computer can be imagined as a succession of memory cells, each one of the minimal size that computers manage (one byte). These single-byte memory cells are numbered in a consecutive way, so as, within any block of memory, every cell has the same number as the previous one plus one.
memory cell locations each cell can be easily located in the memory because it has a unique address and all the memory cells follow a successive pattern. For example, if we are looking for cell 1776 we know that it is going to be right between cells 1775 and 1777, exactly one thousand cells after 776 and exactly one thousand cells before cell 2776.
Reference operator (&) The address that locates a variable within memory is what we call a reference to that variable. This reference to a variable can be obtained by preceding the identifier of a variable with an ampersand sign (&), known as reference operator, and which can be literally translated as "address of".
assign addresses to variables ted = &andy; This would assign to ted the address of variable andy, since when preceding the name of the variable andy with the reference operator (&) we are no longer talking about the content of the variable itself, but about its reference (i.e., its address in memory).
Dereference operator (*) Using a pointer we can directly access the value stored in the variable which it points to. To do this, we simply have to precede the pointer's identifier with an asterisk (*), which acts as dereference operator and that can be literally translated to "value pointed by".
expression vs value stored You must clearly differentiate that the expression ted refers to the value 1776, while *ted (with an asterisk * preceding the identifier) refers to the value stored at address 1776, which in this case is 25.
& vs * •& is the reference operator and can be read as "address of" •* is the dereference operator and can be read as "value pointed by"
Declaring variables of pointer types The declaration of pointers follows this format: type * name; where type is the data type of the value that the pointer is intended to point to. This type is not the type of the pointer itself! but the type of the data the pointer points to.
Pointers and arrays The concept of array is very much bound to the one of pointer. In fact, the identifier of an array is equivalent to the address of its first element, as a pointer is equivalent to the address of the first element that it points to, so in fact they are the same concept.
Pointer initialization When a pointer initialization takes place we are always assigning the reference value to where the pointer points (tommy), never the value being pointed (*tommy). You must consider that at the moment of declaring a pointer, the asterisk (*) indicates only that it is a pointer, it is not the dereference operator (although both use the same sign: *).
Pointer arithmetics To conduct arithmetical operations on pointers is a little different than to conduct them on regular integer data types. To begin with, only addition and subtraction operations are allowed to be conducted with them, the others make no sense in the world of pointers. But both addition and subtraction have a different behavior with pointers according to the size of the data type to which they point.
Pointers to pointers C++ allows the use of pointers that point to pointers, that these, in its turn, point to data (or even to other pointers). In order to do that, we only need to add an asterisk (*) for each level of reference in their declarations
void pointers The void type of pointer is a special type of pointer. In C++, void represents the absence of type, so void pointers are pointers that point to a value that has no type (and thus also an undetermined length and undetermined dereference properties). This allows void pointers to point to any data type, from an integer value or a float to a string of characters. But in exchange they have a great limitation: the data pointed by them cannot be directly dereferenced (which is logical, since we have no type to dereference to), and for that reason we will always have to cast the address in the void pointer to some other pointer type that points to a concrete data type before dereferencing it.
Null pointer A null pointer is a regular pointer of any pointer type which has a special value that indicates that it is not pointing to any valid reference or memory address. This value is the result of type-casting the integer value zero to any pointer type.
Pointers to functions C++ allows operations with pointers to functions. The typical use of this is for passing a function as an argument to another function, since these cannot be passed dereferenced. In order to declare a pointer to a function we have to declare it like the prototype of the function except that the name of the function is enclosed between parentheses () and an asterisk (*) is inserted before the name: