The C programming language uses the "=" character for assignment. A statement of the form a=10; should be interpreted as take the numerical value 10 and store it in a memory location associated with the integer variable a. The "=" character should not be seen as an equality otherwise writing statements of the form:
will get mathematicians blowing fuses! This statement should be interpreted as take the current value stored in a memory location associated with the integer variable a; add the numerical value 10 to it and then replace this value in the memory location associated with a.
As described above, an integer variable has no fractional part. Integer variables tend to be used for counting, whereas real numbers are used in arithmetic. C uses one of two keywords to declare a variable that is to be associated with a decimal number: float and double. They are each offer a different level of precision as outlined below.
A float, or floating point, number has about seven digits of precision and a range of about 1.E-36 to 1.E+36. A float takes four bytes to store.
A double, or double precision, number has about 13 digits of precision and a range of about 1.E-303 to 1.E+303. A double takes eight bytes to store.
To assign a numerical value to our floating point and double precision variables we would use the following C statement:
C only has a concept of numbers and characters. It very often comes as a surprise to some programmers who learnt a beginner's language such as BASIC that C has no understanding of strings but a string is only an array of characters and C does have a concept of arrays which we shall be meeting later in this course.
To declare a variable of type character we use the keyword char. - A single character stored in one byte.
To assign, or store, a character value in a char data type is easy - a character variable is just a symbol enclosed by single quotes. For example, if c is a char variable you can store the letter A in it using the following C statement:
Notice that you can only store a single character in a char variable. Later we will be discussing using character strings, which has a very real potential for confusion because a string constant is written between double quotes. But for the moment remember that a char variable is 'A' and not "A".
Once you've declared a variable you can use it, but not until it has been declared - attempts to use a variable that has not been defined will cause a compiler error. Using a variable means storing something in it. You can store a value in a variable using:
name = value;
stores the value 10 in the int variable a. What could be simpler? Not much, but it isn't actually very useful! Who wants to store a known value like 10 in a variable so you can use it later? It is 10, always was 10 and always will be 10. What makes variables useful is that you can use them to store the result of some arithmetic.
Consider four very simple mathematical operations: add, subtract, multiply and divide. Let us see how C would use these operations on two float variables a and b.
Note that we have used the following characters from C's character set:
+ for add
- for subtract
* for multiply
/ for divide
BE CAREFUL WITH ARITHMETIC!!! What is the answer to this simple calculation?
The answer depends upon how a was declared. If it was declared as type int the answer will be 3; if a is of type float then the answer will be 3.333. It is left as an exercise to the reader to find out the answer for a of type char.
Two points to note from the above calculation:
C ignores fractions when doing integer division!
when doing float calculations integers will be converted into float. We will see later how C handles type conversions.
Whilst we are dealing with arithmetic we want to remind you about something that everyone learns at junior school but then we forget it. Consider the following calculation:
a=10.0 + 2.0 * 5.0 - 6.0 / 2.0
What is the answer? If you think its 27 go to the bottom of the class! Perhaps you got that answer by following each instruction as if it was being typed into a calculator. A computer doesn't work like that and it has its own set of rules when performing an arithmetic calculation. All mathematical operations form a hierarchy which is shown here. In the above calculation the multiplication and division parts will be evaluated first and then the addition and subtraction parts. This gives an answer of 17.
Note: To avoid confusion use brackets. The following are two different calculations:
a=10.0 + (2.0 * 5.0) - (6.0 / 2.0)
a=(10.0 + 2.0) * (5.0 - 6.0) / 2.0
You can freely mix int, float and double variables in expressions. In nearly all cases the lower precision values are converted to the highest precision values used in the expression. For example, the expression f*i, where f is a float and i is an int, is evaluated by converting the int to a float and then multiplying. The final result is, of course, a float but this may be assigned to another data type and the conversion will be made automatically. If you assign to a lower precision type then the value is truncated and not rounded. In other words, in nearly all cases you can ignore the problems of converting between types.
This is very reasonable but more surprising is the fact that the data type char can also be freely mixed with ints, floats and doubles. This will shock any programmer who has used another language, as it's another example of C getting us closer than is customary to the way the machine works. A character is represented as an ASCII or some other code in the range O to 255, and if you want you can use this integer code value in arithmetic. Another way of thinking about this is that a char variable is just a single-byte integer variable that can hold a number in the range O to 255, which can optionally be interpreted as a character. Notice, however, that C gives you access to memory in the smallest chunks your machine works with, i.e. one byte at a time, with no overheads.
Before you can use a variable you have to declare it. As we have seen above, to do this you state its type and then give its name. For example, int i; declares