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About C

As a programming language, C is rather like Pascal or Fortran. Values are stored in variables. Programs are structured by defining and calling functions. Program flow is controlled using loops, if statements and function calls. Input and output can be directed to the terminal or to files. Related data can be stored together in arrays or structures.

Of the three languages, C allows the most precise control of input and output. C is also rather more terse than Fortran or Pascal. This can result in short efficient programs, where the programmer has made wise use of C's range of powerful operators. It also allows the programmer to produce programs which are impossible to understand.

Programmers who are familiar with the use of pointers (or indirect addressing, to use the correct term) will welcome the ease of use compared with some other languages. Undisciplined use of pointers can lead to errors which are very hard to trace. This course only deals with the simplest applications of pointers.

It is hoped that newcomers will find C a useful and friendly language. Care must be taken in using C. Many of the extra facilities which it offers can lead to extra types of programming error. You will have to learn to deal with these to successfully make the transition to being a C programmer.


January 1995