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Prelude to C: Pointers

09-02-21

If you’re new to pointers it can seem like an unknowable, abstract concept.

I felt like Chris Farley in Almost Heroes when I made first contact with the idea of pointers.

Pointers are simple if you understand the high-level way in which memory works.

Let’s look at a javascript variable:

let x = 33

When we write that assignment we’re saying:

“Hey, browser! Let the operating system know I want to store the number 33 in memory. I don’t care where in memory it stores it, just give give me the address so I can get to it later.”

A pointer is the address the operating system gave us for x.

Now, when we want to do something like x * 1 we’re saying:

“Hey browser! Let the operating system know I want to get the value stored at the address it gave me for x so I can multiply x by 1.”

It’s that simple.

Congratulations, you understand pointers.

Now, there are some more complicated things you can do with pointers in C, but that’s a post for later.

Today, I just wanted to expose you to the basic concept.

Cheers!