C memory address and values

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I have a problem I can't seem to figure it out. I hope someone could be able to throughly explain it to me. I get that its very elementary..

Problem is following:

How do the following variables go into consecutive memory addresses and their value?

int8_t a = 0x65; char b = 'k'; uint16_t c = 22222; 

for example,

int8_t esim = 9; 

would be stored as




I have a problem I can't seem to figure it out. I hope someone could be able to throughly explain it to me. I get that its very elementary.

And here you go wrong. It is very elementary but not quite as you think it to be

  • Distinct variables need not be stored in consecutive locations in memory. (Or as the last bullet says, not be stored in memory at all)

  • The storage of individual bytes within a multibyte value is implementation-defined - check your compiler manuals. Most personal computing processors nowadays use little-endian 2's complement for integers, however.

  • Even if they were organized by the compiler to appear in memory in exactly the same order as they are declared, each datatype can require an implementation-specific alignment and can therefore start only at an address that is multiple of this alignment

  • And finally, there need not be any variables or memory allocations whatsoever, the compiler just needs to generate a program that behaves as if there were such variables.

We can certainly say something about your program however. If the excerpt

#include <stdint.h>  int8_t a = 0x65; char b = 'k'; uint16_t c = 22222; 

compiles and the variables are placed in memory, then

  • a will be 8 bits with value 0b01100101
  • c will be 16 bits and stored in memory as 2 bytes - 0b11001110 and 0b01010110 at increasing memory addresses (little-endian, usual), or the same 2 bytes reversed: 0b01010110 and 0b11001110 (big-endian).
  • As for b, if the execution character set is ASCII-compatible, as int8_t exists, then char must also be 8 bits wide, then its value will be stored as 0b01101011 (i.e. 107, the ASCII code of k).

Additionally, most often the alignment requirement of an uint16_t object is 2; if that is the case, it must start at an even address.

This deduction is only possible because the int8_t and uint16_t must not have padding bits, hence from having them we can deduce that the width of the smallest addressable unit (char) must be 8 bits too. And uint16_t has only 2 bytes, hence it can only have two choices for endianness.

It is easy to test how GCC organizes global variables. Consider the module having the source code

#include <stdint.h> int8_t a = 0x65; char b = 'k'; uint16_t c = 22222; 

we can compile it to an object file:

% gcc -c layouttest.c -o layouttest.o 

and then use nm to list the symbols and their addresses:

% nm layouttest.o             0000000000000000 D a 0000000000000001 D b 0000000000000002 D c 

It seems to be as Jabberwocky's answer expects. If we now compile with -O3, the results can be different:

% gcc -c layouttest.c -o layouttest.o -O3; nm layouttest.o 0000000000000003 D a 0000000000000002 D b 0000000000000000 D c 

I.e. the variables were reorganized, with c at the bottom.


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