Modern C
Jens Gustedt
Computers & Technology
Modern C

The C programming language has been around since the early seventies. Since then, C has been used in an incredible number of applications. Programs and systems written in C are all around us: in personal computers, phones, cameras, set-top boxes, refrigerators, cars, mainframes, satellites ... basically in any modern device that has a programmable interface.

In contrast to the ubiquitous presence of C programs and systems, good knowledge of and about C is much more scarce. Even experienced C programmers often appear to be stuck in some degree of self-inflicted ignorance about the modern evolution of the C language. A likely reason for this is that C is seen as an "easy to learn" language, allowing a programmer with little experience to quickly write or copy snippets of code that at least appear to do what it’s supposed to. In a way, C fails to motivate its users to climb to higher levels of knowledge.

This book is intended to change that general attitude, so it is organized in levels that reflect familiarity with the C language and programming in general. This structure may go against some habits of the book’s readers; in particular, it splits some difficult subjects (such as pointers) across levels in order to not swamp readers too early with the wrong information. 

Generally, although many universally applicable ideas will be presented, that would also be valid for other programming languages (such as Java, Python, Ruby, C# or C++) the book primarily addresses concepts and practices that are unique to C or are of particular value when programming in the C language.

If you’d like to support this work, and receive a nicely formatted print or eBook, please consider buying a copy at the following URL:

About this book
C versions
C and C++
Source code
Exercises and challenges
Level 0. Encounter
1. Getting started
1.1. Imperative programming
1.2. Compiling and running
2. The principal structure of a program
2.1. Grammar
2.2. Declarations
2.3. Definitions
2.4. Statements
Level 1. Acquaintance
Buckle up
3. Everything is about control
3.1. Conditional execution
3.2. Iterations
3.3. Multiple selection
4. Expressing computations
4.1. Arithmetic
4.2. Operators that modify objects
4.3. Boolean context
4.4. The ternary or conditional operator
4.5. Evaluation order
5. Basic values and data
5.1. The abstract state machine
5.2. Basic types
5.3. Specifying values
5.4. Implicit conversions
5.5. Initializers
5.6. Named constants
5.7. Binary representions
6. Derived data types
6.1. Arrays
6.2. Pointers as opaque types
6.3. Structures
6.4. New names for types: type aliases
7. Functions
7.1. Simple functions
7.2. main is special
7.3. Recursion
8. C library functions
8.1. General properties of the C library and its functions
8.2. Mathematics
8.3. Input, output, and file manipulation
8.4. String processing and conversion
8.5. Time
8.6. Runtime environment settings
8.7. Program termination and assertions
Level 2. Cognition
9. Style
9.1. Formatting
9.2. Naming
10. Organization and documentation
10.1. Interface documentation
10.2. Implementation
11. Pointers
11.1. Pointer operations
11.2. Pointers and structures
11.3. Pointers and arrays
11.4. Function pointers
12. The C memory model
12.1. A uniform memory model
12.2. Unions
12.3. Memory and state
12.4. Pointers to unspecific objects
12.5. Explicit conversions
12.6. Effective types
12.7. Alignment
13. Storage
13.1. malloc and friends
13.2. Storage duration, lifetime, and visibility
13.3. Digression: using objects "before" their definition
13.4. Initialization
13.5. Digression: a machine model
14. More involved processing and IO
14.1. Text processing
14.2. Formatted input
14.3. Extended character sets
14.4. Binary streams
14.5. Error checking and cleanup
Level 3. Experience
15. Performance
15.1. Inline functions
15.2. Using restrict qualifiers
15.3. Measurement and inspection
16. Function-like macros
16.1. How function-like macros work
16.2. Argument checking
16.3. Accessing the calling context
16.4. Default arguments
16.5. Variable-length argument lists
16.6. Type-generic programming
17. Variations in control flow
17.1. A complicated example
17.2. Sequencing
17.3. Short jumps
17.4. Functions
17.5. Long jumps
17.6. Signal handlers
18. Threads
18.1. Simple inter-thread control
18.2. Race-free initialization and destruction
18.3. Thread-local data
18.4. Critical data and critical sections
18.5. Communicating through condition variables
18.6. More sophisticated thread management
19. Atomic access and memory consistency
19.1. The ``happened before'' relation
19.2. C library calls that provide synchronization
19.3. Sequential consistency
19.4. Other consistency models
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