EE Bookshelf: Understanding and Using C Pointers

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C is an awesome language.  It’s my go to choice for most things, with the occasional foray into Python-land for anything involving visualisation (matplotlib + numpy).  C is relatively easy to understand if you have a bit of a background in programming, it’s efficient, it’s extremely flexible, and there is a C compiler out there for just about everything.  The one thing that separates C from a lot of higher level languages (C#, Java, etc.), though, is the heavy use of pointers, particularly in embedded systems where you often have to deal with system registers, passing chunks of data back and forth between I2C/SPI drivers and devices efficiently, etc.  Pointers can take time to understand, and even after many years they can still have you scratching your head when you see pointers to pointers, etc., but they are also what makes C so powerful, and so appropriate for small, resource constrained embedded devices.

Despite the prevalance of C in the embedded and mainstream world, though, I was still (pleasantly!) surprised to stumble across Understanding and Using C Pointers from O’Reilly. I grabbed a copy as soon as it was available, but still found myself surprised that there is actually a market for a book like this.  It’s quite task-specific, but it addresses one of the biggest gaps in the existing C literature and it’s about time someone made a serious effort at filling it.  If you’re just getting started with C, and particularly if you’re coming from higher level languages like C# or Java or Python where you probably didn’t encounter pointers directly, you should find this book a good, thorough introduction to the biggest mental hurdle of working meaningfully with C!


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