Programming in C
ANSI Literature History Culture
Questionable Utility Company

  Standard C

ISO/IEC JTC1/SC22/WG14 and N1124, the official committee document (PDF)
The first chain of abbreviations is the committee responsible for maintaining and updating the C language definition; the second, N1124, designates the new! updated! C standard. Gábor Egressy is hosting a hyperlinked version of N794, a slightly earlier draft.

A brief description of Normative Addendum 1, by Clive Feather
Rather than delay the Standard to add full internationalization features, ANSI agreed to add minimal features immediately, with ISO designing a proper extension at a later date. This work - 4 years in the doing - has culminated in Normative Addendum 1.

Normative Changes to ISO/IEC 9899:1990 in Technical Corrigendum 1
Four years after the adoption of the ANSI C standard as an International Standard in 1990, answers to the first batch of defect reports have been formally accepted: the C standard has changed.

Paul Eggert summarizes Technical Corrigendum 2
ISO C Technical Corrigendum 2 (TC2) has been approved. Even leaner than its predecessor TC1, it consists only of small changes in response to Defect Reports, and will be of interest mostly to compiler and test suite vendors.

Instant C9x: Doug Gwyn's Q8
``Aside: Why "Q8"? That was used as a system external symbol prefix in old CDC Fortran implementations, to avoid link-time name-space collisions with user-defined symbols, on the assumption that no user would ever think of using such a name.''

The official JTC1/SC22/WG14/ archive
Hosted by Keld Simonsen. Electronic copies of all the proposals for recent and increasingly ancient revisions of the ISO C standard.

The ANSI C Rationale
``This Rationale summarizes the deliberations of X3J11, the Technical Committee charged by ANSI with devising a standard for the C programming language.''

Dennis Ritchie on type qualifiers (1988)
``Noalias must go. This is non-negotiable.
It must not be reworded, reformulated or reinvented.''

Proposal X3J11.1 93-006: Restricted Pointers
``The X3J11 committee attempted to solve the aliasing problem in C by introducing a new type qualifier noalias. That effort failed because of technical problems with the proposed semantics of noalias. This restricted pointer proposal is different in many ways.''

The Standard C grammar (Yacc and Lex)


Clive Feather reviews "The Annotated ANSI C Standard" by Herbert Schildt
``[The] book is commenting on a very carefully designed document, and one that has to be read precisely. If the annotator cannot get things right, then the book is not just useless, but is a positive danger [...].''

Harbison & Steele, C: A Reference Manual, Third Edition (errata)
``Some or all of these problems may have been corrected in the third and later printings of the book.'' (The current edition is the fourth.)

Kernighan & Ritchie, The C Programming Language, Second Edition (errata)
``Fortunately, the changes are minor; some repair our bugs, a few account for last-minute changes in the draft standard.''

Stroustrup: The C++ Programming Language, Second Edition (errata)
Nonoverlapping errata for the first printing, the first year, the sixth printing, and from the ninth printing on up.

Stroustrup: The Design and Evolution of C++ (errata)
Errata for the first and second printing.

Summit: C Programming FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions (errata)
Errata for the first printing of Steve Summit's first book, published by Addison-Wesley, 1996, ISBN 0-201-84519-9.

Reviews of the book "Numerical Recipes In C"
``By 1995, the second edition of Numerical Recipes in C'' has almost completely replaced the first edition, making it hard to judge whether the praise it has accumulated stems from different criteria of judgement or from improvements to the text.''


Dennis Ritchie's home page
Among others: The Development of the C Language, a PostScript version of the 6th edition C Reference Manual, Ken Thompson's Users' Reference to B, CSTR #8: The Programming Language B, by S.C. Johnson and Kernighan, and even Martin Richards's BCPL Reference Manual from 1967.

Clive Feather gives a brief introduction to BCPL
``A cell stores a single value which can be treated as any of an integer [...], a bit pattern, an address, a procedure designator, a floating point number, a selector, a jump target, a jump closure, or a stream designator.''

Alan Watson on BCPL
``BCPL was in use in Cambridge for years. Much of the software for the Phoenix system (...) was written in BCPL (most of the rest was in assembler, although Algol68 was used for a mailer and the infamous job scheduler -- I think there must be something in the water in Cambridge).''

Mark Brader on B
``B didn't believe in type-checking, period. There was only one type, the machine word, and the programmer was responsible for applying to a variable only such operators as made sense.''

Brian W. Kernighan (1974): ``Programming in C: A Tutorial''
``C is a computer language available on the GCOS and UNIX operating systems at Murray Hill and (in preliminary form) on OS/360 at Holmdel.''

Dennis Ritchie on the precedence of | and & vs. ==
``In retrospect it would have been better to go ahead and change the precedence of & to higher than ==, but it seemed safer just to split & and && without moving & past an existing operator. (After all, we had several hundred kilobytes of source code, and maybe 3 installations....)''


The International Obfuscated C Code Contest
``Obfuscate: tr.v. -cated, cating, -cates. 1. a. To render obscure. b. To darken. 2. To confuse: his emotions obfuscated his judgment. [LLat. obfuscare, to darken : ob(intensive) + Lat. fuscare, to darken < fuscus, dark.] -obfuscation n. obfuscatory adj''

The Underhanded C Contest
Where Obfuscated C Code Contest entries often do something simple but look weird, the Underhanded C Contest is for entries that look simple but do something weird - maliciously introduce a security problem through code that passes inspection as innocent.
Past contest winners: 2007, 2006, 2005.

Introductory C Programming, from Steve Summit
``If you have a copy of K&R2 and would like a thorough treatment of the language, read K&R and the `Notes to Accompany K&R' side by side. If you're just getting your feet wet and would like a somewhat simpler introduction, read the `Class Notes.' ''

Tired of being called a dummy?, from Chris Torek
``Note: This is not a beginner's tutorial. If you do not already have a good grasp of programming in general and C syntax, this is probably not the place to start.'' In-depth discussion of core C topics - things you think you know, like values, expressions, pointers - illuminated by Chris Torek's signature sterling prose.

Frequently Asked Questions in comp.lang.c
``Like so many web pages, this is very much a ``work in progress.'' I would, of course, like it if it were perfect, but it's been two years or so since I first started talking about putting this thing on the web, and if I were to wait until all the glitches were worked out, you might never see it.''

Infrequently Asked Questions in comp.lang.c, by Peter Seebach
``Certain topics never (well, hardly ever) come up on this newsgroup. They are stupid questions, to which the answers are immediately obvious, but they would be more fun to talk about than these arcane details of loop control.''

Rob Pike on Style
``I eschew embedded capital letters in names; to my prose-oriented eyes, they are too awkward to read comfortably. They jangle like bad typography.''

Tom Duff on Duff's Device
``Many people (even bwk?) have said that the worst feature of C is that switches don't break automatically before each case label. This code forms some sort of argument in that debate, but I'm not sure whether it's for or against.''

Why Pascal is Not My Favorite Programming Language, by B. W. Kernighan
``It is suitable only for small, self-contained programs that have only trivial interactions with their environment and that make no use of any software written by anyone else.''

Henry Spencer's The Ten Commandments for C Programmers
``While thou might think that thine own ideas of brace style lead to clearer programs, thy successors will not thank thee for it, but rather shall revile thy works and curse thy name, and word of this might get to thy next employer.''

How to Use the Plan 9 C Compiler, by Rob Pike
``The language accepted by the compilers is the core ANSI C language with some modest extensions, a greatly simplified preprocessor, a smaller library that includes system calls and related facilities, and a completely different structure for include files.''

The Alef Language Reference Manual (Postscript, 29 pages)
``Alef is a concurrent programming language designed for systems programming. (...) Programs can be written using both shared variable and message passing paradigms. Expressions use the same syntax as C, but the type system is substantially different.''

A Descent into Limbo, by Brian Kernighan
``Limbo borrows from, among other things, C (expression syntax and control flow), Pascal (declarations), Winterbottom's Alef (abstract data types and channels), and Hoare's CSP and Pike's Newsqueak (processes). Limbo is strongly typed, provides automatic garbage collection, supports only very restricted pointers, and compiles into machine-independent byte code for execution on a virtual machine.''

Other Sources...
A collection of pointers to other texts about C, related languages, and programming languages in general on the Internet.

<- quut The reference version of this page is at