Programming Tutorials

Data Types and Sizes in C

By: Priya in C Tutorials on 2007-09-20  

There are only a few basic data types in C:


char a single byte, capable of holding one character in the local character set
int an integer, typically reflecting the natural size of integers on the host machine
float single-precision floating point
double double-precision floating point

In addition, there are a number of qualifiers that can be applied to these basic types. short and long apply to integers:

   short int sh;
   long int counter;
The word int can be omitted in such declarations, and typically it is.

The intent is that short and long should provide different lengths of integers where practical; int will normally be the natural size for a particular machine. short is often 16 bits long, and int either 16 or 32 bits. Each compiler is free to choose appropriate sizes for its own hardware, subject only to the the restriction that shorts and ints are at least 16 bits, longs are at least 32 bits, and short is no longer than int, which is no longer than long.

The qualifier signed or unsigned may be applied to char or any integer. unsigned numbers are always positive or zero, and obey the laws of arithmetic modulo 2n, where n is the number of bits in the type. So, for instance, if chars are 8 bits, unsigned char variables have values between 0 and 255, while signed chars have values between -128 and 127 (in a two's complement machine.) Whether plain chars are signed or unsigned is machine-dependent, but printable characters are always positive.

The type long double specifies extended-precision floating point. As with integers, the sizes of floating-point objects are implementation-defined; float, double and long double could represent one, two or three distinct sizes.

The standard headers <limits.h> and <float.h> contain symbolic constants for all of these sizes, along with other properties of the machine and compiler.

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