What is Pointer in C++

What is RAM

To understand pointer, you should know about the primary memory (RAM). RAM stand for Random Access Memory means that any memory location of RAM can be accessed randomly. When you open a program to run, it loads from storage to RAM. It means that all running programs load on RAM. When a running program is closed, it is unloaded from RAM. RAM contains a number of memory locations according to its size. Each memory location has its unique memory address used to access that location. Size of each memory address is 32 bit (4 bytes).

How to access a particular memory address of RAM

Let us understand it with an examples.

Example 1:

Suppose you have to send a gift to a parson named John. You request someone to take that parcel. Here point to reference is a name. However, you can tell the complete address of John as street no, house no. Here point of reference is address of house. It means that you have two ways to locate house.

Example 2:

Suppose, hundreds of people are sitting in an auditorium. The host is going to announce a prize for a person among the audience. There are two methods to call the prizewinner to dais.   The host can either call the name of the person or the number of the seat. These are equivalent to ‘call by name’ and ‘call by address’ methods. In both cases, the prize will be delivered to a person whether he is called by name or referred by address (seat number in this case).

Similarly, you can access a variable x by two ways, by variable name and by memory address where memory is reserved by variable x. A variable is used to store value and a pointer is used to store memory address of memory location where value of variable is stored.

C++ Pointers

Pointer is special type of variable in which memory address is stored. Using memory address stored in pointer, you can get value stored at that memory address.

Declaring a Pointer

Pointers works by pointing a particular data type as integer pointer points to integer data type, double pointer points to double data type and so on. Syntax of pointer declaration is

data-type *pointer-name;

Here pointer-name is name of pointer, data-type is the type of data to which the pointer points. There is no space between asterisk (*) and the pointer name. Declaration of pointers to different data types are given below

int *myptr;
//myptr points to 
//int data type 
//myptr contains memory 
//address of int variable

double *myptr;
//myptr points to 
//double data type 
//myptr contains memory 
//address of double variable

char *myptr;
//myptr points to 
//char data type 
//myptr contains memory
//address of char variable

short *myptr;
//myptr points to 
//short data type 
//myptr contains memory
//address of short variable

long *myptr;
//myptr points to 
//double long type 
//myptr contains memory
//address of long variable

Multiple pointers of same data type can be declared in a single as

int *ptr1, *ptr2, *ptr3;

Moreover, we can declare variables, arrays and pointers of same data type in a single line.

double number,*ptr,a[5];

  • number is variable of data type double
  • ptr is pointer to data type double
  • a is array of data type double

Address operator / Referencing operator

Let us declare a variable x and initialize it with value 10. Here x is the name of memory location where 10 is stored. To get memory address of this memory location (named x), we use Address operator (Ampersand sign &). We declare an int pointer ptr and store memory address in ptr.

int x = 10;
int *ptr;
ptr = &x;

Here ptr contains the memory address of memory location named x where value 10 is stored.

Dereference operator

Dereference operator (asterisk * sign with pointer) is used with pointer ptr to get value from memory address stored in ptr as


Here don’t confuse between int *ptr and *ptr

  • Int *ptr is declaration of pointer named ptr
  • *ptr is dereferencing of pointer ptr (Means getting value from memory address stored in ptr)

Two ways to get value of memory location named x

By name


By reference


Now we demonstrate above concepts practically as

int x = 10;
//variable x is declared
//and initialized with 10

int *ptr;
//pointer to int ptr is declared

ptr = &x;
//using reference operator
//get memory address of 
//variable x and store in ptr

//output is 10

//output is memory address 
//as 0x70fe4c
//memory address is in hexadecimal

//using dereference operator, 
//get value at memory address 
//stored in ptr

cout<<*ptr +2;
//pointer arithmetic
//*ptr = 10 and adding 2 
//the outpur is 12

Below is C++ program to cover above pointer concepts

what is pointer in c output
Pointer basic in c++

what is pointer in c++
Pointer basic in c++ output

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