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{ We have a C tutorial! ~drummyfish }

C is a low level, structured, statically typed imperative compiled programming language, the go-to language of less retarded programmers. It is the absolutely preferred language of the suckless community as well as of most true experts, for example the Linux and OpenBSD developers, because of its good, relatively simple design, uncontested performance, wide support, great number of compilers, level of control and a greatly established and tested status. C is perhaps the most important language in history, it influenced, to smaller or greater degree, basically all of the widely used languages today such as C++, Java, JavaScript etc., however it is not a thing of the past -- in the area of low level programming C is still the number one unsurpassed language.

It is usually not considered an easy language to learn because of its low level nature: it requires good understanding of how a computer actually works and doesn't prevent the programmer from shooting himself in the foot. Programmer is given full control (and therefore responsibility). There are things considered "tricky" which one must be aware of, such as undefined behavior of certain operators and raw pointers. This is what can discourage a lot of modern "coding monkeys" from choosing C, but it's also what inevitably allows such great performance -- undefined behavior allows the compiler to choose the most efficient implementation. On the other hand, C as a language is pretty simple without modern bullshit concepts such as OOP, it is not as much hard to learn but rather hard to master, as any other true art.

C is said to be the "platform independent assembly" because of its low level nature, great performance etc. -- though C is structured (has control structures such as branches and loops) and can be used in a relatively high level manner, it is also possible to write assembly-like code that operates directly with bytes in memory through pointers without many safety mechanisms, so C is often used for writing things like hardware drivers. On the other hand some restrain from likening C to assembly because C compilers still perform many transformations of the code and what you write is not necessarily always what you get.

Mainstream consensus acknowledges that C is among the best languages for writing low level code and code that requires performance, such as operating systems, drivers or games. Even scientific libraries with normie-language interfaces -- e.g. various machine learning Python libraries -- usually have the performance critical core written in C. Normies will tell you that for things outside this scope C is not a good language, with which we disagree -- we recommend using C for basically everything that's supposed to last, i.e. if you want to write a good website, you should write it in C etc.

History and Context

C was developed in 1972 at Bell Labs alongside the Unix operating system by Dennis Ritchie and Brian Kerninghan, as a successor to the B language (portable language with recursion) written by Denis Ritchie and Ken Thompson, which was in turn inspired by the the ALGOL language (code blocks, lexical scope, ...).

In 1973 Unix was rewritten in C. In 1978 Keninghan and Ritchie published a book called The C Programming Language, known as K&R, which became something akin the C specification. In 1989, the ANSI C standard, also known as C89, was released by the American ANSI. The same standard was also adopted a year later by the international ISO, so C90 refers to the same language. In 1999 ISO issues a new standard that's known as C99.



C is not a single language, there have been a few standards over the years since its inception in 1970s. The notable standards and versions are:

LRS should use C99 or C89 as the newer versions are considered bloat and don't have such great support in compilers, making them less portable and therefore less free.

The standards of C99 and older are considered pretty future-proof and using them will help your program be future-proof as well. This is to a high degree due to C having been established and tested better than any other language; it is one of the oldest languages and a majority of the most essential software is written in C, C compiler is one of the very first things a new hardware platform needs to implement, so C compilers will always be around, at least for historical reasons. C has also been very well designed in a relatively minimal fashion, before the advent of modern feature-creep and and bullshit such as OOP which cripples almost all "modern" languages.


Standard Library

Besides the pure C language the C standard specifies a set of libraries that have to come with a standard-compliant C implementation -- so called standard library. This includes e.g. the stdio library for performing standard input/output (reading/writing to/from screen/files) or the math library for mathematical functions. It is usually relatively okay to use these libraries as they are required by the standard to exist so the dependency they create is not as dangerous, however many C implementations aren't completely compliant with the standard and may come without the standard library. So for sake of portability it is best if you can avoid using standard library.

The standard library (libc) is a subject of live debate because while its interface and behavior are given by the C standard, its implementation is a matter of each compiler; since the standard library is so commonly used, we should take great care in assuring it's extremely well written. As you probably guessed, the popular implementations (glibc et al) are bloat. Better alternatives thankfully exist, such as:

Bad Things About C

C isn't perfect, it was one of the first relatively higher level languages and even though it has showed to have been designed extremely well, some things didn't age great, or were simply bad from the start. We still prefer this language as usually the best choice, but it's good to be aware of its downsides or smaller issues, if only for the sake of one day designing a better version of C. So, let's go:


This is a quick overview, for a more in depth tutorial see C tutorial.

A simple program in C that writes "welcome to C" looks like this:

#include <stdio.h> // standard I/O library

int main(void)
  // this is the main program
  puts("welcome to C");

  return 0; // end with success

You can simply paste this code into a file which you name e.g. program.c, then you can compile the program from command line like this:

gcc -o program program.c

Then if you run the program from command line (./program on Unix like systems) you should see the message.


It's pretty important you learn C, so here's a little cheat sheet for you.

data types (just some):

branching aka if-then-else:

  // do something here
else // optional
  // do something else here

for loop (repeat given number of times):

for (int i = 0; i < MAX; ++i)
  // do something here, you can use i

while loop (repeat while CONDITION holds):

  // do something here

do while loop (same as while but CONDITION at the end):

  // do something here
} while (CONDITION);

function definition:

RETURN_TYPE myFunction (TYPE1 param1, TYPE2 param2, ...)
{ // return type can be void
  // do something here

See Also

All content available under CC0 1.0 (public domain). Send comments and corrections to drummyfish at disroot dot org.