An array name as a constant pointer to the first element of the array Please explain

Discussion in 'Programmer's Corner' started by integral, Jun 27, 2011.

1. integral Thread Starter New Member

Aug 19, 2010
22
0
The book I am studying from makes the following two statements:

1. The array name (without a subscript) is a (constant) pointer to the first element of the array.

2. The name of an array is actually the address in memory of the first element of the array.

When I run the following program:
Code ( (Unknown Language)):
1. #include <iostream>
2. using namespace std;
3.
4. int main()
5. {
6.     int b[5] = {11, 22, 33, 44, 55};
7.     const int *bPtr =  b;
8.
9.     //Part 1
10.     cout << "Part 1" << endl;
11. [COLOR=Red]    cout << "b  = " << b << endl;
12.     cout << "&b = " << &b << endl;[/COLOR]
13.     cout << "*b = " << *b << endl;
14.
15.     cout << endl;
16.
17.
18.     //Part 2
19.     cout << "Part 2" << endl;
20.     cout << "bPtr  = " << bPtr << endl;
21.     cout << "&bPtr = " << &bPtr << endl;
22.     cout << "*bPtr = " << *bPtr << endl;
23.
24.     return 0;
25. }
I get the following result:

Code ( (Unknown Language)):
1. Part 1
2. [COLOR=Red]b  = 0023FEAC
3. &b = 0023FEAC[/COLOR]
4. *b = 11
5.
6. Part 2
7. bPtr  = 0023FEAC
8. &bPtr = 0023FEA8
9. *bPtr = 11
10. Press any key to continue . . .
11.
I don't understand why the lines in red above produce the same output. I understand why b = 0023FEAC but why does &b = 0023FEAC ? If my understanding of pointers is correct, it seems like it is a pointer pointing to itself.

Jul 7, 2009
1,585
141
First of all, integral, this is an excellent post -- I wish all the people who had questions gave code properly indented like you did, added the highlighting, and showed the output. It's quite refreshing from the manifold poorly-phrased and poorly-presented questions one often sees here. Many posters aren't smart enough to realize they're asking for a favor, so they should minimize the amount of work the reader has to do.

I recommend you use Stroustrup's C++ book for such questions (rather than e.g. K&R); I'm using 3rd ed. On page 91 is the statement "The name of an array can be used as a pointer to its initial element". Then the example following shows that, semantically, the array's name can be used as a pointer and Stroustrup mentions an implicit conversion. This is a subtle point. Note the statement is that the array's name can be used as a pointer -- that does not mean it is a pointer.

Thus, your line "cout << b" does an implicit conversion to a pointer, which then prints as the usual hex value. Here's some code:

int a[3] = {0, 1, 2};
int *p = a; // Implicit conversion to pointer

The following three lines are semantically equivalent:

int *p = a;
int *p = &a;
int *p = &a[0];

However, I believe no implicit conversion would need to be generated for the last two lines (look at the assembly to be sure).

Thus, semantically, a, &a, and &a[0] behave the same way. That's why you get the same address in the printouts. a is an array, but &a and &a[0] are addresses -- two entirely different things.