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Engineering LibreTexts

3.1: Introduction

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  • C is a terse language. It is designed for professional programmers who need to do a lot with a little code quickly. Unlike BASIC or Python, C is a compiled language. This means that once you have written a program, it needs to be fed into a compiler that turns your C language instructions into machine code that the microprocessor or microcontroller can execute. This is an extra step, but it results in a more efficient program than an interpreter. An interpreter turns your code into machine language while it’s running, essentially a line at a time. This results in slower execution. Also, in order to run your program on another machine, that machine must also have an interpreter on it. You can think of a compiler as doing the translation all at once instead of a line at a time.

    Unlike many languages, C is not line oriented, but is instead free-flow. A program can be thought of as consisting of three major components: Variables, statements and functions. Variables are just places to hold things, as they are in any other language. They might be integers, floating point (real) numbers, or some other type. Statements include things such as variable operations and assignments (i.e., set x to 5 times y), tests (i.e., is x more than 10?), and so forth. Functions contain statements and may also call other functions.

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