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Practical C Programming, 3rd Edition by Steve Oualline

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Chapter 2. Basics of Program Writing

The first and most important thing of all, at least for writers today, is to strip language clean, to lay it bare down to the bone.

Ernest Hemingway

Programs start as a set of instructions written by a human being. Before they can be used by the computer, they must undergo several transformations. In this chapter, we’ll learn how to enter a program, transform it into something the machine can use, and run it. Detailed steps are provided for the most popular UNIX and DOS/Windows compilers.

Programs from Conception to Execution

C programs are written in a high-level language using letters, numbers, and the other symbols you find on a computer keyboard. Computers actually execute a very low-level language called machine code (a series of numbers). So, before a program level can be used, it must undergo several transformations.

Programs start out as an idea in a programmer’s head. He uses a text editor to write his thoughts into a file called a source file, containing source code. This file is transformed by the compiler into an object file. Next, a program called the linker takes the object file, combines it with predefined routines from a standard library, and produces an executable program (a set of machine-language instructions). In the following sections, we’ll see how these various forms of the program work together to produce the final program.

Figure 2-1 shows the steps that must be taken to transform a program written in a high-level language ...

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