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0.3 — Introduction to C/C++

Before C++, there was C

The C language was developed in 1972 by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Telephone laboratories, primarily as a systems programming language. That is, a language to write operating systems with. Ritchie’s primary goals were to produce a minimalistic language that was easy to compile, allowed efficient access to memory, produced efficient code, and did not need extensive run-time support. Thus, for a high-level language, it was designed to be fairly low-level, while still encouraging platform-independent programming.

C ended up being so efficient and flexible that in 1973, Ritchie and Ken Thompson rewrote most of the UNIX operating system using C. Many previous operating systems had been written in assembly. Unlike assembly, which ties a program to a specific CPU, C has excellent portability, allowing UNIX to be recompiled on many different types of computers and speeding its adoption. C and Unix had their fortunes tied together, and C’s popularity was in part tied to the success of UNIX as an operating system.

In 1978, Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie published a book called “The C Programming Language”. This book, which was commonly known as K&R (after the authors’ last names), provided an informal specification for the language and became a de facto standard. When maximum portability was needed, programmers would stick to the recommendations in K&R, because most compilers at the time were implemented to K&R standards.

In 1983, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) formed a committee to establish a formal standard for C. In 1989 (committees take forever to do anything), they finished, and released the C89 standard, more commonly known as ANSI C. In 1990 the International Organization for Standardization adopted ANSI C (with a few minor modifications). This version of C became known as C90. Compilers eventually became ANSI C/C90 compliant, and programs desiring maximum portability were coded to this standard.

In 1999, the ANSI committee released a new version of C called C99. It adopted many features which had already made their way into compilers as extensions, or had been implemented in C++.

C++

C++ (pronounced see plus plus) was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup at Bell Labs as an extension to C, starting in 1979. C++ adds many new features to the C language, and is perhaps best thought of as a superset of C, though this is not strictly true as C99 introduced a few features that do not exist in C++. C++’s claim to fame results primarily from the fact that it is an object-oriented language. As for what an object is and how it differs from traditional programming methods, well, we’ll cover that in chapter 8 (Basic object-oriented programming).

C++ was ratified in 1998 by the ISO committee, and again in 2003 (called C++03). Two updates to the C++ language (C++11 and C++14, ratified in 2011 and 2014 accordingly) have been made since then, adding additional functionality to the language. Relevant features from both of these updates will be discussed in these tutorials.

C and C++’s philosophy

The underlying design philosophy of C and C++ can be summed up as “trust the programmer” -- which is both wonderful and dangerous. C++ is designed to allow the programmer a high degree of freedom to do what they want. However, this also means the language often won’t stop you from doing things that don’t make sense. There are quite a few pitfalls that new programmers are likely to fall into if caught unaware. This is one of the primary reasons why knowing what you shouldn’t do in C/C++ is almost as important as knowing what you should do.

Note that you do not have to learn to program in C before doing these tutorials. We’ll teach you everything you need to know (including pitfalls to avoid) along the way!

0.4 -- Introduction to development
Index
0.2 -- Introduction to programming languages

166 comments to 0.3 — Introduction to C/C++

  • David Varner

    I know that the last thing a beginner should even think about doing is putting together a full-on software, but I'm planning on making something that resembles a digital audio workstation (GarageBand, Pro Tools, FL Studio and Logic Pro X are all DAWs) and was wondering what I would need to learn in addition to this course. A big part of a DAW is compatibility with third party plug-ins, which come in VST or AU format. There aren't many learning resources on VST and I would appreciate any advice on where to start and any simpler programs I should try making before doing something as big as creating a DAW.

    Thanks,
    David.

    • nascardriver

      Hi David!

      * GUI and audio IO (Qt)
      * Various audio file formats
      * Writing compilers (For your plugins)
      * MIDI
      * Multi threading and async tasks

      Are the first things that come to my mind, all of them can be made easier by using third-party libraries, I don't know how much you want to do on your own. What you're talking about could take an experienced programmer several years, this is a big project.
      learncpp teaches C++ without specializing on a goal, you can use the tutorials here no matter what your goal is.
      There are tasks in every couple of lessons which ask you to write small programs. After finishing the tutorials here I suggest you starting by writing native plugins for the DAWs you described above to get an understanding of how they work.

    • Maxime

      You might want to take a look at how audacity is built to give you an idea of how a DAW is built. It is of course not as complete as other commercial DAWs but it is open source and has been around for a while. https://github.com/audacity

    • Joel Keohane

      Hey David, I'm a beginner with a similar end goal (well, more focused on effect plugins in my case) and also a music producer. If you read this and would like to stay in touch, you can contact me through
      discord: Inferno#7176 (you can also find me as a moderator on the FL Studio server)
      email: InfernoEDM@gmail.com
      Sorry if this is coming off as too forward, but I think it would really be cool to talk to someone with a similar goal
      P.S. have you checked out JUCE? It is for creating audio applications using C++

      • David Varner

        Hi Joel,
        I've sent you a friend request on Discord, and would be happy to keep you up to date on any progress I make on my DAW (Or any other audio software projects).
        Please keep in mind that I am still far from completing the C++ course and that the DAW is more of a long term goal so I probably won't get much done quickly.

        And yes, I have had a look at JUCE but didn't know how to use it 😀 (Which is why I'm doing this course). I plan on using it as soon as I know a bit more about C++.

        I look forward to hearing from you,
        David.

  • Matt

    Hello Alex,

    I've got question concerning following part of text: "...extensive run-time suport...".

    Could you provide simple explanation, what do you mean by that?

    Thanks in advance,
    Matt.

    • nascardriver

      Hi Matt!

      Take C# for example. To run a C# program you need to have the .net framework installed.
      A C++ program on the other hand can run on an out-of-the-box system.

  • Kartikeyn

    What is the diff. between object oriented programming and functional programming? And advantages and disadvantages of both.

  • Chris

    Thank you! i must say this very well written or dare i even say beautifully written and more importantly easy to digest once again thanks for taking the time to do so!

  • William Osler

    Very well-written. Thank you for providing this.

  • Aman

    I have not any experiene from  cpp bu now im a starter and learner wish me the best <3

  • PLX TELL ME ABOOUT C++ SYNTEX ERROR

  • Kais

    Hi Alex,

    I want to ask you what ISO/IEC are? what do they do in C++?

  • Asif Zardari

    Nice information keep it up*

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