Introduction to Computer Science - C++

Constant Pointers

You can declare constant variables. Here is an example:

const int var = 9;
You can also declare pointers which are constant. But we must distinguish between two types of constant pointers.
  1. a pointer that points to a constant variable. (This pointer may be used to point to any number of constants in succession.)
    const a = 34;
    const int * ptr2Const; //something which points to a constant!
    ptr2Const = &a;
  2. a pointer which can point to only one memory location ever.
    int a = 34;
    int * const constPtr = &a;
    int * const constPtr points to a single memory location, it can never be changed once it is assigned.

Let us remeber something about constants. When you create a regular constant you must inialize it at the time when you declare it. If you try to initialize it later, you will get a compiler error. This is because the compiler has no way to know that you are not attempting to change the value of a constant. You think you are setting the value for the first time, but the compiler just sees that you are assigning it a new value, and that is not allowed.

const int A;
A = 10; //compiler error
//rather you must do this
const int A = 10;
For the same reason, you must initialize a constant pointer when you declare it, as I did above. Just like it would be pointles to create a constant variable and not initialize at the time of declaration because then you could never use it for anything, so too would it be pointles to create a constant pointer variable and not initialize it.

int * const constPtr;// pointless, constPtr can never serve any useful purpose

Let's see some examples in code that are based on the above principles.

const int F =10; int * Fptr = &F;// compiles but illegal -- you are trying to point to a constant with a variable pointer (*Fptr) = 11; // compiles but crashes program -- if this would really work, you would be changing a const! const int * Fptr= &F; // the right way to do it (*Fptr)= 11; //Now this won's compile, but that is good because you should not be changing constants int c = 200; int d = 300; int * const C = &c; int * const D ; //compiles but never useful just as useless as const int G; you should give D a value. const int * B; const int * E; E = &d; // a pointer to a const can point to a variable also (*D) = 17; // compiles but you are accessing memory that does not belong to you. Don't do this! (*C) = 17; // compiles but you are accessing memory that does not belong to you. Don't do this! C = &d ; or C = &c; // error because C is a read only variable, you can only assign C at time of declaration B = &c; //compiles but you cannot change c via B because B thinks he is pointing to a constant (*B)++;// wont compile because B thinks he is pointing to a const int (*B) = 17; //error because B read only location, the location the B points to is suppose to be a constant

© Nachum Danzig December 2017