written by: Noel Kalicharan•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 10/4/2008
In this article, we discuss some basic concepts you need to know to write programs in the C programming language. We explain what syntax rules are and the role of the C alphabet.
slide 1 of 3
C - the basics
A programming language is similar to spoken languages in many respects. It has an alphabet (more commonly referred to as a character set) from which everything in the language is constructed. It has rules for forming words (also called tokens), rules for forming statements, and rules for forming programs.
These are called the syntax rules of the language and must be obeyed when writing programs. If you violate a rule, your program will contain a syntax error. When you attempt to compile the program, the compiler will inform you of the error. You must correct it and try again.
The first step in becoming a good programmer is learning the syntax rules of the programming language. This is the easy part and many people mistakenly believe that this makes them a programmer. It is like saying that learning some rules of English grammar and being able to write some correctly formed sentences make one a novelist.
Novel-writing skills require much more than learning some rules of grammar. Among other things, it requires insight, creativity and a knack for using the right words in a given situation.
In the same vein, a good programmer must be able to creatively use the features of the language to solve a wide variety of problems in an elegant and efficient manner. This is the difficult part; it can only be achieved by long, hard study of problem-solving algorithms and developing experience in writing programs to address diverse challenges. But we must start with baby steps.
slide 2 of 3
The C Alphabet
We can think of the C alphabet as consisting of all the characters one could type on a standard English keyboard: the digits; uppercase and lowercase letters; and special characters such as +, =, <, >, & and %.
More formally, C uses the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange, pronounced ass-key) character set . This is a character standard which includes the letters, digits and special characters found on a standard keyboard. It also includes control characters such as backspace, tab, line feed, form feed and carriage return. Each character is assigned a numeric code. The ASCII codes run from 0 to 127.