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GENERAL: #DEFINE GENERATES WRONG RESULTS


Information in this article applies to:

  • C51 All Versions
  • C166 All Versions
  • C251 All Versions

QUESTION

I have found a serious problem when I use simple constants in a #define statement. In the following code the constant is not divided:

if (value >= (MAX_MSG_LEN/4))

The value will not be (MAX_MSG_LEN/4) it is just MAX_MSG_LEN.

MAX_MSG_LEN is defined as follows:

#define MAX_LEN      16
#define MAX_MSG_LEN  MAX_LEN+3

ANSWER

The #define is a pure text replacement utility. So you have effectively written if (value >= (16+3/4)). The ANSI C compiler calculations plain numbers with the arithmetic rules for int variables. Therefore, 3/4 is calculated first which results in 0 and the result of the complete calculation is just 16. This lets you believe that the compiler does not divide.

As a general rule, it is recommended that you use parenthesis in #define statements. For example:

#define MAX_MSG_LEN (MAX_LEN+3)

This avoids simple programming mistakes as you had above.

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Last Reviewed: Tuesday, December 18, 2007


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