Remember that a pointer is a special type of integer variable. This implies that basic arithmetic operations can be done on pointers. In this exercise, we will explore this idea.

The only arithmetic operations allowed for pointers are addition and subtraction. Conceptually, adding to (or subtracting from) a pointer means the pointer will point to some new address. Multiplication is not allowed because the address of a byte of memory is usually a large number; therefore, multiplying an address may yield an even larger number, possibly representing an address outside the bounds of the available memory space. Division is not allowed as it potentially allows a pointer to illogically point to an address with a non-integer index.

The addition operation for a pointer is only valid when adding an integer to a pointer; you cannot add two or more pointers together! The syntax is traditional addition illustrated by the following example (here, n represents an integer):

pointer = pointer + n; pointer += n; // Same outcome with different syntax

The important thing to note here is that adding n to a pointer does not increment the address to point to a value n bytes away. It moves the pointer by n * (size of the data type in bytes). For example, if a pointer to an int, the size of which is four bytes, initially contains address 100 (we will use a decimal address for simplicity), and three is added to the pointer, the pointer will now point to address 112.

Let’s take a look at how this works:

int main() { int* ptr; ptr += 3; // Increment pointer by three blocks. }

This code increments the pointer ptr to store the address that is three int sizes away. Incrementing by one can be done in the following ways:

pointer++; pointer += 1; // Same outcome with different syntax

Subtracting from a pointer behaves in the same way with the address being decremented instead of incremented.

Pointers are very powerful and allow greater control over a program. But with great power comes great responsibility! Working with pointer arithmetic can be dangerous if used carelessly. If an attempt is made to increment (or decrement) a pointer beyond the bounds of the memory space of a program, a crash will occur. Pointers are so dangerous, that many high-level languages (such as Java) will not even allow such operations. Be careful!



Increment the double pointer ptr1 by five.


Decrement the pointer ptr1 by four.

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