February 26, 2003
BBC: Where have all the protest songs gone?
[Cute story from the BBC. I'd cut and paste the whole thing to this site but there's a lot of sidebars that are worth reading, especially regarding the parody songs like "If you cannot find Osama, Bomb Iraq." If you are not familiar with this tune, the English Atheist site has a sing along version with fun graphics.]
BBC NEWS | UK | Where have all the protest songs gone?
Can anyone fill Dylan's shoes? Protest used to be about singing as much as marching. But as boy band Blue promise to record an anti-war song, why does the current movement lack a rallying anthem?
Posted by Brian Stefans at February 26, 2003 02:06 PM
When a variable is finished with it's work, it does not go into retirement, and it is never mentioned again. Variables simply cease to exist, and the thirty-two bits of data that they held is released, so that some other variable may later use them.
We can see an example of this in our code we've written so far. In each function's block, we declare variables that hold our data. When each function ends, the variables within are disposed of, and the space they were using is given back to the computer to use. The variables live in the blocks of conditionals and loops we write, but they don't cascade into functions we call, because those aren't sub-blocks, but different sections of code entirely. Every variable we've written has a well-defined lifetime of one function.
Our next line looks familiar, except it starts with an asterisk. Again, we're using the star operator, and noting that this variable we're working with is a pointer. If we didn't, the computer would try to put the results of the right hand side of this statement (which evaluates to 6) into the pointer, overriding the value we need in the pointer, which is an address. This way, the computer knows to put the data not in the pointer, but into the place the pointer points to, which is in the Heap. So after this line, our int is living happily in the Heap, storing a value of 6, and our pointer tells us where that data is living.
Since the Heap has no definite rules as to where it will create space for you, there must be some way of figuring out where your new space is. And the answer is, simply enough, addressing. When you create new space in the heap to hold your data, you get back an address that tells you where your new space is, so your bits can move in. This address is called a Pointer, and it's really just a hexadecimal number that points to a location in the heap. Since it's really just a number, it can be stored quite nicely into a variable.
That gives us a pretty good starting point to understand a lot more about variables, and that's what we'll be examining next lesson. Those new variable types I promised last lesson will finally make an appearance, and we'll examine a few concepts that we'll use to organize our data into more meaningful structures, a sort of precursor to the objects that Cocoa works with. And we'll delve a little bit more into the fun things we can do by looking at those ever-present bits in a few new ways.