how gcc thinks `char' as signed char or unsigned char ?

Tom St Denis
Wed Mar 5 13:32:00 GMT 2008

John Love-Jensen wrote:
> typedef char byte;
> byte b = GetByte();
> if ((b & 0xFF) < 200)
> {
>   std::cout << "byte is under 200" << std::endl;
> }

Presumably GetByte() would be responsible for ensuring it's range is 
limited to 0..255 or -128..127, so the &0xFF is not required.

> The explicit (b & 0xFF) converts the byte to an int, and ensures that it is
> between 0 and 255.
b < 200 would work just fine if GetByte() were spec'e properly.
> Also, using 'byte' instead of 'char' is a way to convey, in code (rather
> than in comment) that you are working with byte information and not
> character information.
It's more apt to think of "char" as a small integer type, not a 
"character type."  You could have a platform where char and int are the 
same size for instance. 
> Some may advocate using 'unsigned char' for byte.  I used to advocate that,
> too (via: typedef unsigned char byte;).  After a stint doing Java
> development, I've changed my mind and now much prefer using an unspecified
> 'char' for byte (via: typedef char byte;), and employ the (b & 0xFF)
> paradigm when/where needed.  More typing, but -- in my opinion -- much
> better code clarity, better self-documenting code, and less obfuscation.
In two's compliment it doesn't really matter, unless you multiply the 
type.  You'd get a signed multiplication instead of unsigned.  Which 
probably won't matter, but it's good to be explicit.  Also shifting 
works differently.  unsigned right shifts fill with zeros.  signed 
shifts may fill with zeros OR the sign bit.

It's IMO a better idea to use the unsigned type (that's why it exists) 
and write your functions so that their domains and co-domains are well 
understood.  If you can't figure out what the inputs to a function 
should be, it's clearly not clearly clearly documented.  ;-)


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