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Dereference operator (*)

July 28th, 2010 c# No comments

We have just seen that a variable which stores a reference to another variable is called a pointer. Pointers are said to “point to” the variable whose reference they store.

Using a pointer we can directly access the value stored in the variable which it points to. To do this, we simply have to precede the pointer’s identifier with an asterisk (*), which acts as dereference operator and that can be literally translated to “value pointed by”.

Therefore, following with the values of the previous example, if we write:

beth = *ted;

(that we could read as: “beth equal to value pointed by ted”) beth would take the value 25, since ted is 1776, and the value pointed by 1776 is 25.

You must clearly differentiate that the expression ted refers to the value 1776, while *ted (with an asterisk * preceding the identifier) refers to the value stored at address 1776, which in this case is 25. Notice the difference of including or not including the dereference operator (I have included an explanatory commentary of how each of these two expressions could be read):
beth = ted; // beth equal to ted ( 1776 )
beth = *ted; // beth equal to value pointed by ted ( 25 )

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