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15.3 Dynamic Memory Allocation

To allocate an object dynamically, call the library function malloc (see The GNU C Library in The GNU C Library Reference Manual). Here is how to allocate an object of type struct intlistlink. To make this code work, include the file stdlib.h, like this:

#include <stddef.h>  /* Defines NULL. */
#include <stdlib.h>  /* Declares malloc.  */


struct intlistlink *
alloc_intlistlink ()
  struct intlistlink *p;

  p = malloc (sizeof (struct intlistlink));

  if (p == NULL)
    fatal ("Ran out of storage");

  /* Initialize the contents. */
  p->datum = 0;
  p->next = NULL;

  return p;

malloc returns void *, so the assignment to p will automatically convert it to type struct intlistlink *. The return value of malloc is always sufficiently aligned (see Type Alignment) that it is valid for any data type.

The test for p == NULL is necessary because malloc returns a null pointer if it cannot get any storage. We assume that the program defines the function fatal to report a fatal error to the user.

Here’s how to add one more integer to the front of such a list:

struct intlistlink *my_list = NULL;

add_to_mylist (int my_int)
  struct intlistlink *p = alloc_intlistlink ();

  p->datum = my_int;
  p->next = mylist;
  mylist = p;

The way to free the objects is by calling free. Here’s a function to free all the links in one of these lists:

free_intlist (struct intlistlink *p)
  while (p)
      struct intlistlink *q = p;
      p = p->next;
      free (q);

We must extract the next pointer from the object before freeing it, because free can clobber the data that was in the object. For the same reason, the program must not use the list any more after freeing its elements. To make sure it won’t, it is best to clear out the variable where the list was stored, like this:

free_intlist (mylist);

mylist = NULL;

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