Submitter: UK C Panel
Submission Date: 2001-09-07
Source: Clive D.W. Feather <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: meaning of "character" in <string,h> functions
18.104.22.168#2 defines the operation of memcpy as:
[#2] The memcpy function copies n characters from the object pointed to by s2 into the object pointed to by s1.
22.214.171.124#2 defines the operation of strcpy as:
[#2] The strcpy function copies the string pointed to by s2 (including the terminating null character) into the array pointed to by s1.
Other functions in 7.21 refer to either a string or a set of characters in the same way. The definition of "string" is in 7.1.1#1:
[#1] A string is a contiguous sequence of characters terminated by and including the first null character.
and that of "character" is in 3.7:
3.7 [#1] character
<abstract> member of a set of elements used for the organization, control, or representation of data
3.7.1 [#1] character single-byte character
<C> bit representation that fits in a byte
However, none of this makes it clear whether "character" is to be interpreted as having type char, signed char, or unsigned char. This matters because signed char need not have the same sized range of values as unsigned char (for example, SCHAR_MIN could be -127, or on a 10 bit byte system signed chars could have a padding bit, with SCHAR_MAX equal to 255 but UCHAR_MAX equal to 1023).
It would be very unfortunate if the mem* functions could not copy every possible byte value. The str* functions probably ought to access the values as if they were plain char.
Suggested Technical Corrigendum
Append a new paragraph to 7.21.1:
[#3] Where a block of characters is accessed through a parameter of type void *, each character shall be interpreted as if it had type unsigned char (and therefore every object representation is valid and has a different value). Where it is accessed through a parameter of type char *, each character shall be interpreted as if it had type char (and therefore, if CHAR_MAX - CHAR_MIN + 1 is less than UCHAR_MAX, some byte values may be trap representations or be treated as equal to other values).
Our intention is that string and memory copies in the standard library should be treated as unsigned char, similar to 7.21.4.
Add a new paragraph 7.21.1#3:
For all functions in this subclause, each character shall be interpreted as if it had the type unsigned char (and therefore every possible object representation is valid and has a different value).
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