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An Introduction to GCC - for the GNU compilers gcc and g++
by Brian J. Gough, foreword by Richard M. Stallman
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2.8 Using library header files

When using a library it is essential to include the appropriate header files, in order to declare the function arguments and return values with the correct types. Without declarations, the arguments of a function can be passed with the wrong type, causing corrupted results.

The following example shows another program which makes a function call to the C math library. In this case, the function pow is used to compute the cube of two (2 raised to the power of 3):

#include <stdio.h>  

main (void)
  double x = pow (2.0, 3.0);
  printf ("Two cubed is %f\n", x);
  return 0;

However, the program contains an error--the #include statement for ‘math.h’ is missing, so the prototype double pow (double x, double y) given there will not be seen by the compiler.

Compiling the program without any warning options will produce an executable file which gives incorrect results:

$ gcc badpow.c -lm
$ ./a.out
Two cubed is 2.851120    (incorrect result, should be 8)

The results are corrupted because the arguments and return value of the call to pow are passed with incorrect types.(6) This can be detected by turning on the warning option -Wall:

$ gcc -Wall badpow.c -lm
badpow.c: In function `main':
badpow.c:6: warning: implicit declaration of 
  function `pow'

This example shows again the importance of using the warning option -Wall to detect serious problems that could otherwise easily be overlooked.

ISBN 0954161793An Introduction to GCC - for the GNU compilers gcc and g++See the print edition