Bit fields are partial size member variables inside a structure. Bit fields give flexibility to define some variables with less than the size or bit width of the original type. These are useful to save some numbers/parameters whose range is less than that of original type.

Let's take an example where we take a variable is_present of type Boolean. This can have only two values either true or false. Now considering the two possibilities we can say it can have a value of either 1 or zero which means only one bit is required to store this variable. Now if we use a Boolean or full size integer we are supposes to use only LSB and the rest 31 bits are unutilized. This can be optimized by defining a bit field of size 1 like "unsigned int is_present:1;"

Syntax: struct <struct name> { <type> <bit field name> : <bit width>; ... }; Example: struct bits_t { unsigned int bits2 : 2; unsigned int bits3 : 3; unsigned int pads : 27; };

One point to note here is unsigned integer of 1 bit has a range 0 to1. But this is not same for signed integer. Signed integer takes signature bit in MSB and magnitude in LSB side. Thus 1 bit signed integer has a range -1 to 0. 2 bit signed integer has -1 to +1. Similarly 2 bit and 3 bit signed integer have ranges like -2 to +1 and -4 to +3 accordingly. Below tables show these all combination bit patterns and corresponding signed values.

1 bit signed integer

Bit 0 | Value | |

1 | -1 | |

0 | 0 |

2 bit signed integer

Bit 1 | Bit 0 | Value | |

1 | 0 | -2 | |

1 | 1 | -1 | |

0 | 0 | 0 | |

0 | 1 | +1 |

3 bit signed integer

Bit 2 | Bit 1 | Bit 0 | Value |

1 | 0 | 0 | -4 |

1 | 0 | 1 | -3 |

1 | 1 | 0 | -2 |

1 | 1 | 1 | -1 |

0 | 0 | 0 | 0 |

0 | 0 | 1 | +1 |

0 | 1 | 0 | +2 |

0 | 1 | 1 | +3 |

**About our authors**: Team EQA

You have viewed 1 page out of 252. Your C learning is 0.00% complete. Login to check your learning progress.