Princeton University
COS 217: Introduction to Programming Systems

Assignment 3: A Symbol Table ADT


The purpose of this assignment is to help you learn C dynamic memory management, and how to create abstract data types (ADTs) in C. It also will give you the opportunity to gain more experience with the GNU/Linux programming tools, especially bash, emacs, and gdb.


Implementing hash table expansion (as described below) is the "on your own" part of this assignment. That part is worth 10% of this assignment.


A symbol table is an unordered collection of bindings. A binding consists of a key and a value. A key is a string that uniquely identifies its binding; a value is data that is somehow pertinent to its key. A symbol table allows its client to insert (put) new bindings, to retrieve (get) the values of bindings with specified keys, and to remove bindings with specified keys. Symbol tables are used often in programming systems; compilers, assemblers, and execution profilers use them extensively.

There are several reasonable ways to implement a symbol table. A simple implementation might store the bindings in a linked list. Linked lists are described in Section 2.7 of The Practice of Programming (Kernighan and Pike) and Section 17.5 of C Programming: A Modern Approach (King). A more efficient implementation might use a hash table. Hash tables are described in Section 2.9 of The Practice of Programming (Kernighan & Pike) and Chapter 14 of Algorithms in C, Parts 1-4 (Sedgewick).

Your Task

Your task in this assignment is to create an ADT named SymTable. Each SymTable object should be a symbol table. A SymTable object should be generic. That is, a SymTable object should contain values which are void pointers, and thus can point to data of any type.

You should create two implementations of your SymTable ADT: one that uses a linked list and another that uses a hash table.

The SymTable Interface

Store your SymTable interface in a file named symtable.h. It should contain these function declarations:

SymTable_T SymTable_new(void);

void SymTable_free(SymTable_T oSymTable);

int SymTable_getLength(SymTable_T oSymTable);

int SymTable_put(SymTable_T oSymTable, const char *pcKey, const void *pvValue);

void *SymTable_replace(SymTable_T oSymTable, const char *pcKey,
   const void *pvValue);

int SymTable_contains(SymTable_T oSymTable, const char *pcKey);

void *SymTable_get(SymTable_T oSymTable, const char *pcKey);

void *SymTable_remove(SymTable_T oSymTable, const char *pcKey);

void SymTable_map(SymTable_T oSymTable,
   void (*pfApply)(const char *pcKey, void *pvValue, void *pvExtra),
   const void *pvExtra);

SymTable_new should return a new SymTable object that contains no bindings, or NULL if insufficient memory is available.

SymTable_free should free all memory occupied by oSymTable.

SymTable_getLength should return the number of bindings in oSymTable.

If oSymTable does not contain a binding with key pcKey, then SymTable_put should add a new binding to oSymTable consisting of key pcKey and value pvValue and return 1 (TRUE). Otherwise the function should leave oSymTable unchanged and return 0 (FALSE). If insufficient memory is available, then the function should leave oSymTable unchanged and return 0 (FALSE).

If oSymTable contains a binding with key pcKey, then SymTable_replace should replace the binding's value with pvValue and return the old value. Otherwise it should leave oSymTable unchanged and return NULL.

SymTable_contains should return 1 (TRUE) if oSymTable contains a binding whose key is pcKey, and 0 (FALSE) otherwise.

SymTable_get should return the value of the binding within oSymTable whose key is pcKey, or NULL if no such binding exists.

If oSymTable contains a binding with key pcKey, then SymTable_remove should remove that binding from oSymTable and return the binding's value. Otherwise the function should not change oSymTable and return NULL.

SymTable_map should apply function *pfApply to each binding in oSymTable, passing pvExtra as an extra parameter. That is,the function should call (*pfApply)(pcKey, pvValue, pvExtra) for each pcKey/pvValue binding in oSymTable.

A SymTable object should "own" its keys. That is, a SymTable object is responsible for allocating and freeing the memory in which its keys reside. Specifically, SymTable_put should not simply store the value of pcKey within the binding that it creates. Rather, SymTable_put should make a copy of the string pointed to by pcKey, and store the address of that copy within the new binding. You will find the standard C functions strlen, malloc, and strcpy useful for making the copy. A SymTable object also should free the memory in which its keys reside when that memory is no longer required.

Conversely, a SymTable object should not own its values. Indeed it cannot own its values; since it cannot determine the types of its values, it cannot create copies of them.

The SymTable Linked List Implementation

Your SymTable linked list implementation should:

The SymTable Hash Table Implementation

Your SymTable hash table implementation should:

Concerning hash table expansion:


Develop on hats using emacs to create source code, splint and critTer to check your source code for stylistic errors, gdb to debug, and meminfo to check for dynamic memory management errors.

A client program named testsymtable.c is available in the /u/cos217/Assignment3 directory on hats. That program requires you to provide a single command-line argument, which should be an integer that specifies a binding count. The program tests your SymTable ADT by manipulating several SymTable objects. One of those SymTable objects contains the specified number of bindings. The program prints to the standard output stream an indication of how much CPU time it consumed while manipulating that SymTable object. You should use testsymtable.c to test your SymTable ADT. You should create additional test programs, as you deem necessary, to test your SymTable ADT.

Create a readme text file that contains:

Submit your work electronically on hats via the command:

submit 3 symtable.h symtablelist.c symtablehash.c readme


We will grade your work on quality from the user's and programmer's points of view. From the user's point of view, your module has quality if it behaves as it should. The correct behavior of the SymTable ADT is defined by the previous sections of this assignment specification.

From the programmer's point of view, a program has quality if it is well styled and thereby easy to maintain. In part, good style is defined by the splint and critTer tools, and by the rules given in The Practice of Programming (Kernighan and Pike) as summarized by the Rules of Programming Style document.

The more course-specific style rules listed in the previous assignment specifications also apply, as do these:

To encourage good coding practices, we will deduct points if gcc217 generates warning messages.

Note: splint Warnings on testsymtable.c

When given the testsymtable.c file, splint generates warnings about the use of the sprintf function, and suggests using the snprintf function instead.

splint complains because sprintf does not check the length of the array (alias buffer) into which it assigns characters, and so could cause a buffer overflow if the given array is too short. It suggests using snprintf because that function allows the caller to specify the length of the array.

Don't be concerned about those warnings. Contrary to splint's suggestion, testsymtable.c uses sprintf instead of snprintf because:

Note: critTer Warnings on testsymtable.c

When given the testsymtable.c file, critTer generates warnings about the use of "magic numbers," the length of some functions, and the length of the file. Do not be concerned about those warnings. We judged that using magic numbers and defining long functions in testsymtable.c was clearer than the alternative. And splitting testsymtable.c into multiple files would have complicated the build process unnecessarily.

This assignment was created by Robert M. Dondero, Jr. with input from other faculty members