Consider an 8-bit complier, in which we have an integer of size, say 2-words i.e. 16-bits or 2 bytes. You need to store three integer values which are supposed to be as:

Name        Range       Size Required
Integer 1    0-3        2bits (00-11   in binary)
Integer 2    0-5        3bits (000-101 in binary)
Inetger 3    0-7        3bits (000-111 in binary)

In total, we need only 8 bits to store all of these three values. Which means that a single variable of integer datatype has enough memory to accommodate these values. The challenge is to store all of these three variables into a single instance of integer datatype and retrieve it whenever required.

In other words, you need to develop a program which can - at the maximum - use only two instances of integer datatype, first one for the purpose of scanning values from the standard input device say keyboard and the second one to store the data entered by user in the form of three integer variables as discussed above and print them by retrieving it from the second instance in which the data was stored.

This is my program with no input validation. Please review it.

#include <stdio.h>
#include <assert.h>

#ifdef DEBUG
void test();

#define store(_out, _in, _pos) ((_out) |= ((_in) << (_pos)))
#define ret(_out, _pos, _mask) (((_out) >> (_pos)) & (_mask))

#define firstnum_pos  0
#define secondnum_pos 2
#define thirdnum_pos  5

#define firstnum_mask  0x3
#define secondnum_mask 0x7
#define thirdnum_mask  0x7

int main()
  unsigned short input = 0, output = 0;
  printf ("Enter first number:");
  scanf ("%hu", &input);
  store(output, input, firstnum_pos);
  printf ("Enter second number:");
  scanf ("%hu", &input);
  store(output, input, secondnum_pos);
  printf ("Enter third number:");
  scanf ("%hu", &input);
  store(output, input, thirdnum_pos);

  printf ("first  number: %d", ret(output, firstnum_pos, firstnum_mask));
  printf ("second number: %d", ret(output, secondnum_pos, secondnum_mask));
  printf ("third  number: %d", ret(output, thirdnum_pos, thirdnum_mask));

#ifdef DEBUG

  return 0;

#ifdef DEBUG
void test()
  int i,j,k;
  short out;
  for (i=0; i<=3; i++)
    for (j=0; j<=5; j++)
      for (k=0; k<7; k++)
          out = 0;
          store(out, i, firstnum_pos);
          store(out, j, secondnum_pos);
          store(out, k, thirdnum_pos);
          assert (i == ret(out, firstnum_pos, firstnum_mask));
          assert (j == ret(out, secondnum_pos, secondnum_mask));
          assert (k == ret(out, thirdnum_pos, thirdnum_mask));
  printf ("Test completed\n");
  • \$\begingroup\$ Checked this code in both little endian and big endian machines. \$\endgroup\$
    – user138645
    Jun 7, 2012 at 6:36

2 Answers 2


Some ideas:

  1. I'd try encapsulating the position and mask parameters to one parameter. Maybe a struct would be fine for this. It is easy to mix up the parameters of ret, for example, somebody could call it accidentally with

    `ret(output, secondnum_pos, firstnum_mask)` 

    or with

    `ret(output, firstnum_mask, firstnum_pos)`. 

    (Note the parameter order.)

  2. Consider writing tests which store the i, j, k values in different order. Currently they do not detect if storing at the firstnum_pos overrides the second or the third values.

  3. Consider making copies of i, j and k for the assert calls before you call the marcos. If a macro accidentally changes values of i, j or k the assert will not detect it.

  4. A unit testing framework would be better for the testing: Unit Testing C Code


Your code only works if the bits are not set. If you set the value multiple times, it will not work correctly.


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