Question:

What is a stream?

Answer:

A stream is a continuous series of bytes that flow into or out of your program. Input and output from devices such as the mouse, keyboard, disk, screen, modem, and printer are all handled with streams. In C, all streams appear as files - not physical disk files necessarily, but rather logical files that refer to an input/output source. The C language provides five "standard" streams that are always available to your program. These streams do not have to be opened or closed. These are the five standard streams:

Name   Description   Example
stdin - Standard Input - Keyboard
stdout - Standard Output - Screen
stderr - Standard Error - Screen
stdprn - Standard Printer - LPT1: port
stdaux - Standard Auxiliary - COM1: port

Note that the stdprn and stdaux streams are not always defined. This is because LPT1: and COM1: have no meaning under certain operating systems. However, stdin, stdout, and stderr are always defined. Also, note that the stdin stream does not have to come from the keyboard; it can come from a disk file or some other device through what is called redirection. In the same manner, the stdout stream does not have to appear on-screen; it too can be redirected to a disk file or some other device. See the next FAQ for an explanation of redirection.


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