My 100 days of Fibonacci challenge started yesterday where I implemented the function directly recursive and using accumulated recursion in Haskell. Today I decided to take one of the most widely known languages and implement of iterative edition of the Fibonacci function.

Day 1 - C

In C I implemented Fibonacci iteratively. In the implementation I have used the type long to store intermediate results and return values. It guarantees 32 bit of storage, which allows us to compute large enough results.

unsigned long fib_iterative(long n){
    unsigned long i=0, a=0, b=1;
    for(i=1 ; i<=n ; i++){
        unsigned long tmp = a+b;
        a = b;
    return a;

Overflows needs to be carefully thought about in C. The language provides very little support for unlimited integers compared to yesterdays language, Haskell, which indeed had support for big integers.

Haskell supports large integers by using a library which uses strings for representing integers along with implementations of arithmetic functions for working on these integers. This could also have been implemented in C. However, this is out of scope for this article.

The full code for Fibonacci in C is available on Github. Be aware that the code might change when I feel for implementing other algorithms in C.

Iterative Fibonacci

The iterative Fibonacci has a linear time complexity. This is the same as the tail recursive implementation. These two implementations also have much in common.

The iterative implementation con not be implemented in pure functional languages because it requires mutable states. This is seen when we change the value of a in the above example by a = b;. Furthermore the while concept is not natural to functional programming, where operations on collections of elements are done recursively.

C Programming Language

C was meant to be close to the hardware. As a slight layer on assembly programming. A language used for programming operating systems and hardware driver. And so it is fast as it has a minimal runtime system and lets the programmer have complete control over the hardware.

The control is also often the downside of this language. As it provides a limited set of abstraction, it is easy to make errors. Errors like buffer overflows are not rare when looking at projects written in C.

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Mads Buch



Mads Buch

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