DEV Community

Cover image for Stack and Heap memory
Sunish Surendran K
Sunish Surendran K

Posted on

Stack and Heap memory

Before Jumping to know about Stack and Heap memory let's do a time travel to past.


The Past

The concept of heap and stack memory is an important part of computer programming and memory management. The origins of these concepts can be traced back to the early days of computer science and programming languages.

One of the earliest references to the concept of a "stack" in computer programming is attributed to John von Neumann, who developed the concept of a "last-in, first-out" (LIFO) data structure in the 1940s.

John von Neumann
John von Neumann

The idea of using a stack to manage memory in computer programs was later popularized by the ALGOL programming language in the 1950s.

The concept of heap memory can also be traced back to the early days of computer science. The term "heap" was first used in reference to a data structure in the 1960s, and was popularized by the programming language Lisp. The idea of dynamic memory allocation, which allows programs to allocate memory at runtime, was also introduced around this time.

Overall, the concepts of heap and stack memory have evolved over time as computer hardware and programming languages have advanced. Today, they remain an essential part of memory management in modern programming languages and operating systems.

Also, there are some programming languages that are designed to work without heap and stack memory. For example, the "Forth" programming language, which was first developed in the 1970s, uses a unique memory management system that does not rely on heap or stack memory. Instead, Forth programs use a single, contiguous block of memory to store both program code and data.

Now let's come back & check what is this Stack and Heap

When RAM is manufactured, it is initially unallocated, which means that it does not have any data stored on it.

Image description

However, the operating system of a computer, such as Windows or Linux, is responsible for managing the allocation of memory.

When a program is executed, the operating system allocates memory to the program, which includes both stack and heap memory. The stack memory is typically allocated at the top of the program's address space, while the heap is allocated at the bottom.

Stack and Heap memory

The size of the stack is usually predetermined at compile time, and the operating system sets aside a fixed amount of memory for the stack. When a function is called, the processor allocates a block of memory on the stack for the function's stack frame, which includes the function's parameters, local variables, and return address. As the function executes, it pushes and pops data on and off the stack.

If we try to store dynamically generated data on the stack, it can cause a stack overflow because the stack has a limited size. The amount of memory required for dynamically generated data may be unpredictable and may exceed the available stack space, leading to unpredictable behavior and program crashes.

Therefore, dynamic data is usually stored in the heap, which is a larger pool of memory that can be allocated and deallocated at runtime. The heap allows us to allocate memory for dynamically generated data as needed, and to release that memory when it is no longer needed, without worrying about stack limitations.

I hope this gave you an idea about stack and heap memory. If you think there is something more, please make a comment.

Hey wait..One more interesting thing to share, the cover page for this blog is generated by DALL-E " A deep learning models developed by OpenAI to generate digital images from natural language descriptions"

Image description

Top comments (0)