Relearning MSX #30: Complex conditional statements in MSX-C

Posted by in How-to, MSX, Retro, Technology | October 13, 2015

In the last post we learnt how to use comparisons in C. This time we’ll see some properties of the comparison operators and also how to test on more complex conditions.

Structure of conditional statements: comparison values

Until now we’ve only seen conditional statements that use the relational operators that we saw in the previous post. However, in adition to these relational operators we can use almost anything as the condition. For example, the code below shows how to test a condition elegantly:

if() condition on MSX-C

(Click to enlarge)

In this example, whether the puts() statement will run or not depends on the value of whatever is inside the parentheses following the if keyword:

  • If the value inside the parentheses is zero, the condition is false and the puts() does not run
  • If the value inside the parentheses is anything other than zero then the condition is true and the puts() statement runs

Because of this, the code above will not do anything if the variable error contains a zero, and it will print the message “Something bad happened.” if it contains any non-zero value.

We say that C uses the data in the if() statement as the comparison value. This means that when we put an expression inside a conditional statement, C looks at the result of the expression and uses that as the comparison value. A result of zero is treated as false, and any result different from zero is treated as true. This program illustrates this:

TRUEFALS.C (Click to enlarge)

TRUEFALS.C (Click to enlarge)

Compile and run this program and you’ll get this output:

Output of TRUEFALS.C (Click to enlarge)

Output of TRUEFALS.C (Click to enlarge)

As you can see, all the conditions are true except for the expression 1 – 1, which gives zero as result.

This also works the other way around: comparison operators give 1 as a result when the comparison is true, and 0 when the comparison is false. For example:

Values of comparison operations (Click to enlarge)

Values of comparison operations (Click to enlarge)

Joining comparisons together: logical operators

If we need to check complex conditions we could nest several if/else statements, but there’s an easier way to check conditions such as A and B or A or B: logical operators.

MSX-BASIC uses the same operators for bitwise and logical operations: AND, OR and NOT. However, the logical operators in C are different from the bitwise arithmetic operators that we saw in a previous post (&, |, ^ and ~). See the following table:

Logical operators in C

Logical operators in C

Logical AND (&&): Test that both x and y are true

When we form an expression using the && operator, the result of the expression is true only if both operands are true. See this example:

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

This program reads a letter from the keyboard into the character variable c, then checks that the value in c is higher than or equal to ‘a’ and also (&&) lower than or equal to ‘z’. If both of these conditions are true then the character is lower case.

Logical OR (||):Test whether x is true, or y is true, or both are true

An expression that uses the || operator is true if at least one of its operands is true. For example:

OR.C (Click to enlarge)

OR.C (Click to enlarge)

This program prints a message asking for confirmation and then reads a character from the keyboard. If the character is either ‘y’ or ‘Y’ then it takes the reply as a yes, otherwise it takes the reply as a no:

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Logical NOT (!): Negates the condition

The last logical operator is very simple. It inverts the logical value of its operand: true becomes false and false becomes true. See this example program:

Are you sure that you're not sure? (Click to enlarge (or not))

Are you sure that you’re not sure? (Click to enlarge (or not))

The condition in this program works like this: if you press any key other than ‘n’ or ‘N’ then the program takes that as a yes, otherwise it handles the key as a no.

Variable assignments in conditional statements

Another interesting characteristic of conditional statements is that we can assign values to variables inside them and use the value assigned as the condition value. This sometimes makes programs a bit more difficult to read, but it’s considered more efficient and elegant. In the end, whether you follow this style or not is up to you.

Look at this example to see how this works:

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

This program first waits for a key from the keyboard using getche() and assigns the letter read to the variable c. Then it checks the value of c to see if it’s equal to ‘y’. If it is, then it prints “Ok” on the screen.

Remember to put the assignment inside parentheses in order to avoid issues with the priority of operators:

(c = getche())


We’ve seen how conditionals in C decide whether a condition is true or not, an we’ve learnt that C gives a value of 1 to a true condition, and 0 to a false one. We’ve learnt how to chain comparisons using the logical operators (&&, || and !). We’ve also seen how to assign values to variables inside a condition in order to write more efficient code, perhaps at the expense of readability.

In the next post…

The next post will be lots of fun: loops!

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