I'm trying to understand how storage pointers work. From looking at the ethereumjs-vm implementation it seems that the actual value is returned from SLOAD. Does the compiler handle the 'pointer' functionality? (ie. calls SSTORE if its modified).

1 Answer 1


Yes, the compiler handles the pointer functionality. You do not need to explicitly de-reference a storage pointer when you want to write to or read from the storage location it points to.

I think the fact that they are called pointers is very confusing. It reminds me of C pointers, but storage pointers in Solidity are much more like C++ or PHP references than they are like C pointers.

Solidity pointers:

uint256[] public a;
constructor() public
function test(uint256[] storage b) private
    b[0] = 7;
    // a[0] is now 7

C++ references (similar to Solidity pointers):

int a = 1;
int& b = a;
b = 7;
// a is now 7

PHP references (also similar to Solidity pointers):

$a = 1;
$b = &$a;
$b = 7;
// a is now 7

C pointers (very different from Solidity pointers):

int a = 1;
int* b = &a;
b = 7;
// a is now still 1
  • "the fact that they are called pointers is very confusing" <-- Where do you see them being called pointers? I thought the Solidity documentation called them references.
    – user19510
    May 9, 2018 at 17:24
  • 1
    @smarx Two excerpts from the Solidity documentation: "This is of course not the case if storage pointers are passed as function arguments as in the case for the high-level libraries." "Multi-dimensional memory arrays are pointers to memory arrays."
    – Jesbus
    May 9, 2018 at 17:26
  • Ugh. I agree that "references" is a much better term. Maybe a bug or pull request is in order.
    – user19510
    May 9, 2018 at 17:38

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