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Are there any special operators for working with pointers or memory addresses in PHP?

Hey fellow PHP developers,

I've been diving into the world of pointers and memory addresses lately and wanted to know if PHP has any special operators for working with them. I'm particularly interested in performing low-level operations and manipulation with pointers or memory addresses.

I understand that PHP is an interpreted language with automatic memory management, which means direct manipulation of memory addresses might not be a common task. However, I'm curious to explore this aspect of the language and see what's possible.

So, are there any special operators or built-in functions in PHP that allow us to work with pointers or memory addresses? If so, I would appreciate any insights, examples, or resources you can provide to help me understand and experiment with this area of PHP.

Thanks in advance for your help!

All Replies


Hey everyone,

I wanted to chime in on this discussion about working with pointers and memory addresses in PHP. While PHP is primarily a high-level language that abstracts away direct memory manipulation, there are some cases where you might need to work with address-like functionality.

One such scenario is when dealing with extensions or libraries that provide bindings to lower-level languages. These extensions can allow you to tap into their functions, which may involve pointer manipulation or handling memory addresses.

An example of such an extension is the "FFI" (Foreign Function Interface) introduced in PHP 7.4. FFI allows you to access functions and data structures defined in C directly from PHP code. This means you can perform tasks that involve pointers or memory addresses by leveraging the capabilities of the underlying C code.

Here's a basic example of using FFI to work with pointers:

$ffi = FFI::cdef("
void increment(int *value);
", "libc.so.6");

$value = FFI::new("int");
$value->cdata = 5;


echo $value->cdata; // Output: 6

// You can also access the memory address
echo FFI::addr($value); // Output: CData { address=0x7ffc0f144698 }

In this example, we define a C function `increment` that takes a pointer to an integer, increments its value, and store it back. Using FFI, we can call this C function from PHP and manipulate the value indirectly.

Please keep in mind that FFI depends on the availability of the FFI extension and may not be available in all PHP setups. Additionally, working with pointers and memory addresses requires a good understanding of memory management and potential risks involved. So, exercise caution when diving into these low-level operations.

I hope this provides another perspective on working with pointers and memory addresses in PHP. If you have any more insights or questions, feel free to share!

Best regards,
User 3


Hey there,

Working with pointers and memory addresses in PHP is not a common practice, as PHP is a high-level language that provides automatic memory management. However, there are a few scenarios where pointers can be useful, especially when interacting with low-level libraries or extensions.

In PHP, we don't have direct access to memory addresses like in languages such as C or C++. Instead, we rely on references to handle object manipulation, which is a safer and more controlled approach.

To work with references, PHP provides the "&" (ampersand) operator. This operator allows you to create a reference to a variable and modify its value indirectly. By assigning a variable to a reference, any changes made to the reference will also affect the original variable.

Here's a simple example to showcase the usage of references:

$variable = 10;
$reference =& $variable;

$reference = 20;
echo $variable; // Output: 20

In this example, modifying the reference `$reference` also changes the value of the original variable `$variable`.

While the "&" operator is not directly related to memory addresses, it serves a similar purpose in terms of manipulating variables indirectly.

I hope this information helps you in understanding how references can be utilized in PHP. Feel free to ask if you have any further questions!

User 1



I understand your curiosity about working with pointers and memory addresses in PHP. While PHP is primarily known for its high-level nature, there are situations where you might need to perform low-level operations or interact with memory directly.

In PHP, you can leverage the `pack` and `unpack` functions to work with binary data and memory manipulation. These functions allow you to read and write binary data at specific memory locations.

The `pack` function enables you to convert data types into binary strings, which can then be stored in memory or manipulated as needed. Conversely, the `unpack` function allows you to extract data from binary strings residing in memory.

Here's a brief example to demonstrate their usage:

$data = pack('i', 42); // Pack integer 42 into binary representation
$memoryAddress = 0x12345678; // Example memory address

// Write the binary representation to memory
$pointer = fopen('php://memory', 'rb+');
fseek($pointer, $memoryAddress);
fwrite($pointer, $data);

// Read the data from the memory address
$pointer = fopen('php://memory', 'rb');
fseek($pointer, $memoryAddress);
$readData = fread($pointer, 4); // Size of integer is 4 bytes

$unpackedData = unpack('i', $readData); // Unpack binary string into integer
echo $unpackedData[1]; // Output: 42

Please note that working with memory addresses in PHP should be done with caution. PHP abstracts away memory management for security purposes. Direct manipulation of memory can lead to unexpected behavior and security vulnerabilities if not handled correctly.

I hope this sheds some light on how you can work with memory addresses and pointers in PHP, albeit in a more indirect manner. If you have any further queries, feel free to ask!

Best regards,
User 2

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