1. <programming> An address
, from the point of view of a programming language.
A pointer may be typed, with its type
indicating the type of data to which it points.
The terms "pointer" and "reference" are generally interchangable although particular programming languages often differentiate these two in subtle ways.
For example, Perl
always calls them references, never pointers.
Conversely, in C, "pointer" is used, although "a reference" is often used to denote the concept that a pointer implements.
Pointers are like jumps, leading wildly from one part of the data structure to another.
Their introduction into high-level languages has been a step backward from which we may never recover.
[C.A.R.Hoare "Hints on Programming Language Design", 1973, Prentice-Hall collection of essays and papers by Tony Hoare].
2. <operating system> (Or "mouse pointer") An icon
, usually a small arrow, that moves on the screen in response to movement of a pointing device
, typically a mouse
The pointer shows the user which object on the screen will be selected etc. when a mouse button is clicked.