Is it safe to use PROGMEM variable like dynamically allocated memory (a pointer to PROGMEM variable which is out of scope).

I need this so I can generate a variable size (before compilation), constant values, lookup array stored in flash.

Working example:

class Ex_class {
    Ex_class(int table_size, int value_range) {
      int flash_table[table_size + 1] PROGMEM;
      _ex_table = flash_table;
      for (int i = 0; i <= table_size; i++) {
        _ex_table[i] = random(value_range);

    int get_value(int index) const { return _ex_table[index]; }

    int* _ex_table;

void setup() {
  Ex_class ex_object(5, 50);
  for (int i = 0; i <= 5; i++) {
    Serial.print(i); Serial.print(": "); Serial.println(ex_object.get_value(i));

void loop() {}
  • I am amazed this even compiles... You cannot assign a value to a PROGMEM variable, the only thing you can do with PROGMEM is store compile-time constants. And you cannot dereference a pointer to PROGMEM with * nor [], you need one of the pgm_read_*() macros. Feb 17 '17 at 20:46
  • The compiler cannot run "Ex_class ex_object(5, 50);" at compile time. Feb 17 '17 at 20:50
  • I am surprised too, but it actually works. Feb 17 '17 at 20:51
  • 1
    It's probably getting the data from RAM that was allocated (and deallocated) in the stack. Feb 17 '17 at 21:06
  • You are right, it stored a new variable in the same address. Feb 17 '17 at 21:14

The closest I could get to what you are trying to do is this:

template <size_t table_size> struct Ex_class {
  int get_value(int index) const {
    return pgm_read_word(&_ex_table[index]);
  int _ex_table[table_size];

void setup() {
  static PROGMEM const Ex_class<5> ex_object = {1, 2, 3, 4, 5};
  for (int i = 0; i < 5; i++) {
    Serial.print(": ");

void loop() {}

avr-nm and avr-objdump confirmed that the object lives indeed in the text section of the program. Please note that:

  • The object is PROGMEM const. It would make no sense to try to put in PROGMEM anything that is not constant.

  • The object is allocated statically. It can be either a global or a static local, but not an automatic local like in your example.

  • I am using aggregate initialization here. I know no other way to statically initialize an array of variable length. If you have an idea, I would be interested to know though.

  • Thanks. The only thing I can think of is initializing the flash variables separately (because they need to be calculated) and then putting the pointers to them in an array. It shouldn't be a problem since the flash is read-only. Feb 17 '17 at 22:13

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