I'm doing a simple calculation with integers (on Arduino with ESP8266 12E), but I can't get the expected result and can't find the error. Can someone guide me?

#define A      200
#define B      A * 62
#define C      500

void setup() {

   unsigned long aux = 0;

   aux = (B * 500) / C;    // (12400 * 500) / 500 = 12400
   Serial.printf("aux = %d\n", aux);
   aux = aux * C;          // 12400 * 500 = 6200000
   Serial.printf("aux = %d\n", aux);

   // ERROR: Should result in "500", but is resulting in "1922000"
   aux = aux / B;          // 6200000 / 12400 = 500

   Serial.printf("aux = %d\n", aux); // It's printing "1922000"

3 Answers 3


In your #define of B you missed parenthesis (). Change your definition to:

#define B      (A * 62)

Without parenthesis you first divide 6200000 by 200 and then multiply result by 62, which is not what you intend.

  • Dude, you're 100% right. I've spent several hours trying to figure out what was wrong ... Thank you so much!
    – wBB
    Dec 28, 2018 at 14:44
  • 2
    @wBB remember that in C, macros are replaced in the code, exactly as you wrote them, in the preprocessor step before the code gets compiled. So it helps as a sanity-check in these cases to expand the macros yourself in your code to see if you're getting what you intended.
    – brhans
    Dec 28, 2018 at 15:19
  • It really is was my lack of exeperience in C that led me to the problem. Thanks!
    – wBB
    Dec 28, 2018 at 18:18

Fully-parenthesizing macros (as noted in answer by dmz) solves one class of problem.

Another thing you should do is, in any arithmetic expression which involves literal constants, use the L suffix on at least one of the constants involved if there's any chance the result will exceed 32767 (the maximum guaranteed-representable value for int). The type of an arithmetic operation in C is based on the types of the operands of that operation only; the type of the variable to which the result is assigned is irrelevant.

(edit) For example:

long q, r;
unsigned char v = 231;
unsigned char w = 197;

q = v * w * 5;
r = v * w * 5L;

q might contain 30927, since after the Usual Arithmetic Conversions ( [in this case, the Integer Promotions (] all operands are of type int and it's possible for INT_MAX to be 32767 in which case each operation would be performed modulo 32768.

r will contain 227535, since the constant 5L is of type long and thus all operations in this expression will be performed on values of type long.

  • 2
    ...and the format specifier for an unsigned long is %lu not %d - the compiler for the asker's esp8266 uses a 32-bit int so they get away with some things they would not on an ATmega-based Arduino where an int is the minimum 16 bit size allowed by the specification. Dec 28, 2018 at 16:27
  • @mlp usually I use a typecast on almost everything. Example: int J = -1, typecast (unsigned char) J //prints 255. When you talk about the suffix L, what do you mean? Can you give an example?
    – wBB
    Dec 28, 2018 at 18:33

As explained in previous answers, fully parenthesizing the macros is the standard solution to this problem in C. However, on Arduino you are programming in C++, and in C++ it is considered good practice to replace this usage of #define by explicit constants:

const int A = 200;
const int B = A * 62;
const int C = 500;

Not only this makes the initial problem go away, it also provides some type safety: you can choose to give these constants other types (e.g. long) if appropriate.

  • Some compilers will interpret "const" as a variable going into program memory which then in turn results in issues with memory spaces. Consts offer type protection, which can also be (partially) achieved by casting inside the define "#define A ((int)200)" for instance.
    – le_top
    Dec 30, 2018 at 0:08
  • @le_top: Do you have a specific example of the kind of “issues with memory spaces” you can get? I doubt you could find an example that does not invoke undefined behavior. Dec 30, 2018 at 10:08
  • Something along these lines for example: "const int a=100; int b=200; void setB(const int *c) {b=c;} void ex1() {setB(&a);}" . But there are other cases. When "const" puts "a" in ROM, some embedded compilers can not cope with this kind of assignment and do not report all violating cases. So I tend to put "CONST" if there is a future risk for this. (with a "#define CONST const" if possible).
    – le_top
    Dec 30, 2018 at 18:23
  • @le_top: I guess you mean b=*c. This sounds like a compiler bug to me. What compiler had issues with this? I tried your code on avr-gcc, and it had no issues, even when I replaced const by __flash const, which has the effect of putting a in flash. Dec 30, 2018 at 20:35
  • Yes, b=*c. It will depend on the compiler and the uC. I file reports when I find bugs - when the compiler does not warn about it it is a bug, but otherwise it is a documented limitation.On Arduino you should use PROGMEM rather than __flash. I do not want to put a specific compilrer forward, my comment was mainly about warning that there are compilers for embedded systems that interpret const in a way that breaks code compatibility. That's also why you're required to add "__flash" to get the variable in FLASH - keeping it in RAM eases code generation (and speed) for those processors.
    – le_top
    Dec 31, 2018 at 11:19

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