Call Stack in Javascript

February 22nd, 2020
3 mins read

by Dillion Megida

Category: JAVASCRIPT

#javascript

Maximum of 20 articles can be saved!

Call Stack in Javascript

February 22nd, 2020
3 mins read

by Dillion Megida

Category: JAVASCRIPT

#javascript

Maximum of 20 articles can be saved!

A stack is a data structure in programming which consists of different elements. More elements are added by pushing and existing elements are removed by popping.

push adds an element next to the last element in the stack. pop removes the last element in the stack.

Call Stack

This is a feature in Javascript used to keep track of executing functions.

When a new function is to be executed according to the thread of execution in the source code, it is added to the call stack and called to be executed. This allows Javascript to keep track of where it stopped in execution. As execution of the function finishes, it is removed from the call stack and the thread continues.

Example

Say we have the following code:

const myName = {
    fname: "Dillion",
    lname: "Megida"
};
function getFirstName(name){
    return name.fname;
}
function getLastName(name){
    return name.lname;
}
function getCompleteName(getFirstNameFunction, getLastNameFunction) {
    const firstName = getFirstNameFunction(myName);
    const lastName = getLastNameFunction(myName);
    return `${firstName} ${lastName}`
}
const completeName = getCompleteName(getFirstName, getLastName);
console.log(completeName);

The following is what happens in the call stack:

  • The first function in the call stack is a global function, which could be referred to as the main function. This is called before the execution of the source code. main is added to the call stack.

    Call Stack - [ main ]

  • The thread of execution goes on as variables and functions are declared and saved in memory.
  • At const completeName..., a function is called - getCompleteName. This is added to the call stack.

    Call Stack - [ main, completeName ]

  • Inside getCompleteName, another function is called - getFirstNameFunction which represents the argument, getFirstName. getFirstName is added to the call stack.

    Call Stack - [ main, completeName, getFirstName ]

  • getFirstName returns a value (name.fname which represents the argument myName.fname). After the function returns a value, it is removed from the call stack.

    Call Stack - [ main, completeName ]

  • Another function is called in getCompleteName which is getLastNameFunction representing the argument getLastName. This function is added to the call stack before it is called.

    Call Stack - [ main, completeName, getLastName ]

  • getLastName returns a value - name.lname which represents the argument myName.lname and is removed from the call stack.

    Call Stack - [ main, completeName ]

  • getCompleteName finally returns a value which is a string interpolation of the two names gotten from the functions. Afterwards, it is removed from the call stack.

    Call Stack - [ main ]

  • console.log is also a function. Before it is called, it is added to the call stack.

    Call Stack - [ main, console.log ]

  • It prints the variable, completeName to the console and is immediately removed from the call stack.

    Call Stack - [ main ]

  • There's nothing to be executed again, hence main is removed.

    Call Stack - [ ]

Wrap Up

From the above example, we observe how Javascript keeps track of where it stopped in a function before proceeding to another function.

If the stack takes up too many functions that it can contain, it results in a stack overflow error. An example is recursive function calling itself without an exit point. Example:

function printName(name) {
    printName(name);
}
printName("webfor5");

printName is continuously added to the stack until it reaches the limit and the error is thrown.

Thanks for reading 😇

If you have any questions or contributions regarding this article, kindly reach Dillion Megida (@iamdillion) or visit us on twitter - @thewebfor5

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