In computer science, a call stack is a stack data structure that stores information about the active subroutines of a computer program. This kind of stack is also known as an execution stack, control stack, run-time stack, or machine stack, and is often shortened to just "the stack". Although maintenance of the call stack is important for the proper functioning of most software, the details are normally hidden and automatic in high-level programming languages.
A call stack is used for several related purposes, but the main reason for having one is to keep track of the point to which each active subroutine should return control when it finishes executing. An active subroutine is one that has been called but is yet to complete execution after which control should be handed back to the point of call. Such activations of subroutines may be nested to any level (recursive as a special case), hence the stack structure. If, for example, a subroutine
DrawSquare calls a subroutine
DrawLine from four different places,
DrawLine must know where to return when its execution completes. To accomplish this, the address following the call instruction, the return address, is pushed onto the call stack with each call.
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