Ruby Language C Extensions Your first extension


C extensions are comprised of two general pieces:

  1. The C Code itself.
  2. The extension configuration file.

To get started with your first extension put the following in a file named extconf.rb:

require 'mkmf'


A couple of things to point out:

First, the name hello_c is what the output of your compiled extension is going to be named. It will be what you use in conjunction with require.

Second, the extconf.rb file can actually be named anything, it's just traditionally what is used to build gems that have native code, the file that is actually going to compile the extension is the Makefile generated when running ruby extconf.rb. The default Makefile that is generated compiles all .c files in the current directory.

Put the following in a file named hello.c and run ruby extconf.rb && make

#include <stdio.h>
#include "ruby.h"

VALUE world(VALUE self) {
  printf("Hello World!\n");
  return Qnil;

// The initialization method for this module
void Init_hello_c() {
  VALUE HelloC = rb_define_module("HelloC");
  rb_define_singleton_method(HelloC, "world", world, 0);

A breakdown of the code:

The name Init_hello_c must match the name defined in your extconf.rb file, otherwise when dynamically loading the extension, Ruby won't be able to find the symbol to bootstrap your extension.

The call to rb_define_module is creating a Ruby module named HelloC which we're going to namespace our C functions under.

Finally, the call to rb_define_singleton_method makes a module level method tied directly to the HelloC module which we can invoke from ruby with

After having compiled the extension with the call to make we can run the code in our C extension.

Fire up a console!

irb(main):001:0> require './hello_c'
=> true
Hello World!
=> nil