Many of the subroutines come in families which differ only in the datatype of the associated parameter(s) . The datatype of these subroutines is indicated by the last letter of the subroutine name (e.g., 'j' in 'ftpkyj') as follows:
x - bit b - character*1 (unsigned byte) i - short integer (I*2) j - integer (I*4, 32-bit integer) k - long long integer (I*8, 64-bit integer) e - real exponential floating point (R*4) f - real fixed-format floating point (R*4) d - double precision real floating-point (R*8) g - double precision fixed-format floating point (R*8) c - complex reals (pairs of R*4 values) m - double precision complex (pairs of R*8 values) l - logical (L*4) s - character string
When dealing with the FITS byte datatype, it is important to remember that the raw values (before any scaling by the BSCALE and BZERO, or TSCALn and TZEROn keyword values) in byte arrays (BITPIX = 8) or byte columns (TFORMn = 'B') are interpreted as unsigned bytes with values ranging from 0 to 255. Some Fortran compilers support a non-standard byte datatype such as INTEGER*1, LOGICAL*1, or BYTE, which can sometimes be used instead of CHARACTER*1 variables. Many machines permit passing a numeric datatype (such as INTEGER*1) to the FITSIO subroutines which are expecting a CHARACTER*1 datatype, but this technically violates the Fortran-77 standard and is not supported on all machines (e.g., on a VAX/VMS machine one must use the VAX-specific %DESCR function).
One feature of the CFITSIO routines is that they can operate on a `X' (bit) column in a binary table as though it were a `B' (byte) column. For example a `11X' datatype column can be interpreted the same as a `2B' column (i.e., 2 unsigned 8-bit bytes). In some instances, it can be more efficient to read and write whole bytes at a time, rather than reading or writing each individual bit.
The double precision complex datatype is not a standard Fortran-77 datatype. If a particular Fortran compiler does not directly support this datatype, then one may instead pass an array of pairs of double precision values to these subroutines. The first value in each pair is the real part, and the second is the imaginary part.