Program input & output

A Cairo program may have a secret input (called “program input”) and a public output (called “program output”).

Let’s say that you want to prove that you know the pre-image of a hash function (that is, x such that hash(x) = y for a given y). The input will be your secret (x) – the pre-image of the hash function. The program will then compute the hash of this input, and output the result. Since Cairo’s program-output is public, everyone who gets the proof will be convinced that the prover indeed knows a pre-image for the expected hash value.

Sometimes, a value from the program input will be copied to the program output – consider, for example, the statement “I know that the n-th Fibonacci number is Y”. The program input in this case will be n, and the output will be both n and Y – because the verifier has to see what is n. Removing n from the output will result in a proof of the statement “I know that some fibonacci number is Y”.

Program input

Adding program input to a Cairo program is easy – you create a json file with your program input, and pass it to cairo-run using the --program_input flag. Then you can use hints to access the content of this file using the variable program_input (recall that hints are only visible to the prover).


Create an input file input.json with the following content:

   "secret": 1234

Now compile and run the following program (run with --program_input=input.json):

func main():
    %{ memory[ap] = program_input['secret'] %}
    [ap] = [ap]; ap++

Program output

Adding an output to a Cairo program is slightly more complicated. Start by adding the following directive to the top of your file (see more on the %builtins directive here):

%builtins output

You’ll need to run your program with a different layout to be able to use the output builtin. Add --layout=small to cairo-run (see more on layouts here). Using the small layout requires the number of steps to be divisible by 512, so you will have to run with --steps=512 (which should suffice for small programs).

The %builtins output directive makes the function main() get one argument and return one value. The argument is conventionally called output_ptr and the program should use it as a pointer to a block of memory to which it may write its outputs. main() should return the value of the pointer after writing, signifying where the chunk of output memory ends.

The following program writes three constant values to the output.

%builtins output

func main(output_ptr) -> (output_ptr):
    [ap] = 100
    [ap] = [output_ptr]; ap++

    [ap] = 200
    [ap] = [output_ptr + 1]; ap++

    [ap] = 300
    [ap] = [output_ptr + 2]; ap++

    # Return the new value of output_ptr, which was advanced by 3.
    [ap] = output_ptr + 3; ap++

Note that output_ptr is the value of the output pointer, while [output_ptr] is the value it points to. Also note that [output_ptr] = 100 is not a valid Cairo instruction, so we split it into two instructions (for the list of instructions see Basic instructions).