A stack pointer is a small register that stores the address of the last program request in a stack. A stack is a specialized buffer which stores data from the top down. As new requests come in, they "push down" the older ones. The most recently entered request always resides at the top of the stack, and the program always takes requests from the top.
A stack (also called a pushdown stack) operates in a last-in/first-out sense. When a new data item is entered or "pushed" onto the top of a stack, the stack pointer increments to the next physical memory address, and the new item is copied to that address. When a data item is "pulled" or "popped" from the top of a stack, the item is copied from the address of the stack pointer, and the stack pointer decrements to the next available item at the top of the stack.
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- The Department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland explains the operation of a stack and stack pointer in more technical terms.