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A shame

A shame

Posted Apr 11, 2005 4:02 UTC (Mon) by ncm (subscriber, #165)
In reply to: A shame by Xman
Parent article: GCJ - past, present, and future

A disappointing feature in a language is a tradeoff only when something was gained in exchange. If you got nothing in exchange, then it's a pure design flaw. Exception specifications are a classic example: C++ has them, but shouldn't. Java has them, too (but markedly worse, despite hindsight!). It's a pure flaw, with no benefit in sight.

One doesn't run across people complaining about how slow programs C++ are, but people frequently complain about Java programs. Java programs, as a rule, really are slow. Garbage collection carries much of the blame. For C++, GC would not be a feature. Rather, it would make encapsulating resource management impossible, as it is in every GC language. The presence of GC doesn't only hint that a language is too weak to encapsulate resource management. GC, by itself, makes that impossible. GC actually sabotages the design of languages, for industrial purposes. It is possible that academia's insistence on GC in new languages is the sole reason that (still!) no language has surfaced that might displace C++ in industrial use.

The whole purpose of exceptions is to make programs simpler and more robust at handling errors. C++ exceptions work superbly: error handling code is reduced to one or a few chokepoints where exceptions are handled, with typically very little code, easy to exercise with minimal testing. Java exceptions, by contrast, fail completely: a Java program that handles exceptions properly is much longer, with error handling scattered throughout. Hard to exercise, it rots. (More commonly, it is just omitted.)

Anybody who can't design an exception-safe stack for C++ has not identified a flaw in the language. Idiocy is a purely personal problem. See

As I noted before, the macro system in C++ comes unchanged from C, for the strictly practical reason of backward compatibility; most C++ programs use only #include and #if. The template system works fine on mature compilers, of which many are readily available today. (That MS's product remains dodgy tells us way more about MS than about language design.) The problems in template syntax are a product of language evolution: ISO C++ templates are far more powerful than as originally envisioned. Power is worth trading a lot for.

I don't know of any widely-used string type designed after the ISO standard was published. Of course the old ones, and those necessary to interact with C code, hang around. Library apparatus to operate on in-core multibyte strings is no credit to a language. External multibyte text representations (and conversions to and from) are appropriate for interoperability, but it would be foolish to operate directly on strings in that form.

All this is not to claim C++ is especially good; rather, Java is especially bad. If Gosling isn't disappointed with his design, it can only be because he hasn't paid attention. Java has managed to set back the practice of programming by a decade. A whole generation of programmers have had their careers blighted by exposure to it.

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