[TUHS] Comments on "C"

Diomidis Spinellis dds at aueb.gr
Fri Sep 9 16:06:41 AEST 2016


On 09/09/2016 06:02, Ronald Natalie wrote:
>> On Sep 8, 2016, at 6:06 PM, Dave Horsfall <dave at horsfall.org> wrote:
>> On Thu, 8 Sep 2016, Ron Natalie wrote:
>>> Most of my complaints about C are because it's "standard" library was
>>> awful back in the seventies and it really didn't improve much over the
>>> years.
>>
>> That "portable I/O" library was certainly atrocious, but at least STDIO
>> was an improvement.
>
> Not much.   The functions have all of their portable IO library ugliness.   Don’t get me started on fread/fwrite.
> Ane why gets and fgets have different semantics and all the various functions take the stream parameter in
> different places.

Let's put things into perspective.  A rarely talked-about innovation of 
C was that the language was separate from the libraries.  At the time 
each language came with built-in commands for performing I/O and (if you 
were lucky) handling strings.  These were part of the language's syntax 
and semantics;  any additional facilities provided through libraries 
were second class citizens.  C gave us a lean language that could be 
implemented and run without the overhead of its "library" facilities. 
This made it suitable for writing an OS kernel and later for writing 
embedded systems applications and for porting to other operating 
systems.  It also made any add-on library a first class citizen.  In a 
program there's no difference between calls to the "standard" stdio.h or 
string.h functions and calls to add-on libraries such as those in dbm.h 
or mp.h.

The C library may be deficient, but when its interfaces were devised it 
was not "The C Library", but a number of functions and headers that (I 
guess) the people at Bell Labs whipped together to simplify their life 
when writing application code.  It doesn't show the careful design that 
went into other places (the C language, the Unix system calls, the 
shell), because I think it was expected that people would quickly come 
up with better alternatives.  In the end this "good enough" design 
spread widely and then got standardized (by removing Unix-specific 
functionality and a few rough edges) into what we now call the C 
Standard Library.

My complaint is that some APIs that were designed later, such as the C++ 
STL and the Python libraries, didn't adopt more consistent naming 
conventions.



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