[TUHS] Mac OS X is Unix

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Thu Jan 5 01:02:41 AEST 2017

On Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 7:26 AM, Tim Bradshaw <tfb at tfeb.org> wrote:

> On 4 Jan 2017, at 03:50, Dan Cross <crossd at gmail.com> wrote:
> Interesting, but I'm curious how this would work in the context of C (or a
> C-like variant)? The code must parse and type-check in accordance with the
> existing standard, no? So if the `if(LINUX)` branch referred to, say,
> Linux-specific structure members, then how would the compiler recognize
> that avoid spitting out a diagnostic/erroring out? The existing C language
> seems defined to expressly disallow this sort of thing.
> Common Lisp has a notion of 'suppressing the reader' which basically means
> that the reader (which in CL is the thing which turns a stream of
> characters into the data structure that is the source code of the language)
> will do just enough to consume a form, but not any more than that.  In
> particular it will ignore all sorts of things which would make it very
> unhappy if it looked too closely at them.  And there are then read-time
> conditionals which will cause the reader to suppress the following thing,
> or not.  It seems to me that, even without defining how things work in the
> very fine-grained way that CL does (where the data structure the reader
> produces is defined and you can program the reader itself), a C-like
> language could define what it means to 'suppress' a form, and support
> conditionals which did that.  I think, reading again, that this might be
> quite close to your compile-time-evaluated idea.

What I'm proposing is almost exactly like Common Lisp's `#-` and `#+`
(these use reader suppression, of course). Delving further into the realm
of reader macros and other Lisp-like reader things is, I think, a mistake:
the complexity of the reader is arguably a wart on the side of Common Lisp.

Of course, in C one doesn't have the notion of forms in the Lispy sense;
it's a statement based language. So the syntactical construct consumed by a
compile-time conditional would have to be specified to a greater level of
precision (e.g., an `if` selection-statement in C is followed by general
statement, in all of its richness). But the idea here is to create
something that works with the syntax of the language, not separate from it,
which is Lispy in character. A major problem of the preprocessor is that
it's sort of bolted onto the side of the language and doesn't work with it
very cleanly. On the other hand, it's kind of neat that one can use the
preprocessor for things that aren't C.

The thing to avoid is 'language in a string', where one language contains
> another language in strings (or equivalent), because then you end up
> putting the inner language together by concatenating strings, which can
> cross-cut constructs in the inner language in a horrible way.  C is the
> language in a string of the C preprocessor.  Where I work we use a tool
> which has a deeply horrible preprocessor which has the main syntax as its
> language in a string.  That syntax *in turn* has a whole other language in
> its strings.  Every time I look at this I want to hit someone.

Precisely why I wouldn't want reader macros in all of their hideous glory.
Consider LOOP. Ugh.

        - Dan C.
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