[TUHS] Future Languages

Larry McVoy lm at mcvoy.com
Tue Sep 5 07:59:24 AEST 2017

On Mon, Sep 04, 2017 at 02:28:23PM -0700, Steve Johnson wrote:
> A particularly vivid example for me is string handling -- I mean real
> strings, with concatenation and the ability to add characters onto the
> beginning, middle or end of the string .?? At one point in the past,
> Bell Labs and Xerox Parc were two groups that had produced some
> impressive programs.?? I spent some time at Parc, and ended up envious
> about the ability of LISP programmers to dynamically add on to almost
> anything with a high degree of safety.?? This really changed the way
> one thought about some programs.?? Doing strings in C usually involves
> pointers pointing at small things, which, given how easy it is to
> index past the end, was like playing with razor blades.???? C++
> allowed you to surround such things with safety nets, but sometimes
> the performance impact was unfortunate.???? A similar example?? is the
> ability to grow an array.?? This plays very badly with C's pointers --
> if you move the array, then anybody pointing to it (and, often, there
> are many such) has a stale pointer-bomb that could go off at any time
> without warning.?? If you don't move the array, but add on additional
> pieces, then it is no longer contiguous, so some operations (like
> scanning all the elements) get very complicated as well.

So we have some source (that you can have as well, Apache license)
that handles not strings but vectors of strings (or structs or whatever).

I need to write up how it works, it's sort of clever.  It stores both
the size of the vector (always a power of 2) in part of the bits of the
first entry and the actual length in the other part.  Because we can
express powers of two in very little space we can support both values
in a 32 bit unsigned with a max length of used space of around 134M.

So the vector is

	[0] = [size, used]
	[1] = first element
	[2] = second element
	[0.used] = last element (I might be off by one)

You use it like so

	char	*v = 0;
	char	buf[MAXLINE];

	while (fgets(buf, sizeof(buf), stdin)) {
		 * v starts as null, the first one will reset it to a vector,
		 * as it grows, if realloc fails then the value of v will
		 * change.
		v = addLine(v, strdup(buf));

There are interefaces to do all the perl stuff, push, pop, shift,
unshift, sort, join, search, remove, insert, sort, reverse.  There is a
split that takes a blob and returns a vector, there is a shellSplit that
splits the way the bourne shell would, there is an interface to spawn a
program and return a vector, there is one to slurp a file into a vector
and the other way, etc.  There is pretty much everything you could want,
we used this everywhere in BitKeeper so it's very old, tested, stable.

It should be pretty easy to lift all that stuff out and stick it in a
library.  It's handy as heck and pleasant in that it's pretty small for
small stuff but scales up nicely for larger stuff.  I suppose you could
think of it as Lisp's list, i was never a Lisp fan, I think of it as 
Perl lists plus the supporting stuff.





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