[687] in Coldmud discussion meeting

root meeting help first first in chain previous in chain previous next next in chain last in chain last

Re: assignment operator

daemon@ATHENA.MIT.EDU (Fri Mar 10 04:43:12 1995 )

From: Alex Stewart <riche@crl.com>
To: jsp@betz.biostr.washington.edu (Jeff Prothero)
Date: Fri, 10 Mar 1995 01:40:17 -0800 (PST)
Cc: coldstuff@MIT.EDU
In-Reply-To: <9503100642.AA03633@betz.biostr.washington.edu> from "Jeff Prothero" at Mar 9, 95 10:42:52 pm

Ok, here's a bunch of comments on a bunch of tidbits from various messages..

"Important Chuck":
> So what do the developers think of index/subrange as lvalue?

I'm not really a developer anymore, more of a kibbitzer, but..

While I recognize that this syntax can be neat looking and kinda nice sometimes
I would much rather see some form of rangeset() builtin instead, for
consistency and conceptual purity reasons..

The problem with subrange-as-lvalue is that it isn't really.  It is sometimes
but it isn't other times and expressions work as mutable sometimes and
immutable other times and it's just not very clean.  For an example of what I
mean, take a look at the following:

  foo = [1, 2, 3];
  foo[2] = 4;
   ^     ^--(modifies value of foo, because foo[2] points to part of foo)
   `--(foo[2] is a pointer to part of foo)
  return foo;

  (expected value: [1, 4, 3])
  => [1, 4, 3]

..so far so good..

  foo = [1, 2, 3];
  bar = foo[2];
      ^   ^--(foo[2] is a pointer to part of foo)
      `--(ergo bar is set to a pointer to part of foo)
  bar = 4;
      ^--(modifies foo, because bar = foo[2] = pointer to part of foo)
  return foo;

  (expected value: [1, 4, 3])
  => [1, 2, 3]


If the results of expressions are going to be lvalues, they should be lvalues
_consistently_, and not just when it's convenient (note also that there are
significant security problems inherent in consistent lvalue-states, too).

With rangeset(), etc, this problem doesn't arise because expressions are always
immutable rvalues and you're assigning them as a whole to the variables.

> VMS's DCL (Digital Command Language, aka VMS shell) uses ':==' to set symbols

Actually, technically, DCL uses :== for assigning global symbols (variables).
It uses := for assigning local symbols..

Then again, it uses .EQ. to test equality, too :)

Heh.. I'd almost entirely forgotten about DCL..

> Yuck, if anything, do NOT use DCL as a base or to get ideas for anything. :P

Heh.. also true enough :) (tho I still enjoy programming in it every so often..
provides a nice diversion from those straightforward, predictable languages
people use so much nowadays..)

> < are some others who shall remain nameless which I'd rather see bite it..
>                   ^^^
> Ack, you can tell when you have been programming too long when you start
> referring to programming languages as entities/people rather than objects 8)

Geez, you'd think an english major could recognize a common literary mechanism
such as personification in action.. (which, given the context, I would contend
was quite appropriate) :)

> -> One relevant design principle is Zipf's Law:  the
>    most frequently used operators should have the
>    shortest representations.  I think this is one of
>    the best arguments for using '=' rather than a
>    digraph.

While I'm generally in favor of this law, this is the one situation where I
strongly disagree.. the convenience just isn't worth the hassle.

> -> Nobody has suggested Prolog's :- yet.  Be a shame to
>    leave any existing religions out of the debate :)

Heh.. I always wondered whether this was really as much a result of sex-starved
computer geeks as it looked like.. (I'll leave it as an excercise for the
reader to figure out what I'm referring to :)

> -> A solution I haven't seen tried is to use '=' for >both<
>    assignment and comparison, and to keep the contexts in
>    which they are allowed mutually exclusive.  This
>    wouldn't be impractical, I don't think, although Cfolk
>    might dislike the restriction.  I doubt novice hackers
>    would.

Umm.. well, actually, what you're describing as "the restriction" is exactly
the current situation that people have decided they don't like (non-expression
assignments), so I don't think this suggestion would work very well either..

     Alex Stewart - riche@crl.com - Richelieu @ Diversity University MOO
"We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams" -- Willy Wonka