Sunday, November 7, 2010

About C++

I have had love/hate relationship with C++ from the time I started using it extensively about nine years ago. Before that everything was C - for example Sodipodi was 99.9% written in C (the only exception was the interface to KDE file dialogs). Those were good old times...

The learning of C++ was mostly one big frustration. Few beautiful and useful features - buried in clumsy, unintuitive and ugly mess. So after trying out and throwing away one feature after another, I mostly joined the C with classes crowd. This is the style used in Khayyam/Miletos/Elea code. But even for this minor subset of features, the language is just implemented plain wrong. Some completely elementary, clean and logical things are missing - and on the other hand - extremely clumsy, opaque and hard to use features are present.

So following is my list of things I'll one day implement in my own C Successor(TM) language.
  1. Keep classes and struct separate. Structs should be POD, classes should ALWYAS have pointer to RTI. So no virtual methods for struct - and who in his right mind will miss these?
  2. Keep memory layout standardized. Seriously. Probably all C++ variants implement things in one way - but the specification refuses to fix things once and for all.
    • Classes are struct(ure)s. Like in Java. Standardized containers having function pointers for virtual methods, RTI information, link to parent class and so on.
    • All object instances have hidden data field in first position, that is - you guess it - pointer to class struct(ure).
    • All nonstatic methods should have pointer to class instance as hidden first parameter. So you can call class method from C. It is implemented this way anyways - but why force people to jump through loops to use it.
  3. Keep meta-language separate from core. Implement two-pass compiling or something (in addition to preprocessor).
    • Operator overloading should be specified in some meta-language. This would allow really useful things, like implementing separate dot and cross operators for vectors and so on. It should be transparently translated into proper C code during metalanguage parsing pass and then compiled by normal C/C++ compiler.
    • Templates should be specified in proper metalanguage instead of "yet another hack on top of C syntax" and translated into normal C code during compilation.
And for extra sugar - allow overloading the virtual method call operation. So I can actually subclass object systems from other languages without writing countless ugly wrapper classes.

Obligatory screenshot - Ichiro having break in a forest (needs better lighting actually)

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