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Heron-Centric: Ruminations of a Language Designer
Optimization: Me versus Guy Steele
by Christopher Diggins
September 29, 2005
Summary
Guy says: "Essentially, programmers shouldn't have to worry too much about optimizing while they're writing programs. Instead, that optimization can be done by compilers, either ahead of time or on the fly.", but I disagree.

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Guy Steele is a well respected language designer (designed Scheme, co-wrote the Java spec, etc.) and he has this to say about optimization:

"Essentially, programmers shouldn't have to worry too much about optimizing while they're writing programs. Instead, that optimization can be done by compilers, either ahead of time or on the fly."
I do agree the majority of programmers should not have to worry about optimization, but at the same time, other programmers, such as library designers, do need to worry about optimization. I believe that the principle responsibility for optimization should go to library writers. The limited scope of many languages, like Java, prevents this. Languages like C++ however enable library writers to push the envelope far further than what an optimizer can accomplish.

As way of a simple example, consider the ability in C++ to write a copy-on-write (COW) string class. Or a policy based string class. Or a small-string class. Or an immutable string class. A compiler can't read my requirements sheet, no matter how hard it tries.

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About the Blogger

Christopher Diggins is a software developer and freelance writer. Christopher loves programming, but is eternally frustrated by the shortcomings of modern programming languages. As would any reasonable person in his shoes, he decided to quit his day job to write his own ( www.heron-language.com ). Christopher is the co-author of the C++ Cookbook from O'Reilly. Christopher can be reached through his home page at www.cdiggins.com.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2005 Christopher Diggins. All rights reserved.

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