Monday, February 13, 2012

Monstrosity as in C++

I am writing this piece out of a renewed terror of C++, particularly after reading some of the items from "Effective C++/More Effective C++" by Scott Meyers ( and now moving on to "Modern C++ Design" by Andrei Alexandrescu (
I have been using C++ for practically most of the last 10 years but it still succeeds in throwing up dark corner cases and quirks. Particularly jarring are some of them which go against my intuition of how the code should behave. My experience is in the same vein as here and here. More criticism of C++ is easily found all over the web, some of it coming from star programmers like Linus Torvalds as well. Whenever I am comfortable with using C++ and reading C++ code, it is just when the code uses the small sub-set of C++ that I use and I know. And everyone just seems to use their own favorite sub-set of C++.
An example is the items in the books by Meyers. Many of them are very informative and it never feels like a drab listing, thanks to the lively style of Meyers' writing. Most appreciable are items about class design and efficiency matters. In contrast, most troubling items are those that attempt to explain, cope with or "engineer" around C++ syntax. Operator overloading still tops my list of nonsense and unnecessary features. If it’s just syntactic sugar, it is making everyone a diabetic.
To be fair, C++ has had to deal with supporting new features as well as maintaining backward compatibility with C. It is feature-rich and multi-paradigm. It seems that individual features of C++ like Classes, Inheritance, Templates, Exception Handling and others are very useful and well thought of. However, when these facilities combine in a real world code, they have a devastating effect. Explanations of smart "techniques" to somehow handle each and every combination case increasingly venture into the territory of the obscure and the ugly. Lack of garbage collection and memory/system issues only worsen the situation. So when Meyers tries to work out such complex issues, it just strikes me that such situations should just be avoided at all costs. There should be simpler ways of doing such things. Knowing C++, it is apparent that there would be many ways of doing the same thing, some simple, others not so.
I hope to write something more over the next weeks about C++ and particularly, "simpler" ways of doing things and anything truly useful, like compile time checks.