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untold truth about C++

 
 
Jack
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      01-04-2005
On the 1st of January 1998, Bjarne Stroustrup gave an interview to the
IEEE's 'Computer' magazine. Naturally, the editors thought he would be
giving a retrospective view of seven years of object-oriented design,
using the language he created.
By the end of the interview, the interviewer got more than he had
bargained for and, subsequently, the editor decided to suppress its
contents, 'for the good of the industry' but, as with many of these
things, there was a leak.
Here is a complete transcript of what was said, unedited, and
unrehearsed, so it isn't as neat as planned interviews. You will find
it interesting...
__________________________________________________ ________________

Interviewer: Well, it's been a few years since you changed the world
of
software design, how does it feel, looking back?

Stroustrup: Actually, I was thinking about those days, just before
you
arrived. Do you remember? Everyone was writing 'C' and, the trouble
was, they were pretty damn good at it. Universities got pretty good at
teaching it, too. They were turning out competent - I stress the word
'competent' - graduates at a phenomenal
rate. That's what caused the problem.

Interviewer: Problem?

Stroustrup: Yes, problem. Remember when everyone wrote Cobol?

Interviewer: Of course, I did too

Stroustrup: Well, in the beginning, these guys were like demi-gods.

Their salaries were high, and they were treated like royalty.

Interviewer: Those were the days, eh?

Stroustrup: Right. So what happened? IBM got sick of it, and
invested
millions in training programmers, till they were a dime a dozen.

Interviewer: That's why I got out. Salaries dropped within a year,
to the
point where being a journalist actually paid better.

Stroustrup: Exactly. Well, the same happened with 'C' programmers.

Interviewer: I see, but what's the point?

Stroustrup: Well, one day, when I was sitting in my office, I
thought of
this little scheme, which would redress the balance a little. I thought
'I wonder what would happen, if there were a language so complicated,
so difficult to learn, that nobody would ever be able to swamp the
market with programmers? Actually, I got
some of the ideas from X10, you know, X windows. That was such a bitch
of a graphics system, that it only just ran on those Sun 3/60 things.
They had all the ingredients for what I wanted. A really ridiculously
complex syntax, obscure functions, and
pseudo-OO structure. Even now, nobody writes raw X-windows code. Motif
is the only way to go if you want to retain your sanity.

Interviewer: You're kidding...?

Stroustrup: Not a bit of it. In fact, there was another problem.
Unix
was written in 'C', which meant that any 'C' programmer could very
easily become a systems programmer. Remember what a mainframe systems
programmer used to earn?

Interviewer: You bet I do, that's what I used to do.

Stroustrup: OK, so this new language had to divorce itself from
Unix, by
hiding all the system calls that bound the two together so nicely. This
would enable guys who only knew about DOS to earn a decent living too.

Interviewer: I don't believe you said that...

Stroustrup: Well, it's been long enough, now, and I believe most people
have figured out for themselves that C++ is a waste of time but, I must
say, it's taken them a lot longer than I thought it would.

Interviewer: So how exactly did you do it?

Stroustrup: It was only supposed to be a joke, I never thought
people
would take the book seriously. Anyone with half a brain can see that
object-oriented programming is counter-intuitive, illogical and
inefficient.

Interviewer: What?

Stroustrup: And as for 're-useable code' - when did you ever hear
of a
company re-using its code?

Interviewer: Well, never, actually, but...

Stroustrup: There you are then. Mind you, a few tried, in the early

days. There was this Oregon company - Mentor Graphics, I think they
were called - really caught a cold trying to rewrite everything in C++
in about '90 or '91. I felt sorry for them really, but I thought people
would learn from their mistakes.

Interviewer: Obviously, they didn't?

Stroustrup: Not in the slightest. Trouble is, most companies
hush-up all
their major blunders, and explaining a $30 million loss to the
shareholders would have been difficult. Give them their due, though,
they made it work in the end.

Interviewer: They did? Well, there you are then, it proves O-O
works.

Stroustrup: Well, almost. The executable was so huge, it took five
minutes to load, on an HP workstation, with 128MB of RAM. Then it ran
like treacle. Actually, I thought this would be a major stumbling
block, and I'd get found out within a week, but nobody cared. Sun and
HP were only too glad to sell enormously
powerful boxes, with huge resources just to run trivial programs. You
know, when we had our first C++ compiler, at AT&T, I compiled 'Hello
World', and couldn't believe the size of the executable. 2.1MB

Interviewer: What? Well, compilers have come a long way, since then.


Stroustrup: They have? Try it on the latest version of g++ - you
won't
get much change out of half a megabyte. Also, there are several quite
recent examples for you, from all over the world. British Telecom had a
major disaster on their hands but, luckily, managed to scrap the whole
thing and start again. They were
luckier than Australian Telecom. Now I hear that Siemens is building a
dinosaur, and getting more and more worried as the size of the hardware
gets bigger, to accommodate the executables. Isn't multiple inheritance
a joy?

Interviewer: Yes, but C++ is basically a sound language.

Stroustrup: You really believe that, don't you? Have you ever sat
down
and worked on a C++ project? Here's what happens: First, I've put in
enough pitfalls to make sure that only the most trivial projects will
work first time. Take operator overloading. At the end of the project,
almost every module has it, usually,
because guys feel they really should do it, as it was in their training
course. The same operator then means something totally different in
every module. Try pulling that lot together, when you have a hundred or
so modules. And as for data hiding. God,
I sometimes can't help laughing when I hear about the problems
companies have making their modules talk to each other. I think the
word 'synergistic' was specially invented to twist the knife in a
project manager's ribs.

Interviewer: I have to say, I'm beginning to be quite appalled at
all
this. You say you did it to raise programmers' salaries? That's
obscene.

Stroustrup: Not really. Everyone has a choice. I didn't expect the
thing
to get so much out of hand. Anyway, I basically succeeded. C++ is dying
off now, but programmers still get high salaries - especially those
poor devils who have to maintain all this crap. You do realise, it's
impossible to maintain a large C++ software
module if you didn't actually write it?

Interviewer: How come?

Stroustrup: You are out of touch, aren't you? Remember the typedef?


Interviewer: Yes, of course.

Stroustrup: Remember how long it took to grope through the header
files
only to find that 'RoofRaised' was a double precision number? Well,
imagine how long it takes to find all the implicit typedefs in all the
Classes in a major project.

Interviewer: So how do you reckon you've succeeded?

Stroustrup: Remember the length of the average-sized 'C' project?
About
6 months. Not nearly long enough for a guy with a wife and kids to earn
enough to have a decent standard of living. Take the same project,
design it in C++ and what do you get? I'll tell you. One to two years.
Isn't that great? All that job security,
just through one mistake of judgement. And another thing. The
universities haven't been teaching 'C' for such a long time, there's
now a shortage of decent 'C' programmers. Especially those who know
anything about Unix systems programming. How many
guys would know what to do with 'malloc', when they've used 'new' all
these years - and never bothered to check the return code. In fact,
most C++ programmers throw away their return codes. Whatever happened
to good ol' '-1'?At least you knew you had
an error, without bogging the thing down in all that 'throw' 'catch'
'try' stuff.

Interviewer: But, surely, inheritance does save a lot of time?

Stroustrup: Does it? Have you ever noticed the difference between a
'C'
project plan, and a C++ project plan? The planning stage for a C++
project is three times as long. Precisely to make sure that everything
which should be inherited is, and what shouldn't isn't. Then, they
still get it wrong.
Whoever heard of memory leaks in a 'C' program? Now finding them is a
major industry. Most companies give up, and send the product out,
knowing it leaks like a sieve, simply to avoid the expense of tracking
them all down.

Interviewer: There are tools...

Stroustrup: Most of which were written in C++.

Interviewer: If we publish this, you'll probably get lynched, you do

realise that?

Stroustrup: I doubt it. As I said, C++ is way past its peak now,
and no
company in its right mind would start a C++ project without a pilot
trial.
That should convince them that it's the road to disaster. If not, they
deserve all they get. You know, I tried to convince Dennis Ritchie to
rewrite Unix in C++.

Interviewer: Oh my God. What did he say?

Stroustrup: Well, luckily, he has a good sense of humor. I think
both he
and Brian figured out what I was doing, in the early days, but never
let on.
He said he'd help me write a C++ version of DOS, if I was interested.

Interviewer: Were you?

Stroustrup: Actually, I did write DOS in C++, I'll give you a demo
when
we're through. I have it running on a Sparc 20 in the computer room.
Goes like a rocket on 4 CPU's, and only takes up 70 megs of disk.

Interviewer: What's it like on a PC?

Stroustrup: Now you're kidding. Haven't you ever seen Windows '95?
I
think of that as my biggest success. Nearly blew the game before I was
ready, though.

Interviewer: You know, that idea of a Unix++ has really got me
thinking.
Somewhere out there, there's a guy going to try it.

Stroustrup: Not after they read this interview.

Interviewer: I'm sorry, but I don't see us being able to publish any
of
this.

Stroustrup: But it's the story of the century. I only want to be
remembered by my fellow programmers, for what I've done for them. You
know how much a C++ guy can get these days?

Interviewer: Last I heard, a really top guy is worth $70 - $80 an
hour.

Stroustrup: See? And I bet he earns it. Keeping track of all the
gotchas
I put into C++ is no easy job. And, as I said before, every C++
programmer feels bound by some mystic promise to use every damn element
of the language on every project. Actually, that really annoys me
sometimes, even though it serves my original
purpose. I almost like the language after all this time.

Interviewer: You mean you didn't before?

Stroustrup: Hated it. It even looks clumsy, don't you agree? But
when
the book royalties started to come in... well, you get the picture.

Interviewer: Just a minute. What about references? You must admit,
you
improved on 'C' pointers.

Stroustrup: Hmm. I've always wondered about that. Originally, I
thought
I had. Then, one day I was discussing this with a guy who'd written C++
from the beginning. He said he could never remember whether his
variables were referenced or dereferenced, so he always used pointers.
He said the little asterisk always reminded
him.

Interviewer: Well, at this point, I usually say 'thank you very
much' but
it hardly seems adequate.

Stroustrup: Promise me you'll publish this. My conscience is
getting the
better of me these days.

Interviewer: I'll let you know, but I think I know what my editor
will
say.

Stroustrup: Who'd believe it anyway? Although, can you send me a
copy of
that tape?

Interviewer: I can do that.

 
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Mike Hewson
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      01-04-2005
Jack wrote:

<whatever>

--

No Cheers
--
Hewson::Mike
"This letter is longer than usual because I lack the time to make it
shorter" - Blaise Pascal
 
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Mike Wahler
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      01-04-2005
"Jack" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed) oups.com...

A very old joke, which most regulars here have seen many times.
And imo not even very funny.

-Mike


 
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Sharad Kala
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      01-04-2005

"Jack" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message

[snip]
All I can say is that don't be so gullible.
http://www.research.att.com/~bs/bs_faq.html#IEEE

Sharad


 
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