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C Syntax

Why is C syntax so uneasy on the eye?

In its day, was it _really_ designed by snobby programmers to scare away
potential "n00bs"? If so, and after 50+ years of programming research,
why are programming languages still being designed with C's syntax?

These questions drive me insane. Every waking minute...
Nov 14 '05
177 7139

On Mon, 31 May 2004, Dr Chaos wrote:

Arthur J. O'Dwyer <aj*@nospam.and rew.cmu.edu> wrote:

Not that I'm disagreeing, but *is* there any ambiguity avoided
by requiring parens around the condition in a 'do...while' loop?[1]
I don't know about C, but it may have been a holdover from Fortran,
where it does matter:


The Fortran 'DO' is somewhat different from the C 'do', if I
understand correctly. And neither of them is spelled 'if', as
in your examples below, which makes me suspect you didn't really
grasp the point.
! fortran
if (condition = something) then

because
if condition = something

can be also

ifcondition = something

an assignment.
s/can be also/actually means/, of course.
In C I don't see the issue, I admit.


Obviously, that

if foo (bar);

could be treated as either a conditional on foo with (bar); in the body,
or as a conditional on foo(bar) with a null statement in the body.
Requiring an extra set of parentheses around the condition disambiguates
the syntax.

-Arthur
[1] - leaving in the disclaimer for the benefit of jumpers-in...
(Also, there's no ambiguity avoided by the requirement of a semicolon
following the label of a 'goto'. Just defusing potential "do you
know you're being utterly ridiculous" responses. ;)

-Arthur

Nov 14 '05 #101

On Mon, 31 May 2004, ozbear wrote:

re********@yaho o.com (red floyd) wrote:
Da*****@cern.ch (Dan Pop) wrote:
None of the programming languages assigning semantics to indentation
has ever become mainstream. There must be a reason...


Not true. You're living in the present. In the past, when punch card
input was the norm, indentation had a meaning. In particular, FORTRAN
IV required input to begin in column 7 [...], with a '*' in
column [six] as continuation...


Cobol also (originally) used column-positional syntax, Area A,
Area B, and so on.

Columns 1 through 6 (or 7) was for sequence numbers, followed by
Area A for paragraph names, and Area B for code, but its been a long
time.

At any rate, Dan is incorrect.


No, as far as I can tell Dan is correct in this case (depending
on your definition of "mainstream "). Neither Fortran nor COBOL were
*free-form* languages, but they certainly weren't indentation-sensitive.
See the RPG language for another slightly more modern (but much less
"mainstream ") example, IIRC.

Fortran was not indentation-sensitive; in fact, one of the most
widespread anecdotes about Fortran is the "DO20I = 1.10" incident,
which hinges on the fact that Fortran didn't recognize anything
special about whitespace *at* *all*! You could write[1]

C WITH INDENTATION
DO 50 I=1, 99
BOTTLS = 100-I
PRINT 10, BOTTLS
10 FORMAT(1X, I2, 31H BOTTLE(S) OF BEER ON THE WALL.)
50 CONTINUE
STOP
END

or equally

C WITHOUT ANY INDENTATION
DO 50 I=1, 99
BOTTLS = 100-I
PRINT 10, BOTTLS
10 FORMAT(1X, I2, 31H BOTTLE(S) OF BEER ON THE WALL.)
50 CONTINUE
STOP
END

The fact that punch cards in the Good Old Days Before I Was
Born(TM) had designated areas in which it was okay to punch holes
representing code, or line numbers, or comments, has nothing to
do with the concept of "indentatio n."
See thread
http://groups.google.c om/gr************* ************@on line.de
in comp.lang.misc for some discussion tangentially related to
this topic. In fact, I'd suggest this whole discussion move
there, if you want to keep arguing about what's "indentatio n"
and what's not. Followups set.

-Arthur

[1] - Shamelessly nicked from the 99 Bottles of Beer project
and shortened with a blunt instrument. No warranties on
correctness.
Nov 14 '05 #102
Mark McIntyre <ma**********@s pamcop.net> writes:

|> >|> Yet another bogus generalisation coming from Joona. Quoting
|> >|> from a post from a French mailing list:

|> >|> ton enfant ? quel age?

|> >Doubtlessly a typo. Or simply incorrect use.

|> The second is a typo. I work for a french bank, and the vast
|> majority of french expats use spaces before and after emphatic
|> punctuation. Only the anglicised french omit the space.

|> Remind me what this has to do with C....

The French also put spaces before the semicolons in C programs:-).

--
James Kanze
Conseils en informatique orientée objet/
Beratung in objektorientier ter Datenverarbeitu ng
9 place Sémard, 78210 St.-Cyr-l'École, France +33 (0)1 30 23 00 34
Nov 14 '05 #103
Dr Chaos <mb************ ****@NOSPAMyaho o.com> wrote:

Besides, how many former Visual Basic programmers were really long-time
"regular" BASIC programmers? Not that large a fraction.


Why do you say that? I thought the whole raison d'etre of VB
was so that people who grew up with BASIC would still be in the
familiar. Why else would anybody use such a horrible language?
Nov 14 '05 #104
> The second is a typo. I work for a french bank, and the vast majority of
french expats use spaces before and after emphatic punctuation. Only the
anglicised french omit the space.


Well, in fact, both are wrong and right at the same time.

Typographically speaking, the kind of spacing that should be used just
before a punctuation mark such as a question mark or an exclamation mark
is NOT the same as the spacing used between two words, for instance.
It should be a "quart de cadratin", which is much less wide.
Unfortunately, plain ASCII text doesn't have much notion of typographic
spacing. It only knows of a basic space, which is as wide as can be.

Thus, I consider putting extra spaces before punctuation marks
a typo when using plain ASCII text, and more esthetically pleasing
to the eye to omit them. French or not.

I especially hate those who put a space before a period. Like this:
"This is fucked up ."

It's just confusing, ugly, and makes no typographic sense.
Nov 14 '05 #105
"Arthur J. O'Dwyer" <aj*@nospam.and rew.cmu.edu> wrote in message
news:Pi******** *************** ***********@uni x49.andrew.cmu. edu...
Obviously, that

if foo (bar);

could be treated as either a conditional on foo with (bar); in the body,
or as a conditional on foo(bar) with a null statement in the body.
Requiring an extra set of parentheses around the condition disambiguates
the syntax.


Consider the meanings of

if (foo)(bar);

and

if (foo) (bar);

That one little space changes things drastically.

S

--
Stephen Sprunk "Stupid people surround themselves with smart
CCIE #3723 people. Smart people surround themselves with
K5SSS smart people who disagree with them." --Aaron Sorkin

Nov 14 '05 #106
On Mon, 31 May 2004 13:56:01 -0700, Old Wolf wrote:
Dr Chaos <mb************ ****@NOSPAMyaho o.com> wrote:

Besides, how many former Visual Basic programmers were really long-time
"regular" BASIC programmers? Not that large a fraction.


Why do you say that? I thought the whole raison d'etre of VB
was so that people who grew up with BASIC would still be in the
familiar. Why else would anybody use such a horrible language?


Because Microsoft sells it, and anything they sell for that much money
must be worth buying?

:: Wait for laughter ::

Some schools teach VB. I guess they think it will be an easy language to
learn. Of course, since Python doesn't have a shiny IDE, it isn't a real
language. Besides, that nice Mr. Gates says open source is The DEVIL!

--
yvoregnevna gjragl-guerr gjb-gubhfnaq guerr ng lnubb qbg pbz
To email me, rot13 and convert spelled-out numbers to numeric form.
"Makes hackers smile" makes hackers smile.

Nov 14 '05 #107
Dr Chaos <mb************ ****@NOSPAMyaho o.com> wrote:
On Wed, 26 May 2004 22:02:42 +0100, C# Learner <cs****@learner .here> wrote:
Why is C syntax so uneasy on the eye?

In its day, was it _really_ designed by snobby programmers to scare away
potential "n00bs"?


No, but the programmers who designed it didn't care about "n00bs";
their target audience was people who worked at Bell Labs. They were
all very very smart.


Erm...
If so, and after 50+ years of programming research,
why are programming languages still being designed with C's syntax?


Profound anti-intellectualism among practitioners, and cargo-cult
imitation.


....don't you think these two statements are contradictory?

Richard
Nov 14 '05 #108
"I. Appel" <ia****@rol.r u> wrote:

[ Please do not snip attribution lines of people whose text you leave in
your replies. I have no idea who wrote the following: ]
Well, rephrasing Paul Graham, I should say "Don't wait until C will
become as clear as Python, use Python instead".


If you really think Python has clearer syntax than C, well, think twice.


Python programs are easier to read and understand, that's what I understand
as "clear".


Pardon me: _you_ consider Python programs to be easier to read and
understand. Other people, amongst whom the twice-quoted contributer
above and myself, disagree.

Richard
Nov 14 '05 #109

On Tue, 1 Jun 2004, Stephen Sprunk wrote:

"Arthur J. O'Dwyer" <aj*@nospam.and rew.cmu.edu> wrote...
if foo (bar);
could be treated as either a conditional on foo with (bar); in the body,
or as a conditional on foo(bar) with a null statement in the body.
Requiring an extra set of parentheses around the condition disambiguates
the syntax.


Consider the meanings of
if (foo)(bar);
and
if (foo) (bar);

That one little space changes things drastically.


For the benefit of jumpers-in: That one little space changes things
drastically only in some hypothetical language that is NOT C. C not
only treats most whitespace the same as a single space; it also ignores
most of it. Spaces around parentheses, for example, don't mean squat.
And I wouldn't want to risk programming in a language that *did* assign
critical meaning to single spaces, especially unobtrusive ones like
that.

-Arthur,
signing off
Nov 14 '05 #110

This thread has been closed and replies have been disabled. Please start a new discussion.

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