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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 7144
On 1 Jun 2004 15:29:53 GMT, Da*****@cern.ch (Dan Pop) wrote:
In <40bafec8.17233 5531@news-server> oz****@bigpond. com (ozbear) writes:
On 29 May 2004 19:35:09 -0700, re********@yaho o.com (red floyd) wrote:
Da*****@cern .ch (Dan Pop) wrote in message news:<c9******* ***@sunnews.cer n.ch>...
In <bu************ *************** *****@4ax.com> Alan Balmer <al******@att.n et> writes:

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 (or was it 8?), with a '*' in
column 6(7) as continuation...

DISCLAIMER : It's been nigh onto 25 years since I've done FORTRAN IV.
My info on the specific columns may be incorrect.


Column 6 was for the continuation. Your code had to fit in columns
7 through 72. 73 through 80 was for a card sequence number, and
ignored by the compiler, IIRC.

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.


Why? None of these examples count as indentation being semantically
significant. You're merely confusing the fixed format of certain
languages and indentation.

FYI: I've used both fixed format Fortran and fixed format assemblers,
but fixed format has nothing to do with *indentation* being semantically
significant.


Nope. "Fixed format" is just a ruse to cover up what is actually
fixed indentation. If those rules were violated you didn't even
get to what was semantically equivalent because you never got past
compilation.

If you put your Fortran continuation character in the wrong column
you could easily end up with errors.

The point is that those columns had meaning to the compiler hence one
had to indent, hence indentation had meaning.

Oz
--
A: Because it fouls the order in which people normally read text.
Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing?
A: Top-posting.
Q: What is the most annoying thing on usenet and in e-mail?
Nov 14 '05 #121
In article <ln************ @nuthaus.mib.or g> Keith Thompson <ks***@mib.or g> writes:
....
C grew out of the same history as Pascal; they're both descendents of
Algol, though C is less of a direct descendent.


Lessee. C if offspring from Jovial and the kind, which is offspring from
Algol 58. Pascal became because in the depelopment of Algol 68 Wirth did
not agree with the direction the committee was going.
--
dik t. winter, cwi, kruislaan 413, 1098 sj amsterdam, nederland, +31205924131
home: bovenover 215, 1025 jn amsterdam, nederland; http://www.cwi.nl/~dik/
Nov 14 '05 #122
On Tue, 1 Jun 2004 21:06:34 +0600, "I. Appel"
<ia****@rol.kil l.the.spammers. ru> wrote:
Well, I had to place more IMO's, but check this:

foo = lambda x, y: [str (i+j) for (i,j) in zip(x,y)]

Well, it's not very clear, but how many lines of code in C
would be required to reproduce it? Types of x and y can be
either lists of lists, lists of strings, lists of numbers
or strings. And it maybe used for all that stuff.

I don't understand, how several dozens lines of code can be
better than ONE line of code in non-esoteric language.


As you said, it's not very clear ;-) Actually, you'll have to define
"better" before you're qualified to offer an opinion.

--
Al Balmer
Balmer Consulting
re************* ***********@att .net
Nov 14 '05 #123
On Wed, 2 Jun 2004 12:21:48 +0600, "I. Appel"
<ia****@rol.kil l.the.spammers. ru> wrote:

I've seen code in C and Java written by several Python-haters. Most of them
don't use indents at all, so their code is pretty hard to read. See below.
You need to expand your circle of acquaintances :-) Most C and Java
programmers (in fact, all) that I know use indents, whether or not
they hate Python.
As for the indentation-oriented syntax, I strongly advise against it.
To me, it's very unnatural. In the huge majority of languages (natural
or programming ones), spaces are meant to be separators and esthetic
elements. Even if indenting has become natural for most programmers
when writing different code blocks in most languages (C, Pascal, Ada...)
I still think it's a visual improvement for readability - and shouldn't
be anything else. I really can't figure out the whole rationale behind
the Python syntax. And even if you claim that "such problems as leaving
behind tabs or spaces, it's generally no problem", it's not quite what
I have in mind in terms of "syntactic robustness".


Well, main idea behind Python's syntax is "we use indentation anyway (most
of
us at least), so what's the reason to make syntax redundant and to use
_both_
indents and delimiters?"

Are you agree?

Nope.

--
Al Balmer
Balmer Consulting
re************* ***********@att .net
Nov 14 '05 #124
In <40bd955e.34195 7500@news-server> oz****@bigpond. com (ozbear) writes:
On 1 Jun 2004 15:29:53 GMT, Da*****@cern.ch (Dan Pop) wrote:
In <40bafec8.17233 5531@news-server> oz****@bigpond. com (ozbear) writes:
On 29 May 2004 19:35:09 -0700, re********@yaho o.com (red floyd) wrote:

Da*****@cer n.ch (Dan Pop) wrote in message news:<c9******* ***@sunnews.cer n.ch>...
> In <bu************ *************** *****@4ax.com> Alan Balmer <al******@att.n et> writes:

> 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 (or was it 8?), with a '*' in
column 6(7) as continuation...

DISCLAIME R: It's been nigh onto 25 years since I've done FORTRAN IV.
My info on the specific columns may be incorrect.

Column 6 was for the continuation. Your code had to fit in columns
7 through 72. 73 through 80 was for a card sequence number, and
ignored by the compiler, IIRC.

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.


Why? None of these examples count as indentation being semantically
significant . You're merely confusing the fixed format of certain
languages and indentation.

FYI: I've used both fixed format Fortran and fixed format assemblers,
but fixed format has nothing to do with *indentation* being semantically
significant .


Nope. "Fixed format" is just a ruse to cover up what is actually
fixed indentation. If those rules were violated you didn't even
get to what was semantically equivalent because you never got past
compilation.

If you put your Fortran continuation character in the wrong column
you could easily end up with errors.

The point is that those columns had meaning to the compiler hence one
had to indent, hence indentation had meaning.


You're confusing fixed format and indentation. No amount of indentation
past column 7 has any semantic meaning in any Fortran version I'm familiar
with. Fixed format Fortran *completely* ignores any space character that
is not part of a "string literal". Because of this, it is sheer idiocy to
claim that indentation plays any *semantic* role in fixed format Fortran.

Dan
--
Dan Pop
DESY Zeuthen, RZ group
Email: Da*****@ifh.de
Nov 14 '05 #125
"Alan Balmer" <al******@att.n et> wrote in message
news:f3******** *************** *********@4ax.c om...
Well, I had to place more IMO's, but check this:

foo = lambda x, y: [str (i+j) for (i,j) in zip(x,y)]

Well, it's not very clear, but how many lines of code in C
would be required to reproduce it? Types of x and y can be
either lists of lists, lists of strings, lists of numbers
or strings. And it maybe used for all that stuff.

I don't understand, how several dozens lines of code can be
better than ONE line of code in non-esoteric language.


As you said, it's not very clear ;-) Actually, you'll have to define
"better" before you're qualified to offer an opinion.


What is the reason to have syntax that is clearer-per-line, if it
requires to write several times more lines of code?

Ivan.
Nov 14 '05 #126
"Alan Balmer" <al******@att.n et> wrote in message
news:b9******** *************** *********@4ax.c om...
As for the indentation-oriented syntax, I strongly advise against it.
To me, it's very unnatural. In the huge majority of languages (natural
or programming ones), spaces are meant to be separators and esthetic
elements. Even if indenting has become natural for most programmers
when writing different code blocks in most languages (C, Pascal, Ada...) I still think it's a visual improvement for readability - and shouldn't be anything else. I really can't figure out the whole rationale behind
the Python syntax. And even if you claim that "such problems as leaving
behind tabs or spaces, it's generally no problem", it's not quite what
I have in mind in terms of "syntactic robustness".


Well, main idea behind Python's syntax is "we use indentation anyway (mostof
us at least), so what's the reason to make syntax redundant and to use
_both_
indents and delimiters?"

Are you agree?

Nope.


Well, it's a matter of taste and habits (some of had to tell that :-))), so
let's stop discussion here. I like syntaxes of both C and Python, while I
consider,
that both have their disadvantages.

Ivan.
Nov 14 '05 #127

On Wed, 2 Jun 2004, I. Appel wrote:

"Alan Balmer" <al******@att.n et> wrote...

[I. Appel, watch your attributions! ISTR *you* wrote:]

foo = lambda x, y: [str (i+j) for (i,j) in zip(x,y)]

Well, it's not very clear, but how many lines of code in C
would be required to reproduce it?


As you said, it's not very clear ;-) Actually, you'll have to define
"better" before you're qualified to offer an opinion.


What is the reason to have syntax that is clearer-per-line, if it
requires to write several times more lines of code?


Let's suppose C is five times clearer per line than your brand
of (is that obfuscated Haskell?), and it takes five times as many
lines of C code to write the same thing as you can write in
(whatever language that is).
Five times clearer per line, multiplied by five times as many
lines, yields twenty-five times the clarity. Hence, C is better
than Haskell. Q.E.D.

[that was a joke, son]

And now can you take the language wars off to comp.lang.misc or
somewhere else that actually *needs* the traffic?

-Arthur,
nonce equitur
Nov 14 '05 #128

"Old Wolf" <ol*****@inspir e.net.nz> wrote in message

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?

Microsoft was built on BASIC interpreters, so I imagine they keep the
langauge going for sentimental reasons.
Nov 14 '05 #129
"Dr Chaos" <mb************ ****@NOSPAMyaho o.com> wrote in message
news:sl******** *************** ********@lyapun ov.ucsd.edu...
Malcolm <ma*****@55bank .freeserve.co.u k> wrote:

"Dr Chaos" <mb************ ****@NOSPAMyaho o.com> wrote in message
Profound anti-intellectualism among practitioners, and cargo-cult
imitation. This spurious idea being that "gee, C was popular; so
why don't we make our language with Cish syntax so we might be
popular too."

Or maybe "C is popular so let's use a syntax that most programmers are
already familiar with".


Actually I think that's can be a worse idea---suggesting something
that 'almost works' the same, but in fact is subtly different is quite
dangerous.

Like, in the USA you might want to give your buddy who's had too much
to drink "a ride" home, but if you try offer that to your mates in
Sydney (as opposed to a "lift") you're likely to get socked. At least
in most straight bars.


Just don't "knock me up" in the morning!

When I began programming I used "Business BASIC" which compiled into an .exe
and (shockingly) didn't require line numbers unless you were going to "GOTO"
it. In those days a compile used to take 40 minutes or an hour or so. You
would "desk check" your code quite thoroughly, so after the compile it
actually worked. Programmers would time their builds - i.e. "You gonna
compile today?" "Yeah, I about an hour" "OK, meet you out back. See if Carl
is ready and we can play some craps..." "'K"

Then I learned Pascal and it was my language of choice for programming.
Remember Borland's "Turbo Pascal"? Compile times of 1 or 2 minutes, or less
for small stuff. It was amazing and I stopped losing so much money to Carl.
:-)

Anyhow, the point is that when I learned C, it was quite a lot like Pascal.
In fact it was TOO alike. I loved Turbo Pascal but the syntax was just about
the same as C, but it was hard to keep both in my brain. I finally had to
pick C and I've never looked back.

I see new developments like C# as a similar "problem". You can be a C++
"generic OS" programmer, or you can buy into the Microsoft World (tm) and go
with C#, but I believe it will be hard to keep the two in one's mind at the
same time. This is where the programmer will have to make a conscious
decision. (Best Darth Vader voice) "Feel the Power of the Dark Side."

--
Mabden
Nov 14 '05 #130

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