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size and nomenclature of integral types

One problem I've been wrestling with for a long time is how to use the
C++ integral data types, vis-a-vis their size. The C++ rules
guarantee that a char is at least 1 bytes, a short and int at least 2
bytes, and a long at least 4 bytes. The rules also define a size
precedence to the types. In Stroustrup's book, it says that all type
sizes are multiples of char, "so by definition the size of a char is
1." According to the rules, that means 1 unit which can be any number
of bytes.

Why should I trust the compiler to optimize the memory usage of the
types behind my back? As for portability, wouldn't fixed,
unambiguosly-sized types be much more portable? Doesn't the ambiguity
open the door for me on my system X with compiler Y to rely on its
Z-byte representation of int? And if system-dependent optimization is
desired, wouldn't it be easier to do with fixed-size types instead?

One of my gripes is that the terminology is unclear. New programmers
can be especially confused. For example, 'short' and 'long' are
relative adjectives, and they don't say how big or at least how big.
The other extreme are the names like __int8, __int16, and __int32 in
MSVC++. Wouldn't I be much less likely to use something called __int8
to count numbers over 255, than I would something called char? On the
other hand, these keywords fix the size of the type and allow no room
for the compiler to optimize.

If I could invent new types, I would name them something like:

uint8, uint16, uint24, uintN, ... (unsigned integer types)
sint8, sint16, sint24, sintN, ... (signed integer types)

where N is any multiple of 8 greater than 0 (i.e. arbitrary precision
types would be built-in.) I feel the signed/unsigned aspect is better
part of the keyword, and not separate and optional. The Mozilla
sources are instructive in that their cross-platform code implements
macros following a similar convention; but macros are like pollution.

I'd further have a new keyword like "allowopt", which when placed
after the type keyword grants access to the compiler to optimize the
memory allocation of the type. For example, when I write "uint16
allowopt myCounter;", then I would unambiously be declaring, "Give me
a 16-bit, unsigned, integer called myCounter whose size the compiler
may optimize."

In most compilers, the default setting would be to enable optimization
for all the declarations, and a pragma could turn it off. I have
suspicions about why things are the way they are, but I'd like to hear
the experts' opinions.

Jul 22 '05 #1
8 1988
Shailesh wrote:
One problem I've been wrestling with for a long time is how to use the
C++ integral data types, vis-a-vis their size. The C++ rules guarantee
that a char is at least 1 bytes, a short and int at least 2 bytes, and a
long at least 4 bytes. The rules also define a size precedence to the
types. In Stroustrup's book, it says that all type sizes are multiples
of char, "so by definition the size of a char is 1." According to the
rules, that means 1 unit which can be any number of bytes.

Why should I trust the compiler to optimize the memory usage of the
types behind my back?
That question can have one of two meanings IMO.

Q1: How do I know the compiler won't introduce an error in its optimisation?
A: You don't. You'll just have to trust its optimisations or disable them.

Q2: How do I know the compiler is coming up with the best, most
optimised code?
A: You don't. If you want assurance, write in assembly code (with many
years experience behind you).

Trivial low-level optimisations like these have miniscule impact
compared to algorithmic optimisations.
As for portability, wouldn't fixed,
unambiguosly-sized types be much more portable? Doesn't the ambiguity
open the door for me on my system X with compiler Y to rely on its
Z-byte representation of int? And if system-dependent optimization is
desired, wouldn't it be easier to do with fixed-size types instead?


The C++ standard specifies the minimum ranges that integral types must
support. If you consider these to be your maximum ranges then your code
will definitely be portable in that respect. (Note though, that the C
standard library provides ways of getting the exact ranges.)

In any case, you should try IMHO to avoid the concepts of sizes in bits
and bytes when programming in C++ and instead think in higher-level
terms of ranges.

--
Ben Measures
Software programming, Internet design/programming, Gaming freak.

http://ben.measures.org.uk - when I find time
Jul 22 '05 #2
Shailesh wrote:
One problem I've been wrestling with for a long time is how to use the
C++ integral data types, vis-a-vis their size. The C++ rules guarantee
that a char is at least 1 bytes, a short and int at least 2 bytes, and a
long at least 4 bytes. The rules also define a size precedence to the
types. In Stroustrup's book, it says that all type sizes are multiples
of char, "so by definition the size of a char is 1." According to the
rules, that means 1 unit which can be any number of bytes.

Why should I trust the compiler to optimize the memory usage of the
types behind my back?
That question can have one of two meanings IMO.

Q1: How do I know the compiler won't introduce an error in its optimisation?
A: You don't. You'll just have to trust its optimisations or disable them.

Q2: How do I know the compiler is coming up with the best, most
optimised code?
A: You don't. If you want assurance, write in assembly code (with many
years experience behind you).

Trivial low-level optimisations like these have miniscule impact
compared to algorithmic optimisations.
As for portability, wouldn't fixed,
unambiguosly-sized types be much more portable? Doesn't the ambiguity
open the door for me on my system X with compiler Y to rely on its
Z-byte representation of int? And if system-dependent optimization is
desired, wouldn't it be easier to do with fixed-size types instead?


The C++ standard specifies the minimum ranges that integral types must
support. If you consider these to be your maximum ranges then your code
will definitely be portable in that respect. (Note though, that the C
standard library provides ways of getting the exact ranges.)

In any case, you should try IMHO to avoid the concepts of sizes in bits
and bytes when programming in C++ and instead think in higher-level
terms of ranges.

--
Ben Measures
Software programming, Internet design/programming, Gaming freak.

http://ben.measures.org.uk - when I find time
Jul 22 '05 #3

"Shailesh" <hu******@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:CN********************@fe3.columbus.rr.com...
One problem I've been wrestling with for a long time is how to use the
C++ integral data types, vis-a-vis their size.


Try using the standard c (not c++) header:
#include <stdint.h>
it came on board with c99.

This shows the names it allows.
http://www.dinkumware.com/manuals/re...&h=stdint.html

My experience is that this header can be used in c++ programs with no
problems in gcc-based compilers.
Jul 22 '05 #4

"Shailesh" <hu******@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:CN********************@fe3.columbus.rr.com...
One problem I've been wrestling with for a long time is how to use the
C++ integral data types, vis-a-vis their size.


Try using the standard c (not c++) header:
#include <stdint.h>
it came on board with c99.

This shows the names it allows.
http://www.dinkumware.com/manuals/re...&h=stdint.html

My experience is that this header can be used in c++ programs with no
problems in gcc-based compilers.
Jul 22 '05 #5
On Sat, 03 Apr 2004 08:42:10 GMT, Shailesh <hu******@hotmail.com>
wrote in comp.lang.c++:
One problem I've been wrestling with for a long time is how to use the
C++ integral data types, vis-a-vis their size. The C++ rules
guarantee that a char is at least 1 bytes, a short and int at least 2
bytes, and a long at least 4 bytes.
Your statement above is completely incorrect, because you are making
the common mistake of confusing the word "byte" with the word "octet".

In C and C++, the word "byte" is by definition the size of a
character, and is at least 8 bits in width but may be wider. A char
does not contain "at least 1 bytes", it contains exactly one byte,
although that may be larger than one octet. A byte in C and C++ may
have more than 8 bits.

C++ does not guarantee that short and int are at least two bytes,
although they must be at least two octets. Likewise with long.

There are architectures where char contains more than 8 bits, mostly
digital signal processors. On one such DSP, the minimum addressable
unit is 16 bits, that is one byte has 16 bits. The character, short,
and int types all contain 16 bits and their sizeof is 1. Another only
addresses 32 bit quantities. All of the integer types, from char
through long, are 32 bits, and all are exactly one byte.

The rules also define a size
precedence to the types. In Stroustrup's book, it says that all type
sizes are multiples of char, "so by definition the size of a char is
1." According to the rules, that means 1 unit which can be any number
of bytes.
No, the size of a char in C or C++ is exactly one byte, no matter how
many bits it contains. You are still making the common mistake of
assuming that the term "byte" means exactly 8 bits, which it most
certainly does not. Especially in C and C++, where by definition it
does not.
Why should I trust the compiler to optimize the memory usage of the
types behind my back? As for portability, wouldn't fixed,
unambiguosly-sized types be much more portable? Doesn't the ambiguity
open the door for me on my system X with compiler Y to rely on its
Z-byte representation of int? And if system-dependent optimization is
desired, wouldn't it be easier to do with fixed-size types instead?
As others have already pointed out, C++ does not specify the size of
any type in bytes, except for the character types. What it does
specify is the range of values each type must be able to hold. If you
stay within the minimum range of values for a type, it will be
portable to all applications.
One of my gripes is that the terminology is unclear. New programmers
can be especially confused. For example, 'short' and 'long' are
relative adjectives, and they don't say how big or at least how big.
The other extreme are the names like __int8, __int16, and __int32 in
MSVC++. Wouldn't I be much less likely to use something called __int8
to count numbers over 255, than I would something called char? On the
other hand, these keywords fix the size of the type and allow no room
for the compiler to optimize.

If I could invent new types, I would name them something like:

uint8, uint16, uint24, uintN, ... (unsigned integer types)
sint8, sint16, sint24, sintN, ... (signed integer types)
As already pointed out, C's <stdint.h> provides this for hardware
platforms that actually support these exact sizes. The <stdint.h> for
the 16-bit DSP I am currently working with does not typedef the int8_t
and uint8_t types because they do not exist on the hardware.
where N is any multiple of 8 greater than 0 (i.e. arbitrary precision
types would be built-in.) I feel the signed/unsigned aspect is better
part of the keyword, and not separate and optional. The Mozilla
sources are instructive in that their cross-platform code implements
macros following a similar convention; but macros are like pollution.

I'd further have a new keyword like "allowopt", which when placed
after the type keyword grants access to the compiler to optimize the
memory allocation of the type. For example, when I write "uint16
allowopt myCounter;", then I would unambiously be declaring, "Give me
a 16-bit, unsigned, integer called myCounter whose size the compiler
may optimize."

In most compilers, the default setting would be to enable optimization
for all the declarations, and a pragma could turn it off. I have
suspicions about why things are the way they are, but I'd like to hear
the experts' opinions.


You really need to do a net search for stdint.h, or get and read a
copy of the current C standard. All implementations are required to
provide typedefs for types that eliminate the need for the rather
clumsy concept of a keyword like "allowopt".

You can choose required types that are either the smallest or fastest
to hold at least 8, 16, 32, and 64 bits, and an implementation is free
to provide other widths if it supports them.

The feature's of C's <stdint.h> will almost certainly be included in
the next revision of the C++ standard.

--
Jack Klein
Home: http://JK-Technology.Com
FAQs for
comp.lang.c http://www.eskimo.com/~scs/C-faq/top.html
comp.lang.c++ http://www.parashift.com/c++-faq-lite/
alt.comp.lang.learn.c-c++
http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~a...FAQ-acllc.html
Jul 22 '05 #6
On Sat, 03 Apr 2004 08:42:10 GMT, Shailesh <hu******@hotmail.com>
wrote in comp.lang.c++:
One problem I've been wrestling with for a long time is how to use the
C++ integral data types, vis-a-vis their size. The C++ rules
guarantee that a char is at least 1 bytes, a short and int at least 2
bytes, and a long at least 4 bytes.
Your statement above is completely incorrect, because you are making
the common mistake of confusing the word "byte" with the word "octet".

In C and C++, the word "byte" is by definition the size of a
character, and is at least 8 bits in width but may be wider. A char
does not contain "at least 1 bytes", it contains exactly one byte,
although that may be larger than one octet. A byte in C and C++ may
have more than 8 bits.

C++ does not guarantee that short and int are at least two bytes,
although they must be at least two octets. Likewise with long.

There are architectures where char contains more than 8 bits, mostly
digital signal processors. On one such DSP, the minimum addressable
unit is 16 bits, that is one byte has 16 bits. The character, short,
and int types all contain 16 bits and their sizeof is 1. Another only
addresses 32 bit quantities. All of the integer types, from char
through long, are 32 bits, and all are exactly one byte.

The rules also define a size
precedence to the types. In Stroustrup's book, it says that all type
sizes are multiples of char, "so by definition the size of a char is
1." According to the rules, that means 1 unit which can be any number
of bytes.
No, the size of a char in C or C++ is exactly one byte, no matter how
many bits it contains. You are still making the common mistake of
assuming that the term "byte" means exactly 8 bits, which it most
certainly does not. Especially in C and C++, where by definition it
does not.
Why should I trust the compiler to optimize the memory usage of the
types behind my back? As for portability, wouldn't fixed,
unambiguosly-sized types be much more portable? Doesn't the ambiguity
open the door for me on my system X with compiler Y to rely on its
Z-byte representation of int? And if system-dependent optimization is
desired, wouldn't it be easier to do with fixed-size types instead?
As others have already pointed out, C++ does not specify the size of
any type in bytes, except for the character types. What it does
specify is the range of values each type must be able to hold. If you
stay within the minimum range of values for a type, it will be
portable to all applications.
One of my gripes is that the terminology is unclear. New programmers
can be especially confused. For example, 'short' and 'long' are
relative adjectives, and they don't say how big or at least how big.
The other extreme are the names like __int8, __int16, and __int32 in
MSVC++. Wouldn't I be much less likely to use something called __int8
to count numbers over 255, than I would something called char? On the
other hand, these keywords fix the size of the type and allow no room
for the compiler to optimize.

If I could invent new types, I would name them something like:

uint8, uint16, uint24, uintN, ... (unsigned integer types)
sint8, sint16, sint24, sintN, ... (signed integer types)
As already pointed out, C's <stdint.h> provides this for hardware
platforms that actually support these exact sizes. The <stdint.h> for
the 16-bit DSP I am currently working with does not typedef the int8_t
and uint8_t types because they do not exist on the hardware.
where N is any multiple of 8 greater than 0 (i.e. arbitrary precision
types would be built-in.) I feel the signed/unsigned aspect is better
part of the keyword, and not separate and optional. The Mozilla
sources are instructive in that their cross-platform code implements
macros following a similar convention; but macros are like pollution.

I'd further have a new keyword like "allowopt", which when placed
after the type keyword grants access to the compiler to optimize the
memory allocation of the type. For example, when I write "uint16
allowopt myCounter;", then I would unambiously be declaring, "Give me
a 16-bit, unsigned, integer called myCounter whose size the compiler
may optimize."

In most compilers, the default setting would be to enable optimization
for all the declarations, and a pragma could turn it off. I have
suspicions about why things are the way they are, but I'd like to hear
the experts' opinions.


You really need to do a net search for stdint.h, or get and read a
copy of the current C standard. All implementations are required to
provide typedefs for types that eliminate the need for the rather
clumsy concept of a keyword like "allowopt".

You can choose required types that are either the smallest or fastest
to hold at least 8, 16, 32, and 64 bits, and an implementation is free
to provide other widths if it supports them.

The feature's of C's <stdint.h> will almost certainly be included in
the next revision of the C++ standard.

--
Jack Klein
Home: http://JK-Technology.Com
FAQs for
comp.lang.c http://www.eskimo.com/~scs/C-faq/top.html
comp.lang.c++ http://www.parashift.com/c++-faq-lite/
alt.comp.lang.learn.c-c++
http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~a...FAQ-acllc.html
Jul 22 '05 #7
Jack Klein wrote:
As others have already pointed out, C++ does not specify the size of
any type in bytes, except for the character types. What it does
specify is the range of values each type must be able to hold. If you
stay within the minimum range of values for a type, it will be
portable to all applications.


You're right that I had no idea a byte could other than 8-bits. I
also hadn't heard of the stdint.h header. I browsed it online, and it
includes exactly the kinds of things I was looking for. I feel that a
standard header like this would be far better than rolling one's own
fixed-size types. Thank you for pointing it out. The fixed-width
types are very helpful for tightly controlling data representation in
files, memory, and network traffic. On the other hand, with so many
flavors of CPU around, I can see how size is less meaningful in that
context.
Jul 22 '05 #8
Jack Klein wrote:
As others have already pointed out, C++ does not specify the size of
any type in bytes, except for the character types. What it does
specify is the range of values each type must be able to hold. If you
stay within the minimum range of values for a type, it will be
portable to all applications.


You're right that I had no idea a byte could other than 8-bits. I
also hadn't heard of the stdint.h header. I browsed it online, and it
includes exactly the kinds of things I was looking for. I feel that a
standard header like this would be far better than rolling one's own
fixed-size types. Thank you for pointing it out. The fixed-width
types are very helpful for tightly controlling data representation in
files, memory, and network traffic. On the other hand, with so many
flavors of CPU around, I can see how size is less meaningful in that
context.
Jul 22 '05 #9

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