[TUHS] History of popularity of C

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Tue Jun 9 01:30:50 AEST 2020

On Sat, Jun 6, 2020 at 5:50 PM Doug McIlroy <doug at cs.dartmouth.edu> wrote:

> > Steve Johnson's position paper on optimising compilers may amuse you:
> > https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/567532.567542
> Indeed. This passage struck a particular chord:
> "I contend that the class of applications that depend on, for example, loop
> optimization and dead code elimination for their efficient solution is of
> modest size, growing smaller, and often very susceptible to expression in
> applicative languages where the optimization is built into the individual
> applicative operators."
> I don't know whether I saw that note at the time, but since then I've
> come to believe, particularly in regard to C, that one case of dead-code
> elmination should be guaranteed. That case is if(0), where 0 is the
> value of a constant expression.
> This guarantee would take the place of many--possibly even
> most--ifdefs. Every ifdef is an ugly intrusion and a pain to read.
> Syntactically it occurs at top level completely out of sync with the
> indentation and flow of text. Conversion to if would be a big win.

This came up on this list back in 2017 and I posted something about this at
the time:


If the language had been extended to support a "compile-type conditional"
syntax ("if #(LINUX)", for example) it would have obviated the need for
most preprocessor conditionals. As long as, syntactically, the compiler
could tokenize a block in absence of e.g. type definitions, dead-code
elimination could do the job.

        - Dan C.
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