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UPGRADE-ARRAY-ELEMENT-TYPE: a sloution for the array TYPEP problem?
- To: Moon@stony-brook.scrc.symbolics.com
- Subject: UPGRADE-ARRAY-ELEMENT-TYPE: a sloution for the array TYPEP problem?
- From: Jon L White <edsel!jonl@labrea.Stanford.EDU>
- Date: Tue, 1 Mar 88 13:09:10 PST
- Cc: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Ram@c.cs.cmu.edu
- In-reply-to: David A. Moon's message of Tue, 1 Mar 88 13:07 EST <19880301180711.6.MOON@EUPHRATES.SCRC.Symbolics.COM>
re: I don't know why the declaration vs discrimination thing was done.
. . .
Offhand getting rid of this distinction into two kinds of types seems
like a good idea. However, I'm a bit leery of changing things in the
language when I don't understand why they are there. . . .
I share your queasiness here. My first impluse is to ask for a function
(which would be "implementation revealing") named UPGRADE-ARRAY-ELEMENT-TYPE
whose purpose would be to tell you what the canonical representation for a
type name is (when used as an :element-type specifier). E.g., suppose:
(setq a (make-array size :element-type 'foo)
(setq real-element-type (upgrade-array-element-type 'foo))
then the following two specifiers would be type-equivalent:
`(array foo) `(array ,real-element-type)
even if "'foo" and "real-element-type" be not type-equivalent. Furthermore,
(typep (aref a n) real-element-type)
is always true, even though in the face of non-trivial upgrading,
(typep (aref a n) 'foo)
could be false.
I would consider UPGRADE-ARRAY-ELEMENT-TYPE in the same genre of features
as MOST-POSITIVE-FIXNUM. Programmers would inevitably choose to use
"real-element-type" rather than "'foo", and ocasionally find that their
code wasn't so trivially portable to a system that had a fundamentally
different kind of upgrading.
But if "upgrading" is to remain in CL, I don't see how we can avoid
opening it up a bit for inspection.
My second impluse is to toss out upgrading altogether, and require every
array to remember the type (or, a canonical name therefor) by which it
was created. The reason this is second, rather than first, on my list is
that to make types absolutely portable this way is a very pyrrhic success.
Sure, your program will port to the Y machine -- it will just run two orders
of magnitude slower [because you started out on, say, a Multics machine
with (MOD 512) arrays optimized, and ported to an implementation for an
engineering workstation that prefers (UNSIGNED-BYTE 8) arrays ...].
Finally, as I've said before, I don't think it's an acceptable solution
for Lisp to take the same route as C (and others) to achieve portability.
The kinds of array types in such languages are limited to a small (albeit
very useful) set that seems inspired by one particular hardware architecture.
-- JonL --
P.S. Of course UPGRADE-ARRAY-ELEMENT-TYPE can currently be implemented
in a "consy" way doing something like:
(array-element-type (make-array 0 :element-type 'foo))
But the presence of a "first class" function UPGRADE-ARRAY-ELEMENT-TYPE
would be more for the purpose of encouraging cognizance of these
problems than for avoiding the consing. Implicitly, such a function
lies underneath any implementation of MAKE-ARRAY already.