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Date: -- (:)
From: Brian Hurt <bhurt@s...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] Re: immutable strings (Re: Array 4 MB size limit)


On Wed, 24 May 2006, Martin Jambon wrote:

> And obviously it's not possible to handle only immutable strings since 
> somehow you have to create them, and unlike record fields, they won't be 
> set in one operation but in n operations, n being the length of the 
> string.

This is the advantage of regular expressions- they can be implemented on 
immutable strings (regular expressions don't modify the old strings, they 
produce new strings), and can change large chunks of the string in one 
"operation", limiting the number of unnecessary string copies you need to 
do.  Yes, the underlying implementation would be mutable- but so is they 
underlying implementation of everything else.  The semantics remain 
applicative.

Note that this also eliminates an inefficiency of ocaml.  When you use a 
constant string, it has to allocate a new string for you.  Consider 
Ocaml's response to the expression:

"foo" == "foo";;

The reason ocaml returns false in the above expression is that when you 
give a constant string in an expression, Ocaml first has to make a copy of 
that string (in case you modify it), and then it returns the copy.  So it 
makes two copies of the string "foo" above, and then compares them for 
referential equality- which, since they're different copies, returns 
false.

Note that even pure-imperitive languages, like C/C++, hit this problem. 
What is the output of the following peice of C code:
     for (i = 0; i < 10; ++i) {
         char * p = "foo";
         p[0] += 1;
         printf("%s\n", p);
     }

C/C++ itself wants *some* strings to be immutable.  Fortran used to let 
you change the value of 2, which made for some interesting (in the bad 
sense) code tricks.  I comment that they've since fixed this.  But mutable 
strings allow you to change the value of "two", which is almost as bad.

Brian