Rockbox mail archive
Subject: RE: C++ in Rockbox
From: Nick Robinson (notch_at_engineer.com)
Okay okay I know it's off topic... apologies in advance... but I thought it
was rather good...
On the 1st of January, 1998, Bjarne Stroustrup gave an interview to the
> IEEE's 'Computer' magazine.
> Naturally, the editors thought he would be giving a retrospective view
> of seven years of object-oriented design, using the language he
> By the end of the interview, the interviewer got more than he had
> bargained for and, subsequently, the editor decided to suppress its
> contents, 'for the good of the industry' but, as with many of these
> things, there was a leak.
> Here is a complete transcript of what was was said,unedited, and
> unrehearsed, so it isn't as neat as planned interviews.
> You will find it interesting...
> Interviewer: Well, it's been a few years since you changed the world
> of software design, how does it feel, looking back?
> Stroustrup: Actually, I was thinking about those days, just before you
> arrived. Do you remember? Everyone was writing 'C' and, the trouble
> was, they were pretty damn good at it. Universities got pretty good at
> teaching it, too. They were turning out competent - I stress the word
> 'competent' - graduates at a phenomenal rate. That's what caused the
> Interviewer: problem?
> Stroustrup: Yes, problem. Remember when everyone wrote Cobol?
> Interviewer: Of course, I did too
> Stroustrup: Well, in the beginning, these guys were like demi-gods.
> Their salaries were high, and they were treated like royalty.
> Interviewer: Those were the days, eh?
> Stroustrup: Right. So what happened? IBM got sick of it, and
> invested millions in training programmers, till they were a dime a
> Interviewer: That's why I got out. Salaries dropped within a year, to
> the point where being a journalist actually paid better.
> Stroustrup: Exactly. Well, the same happened with 'C' programmers.
> Interviewer: I see, but what's the point?
> Stroustrup: Well, one day, when I was sitting in my office, I thought
> of this little scheme, which would redress the balance a little. I
> thought 'I wonder what would happen, if there were a language so
> complicated, so difficult to learn, that nobody would ever be able to
> swamp the market with programmers? Actually, I got some of the ideas
> from X10, you know, X windows. That was such a bitch of a graphics
> system, that it only just ran on those Sun 3/60 things. They had all
> the ingredients for what I wanted. A really ridiculously complex
> syntax, obscure functions, and pseudo-OO structure. Even now, nobody
> writes raw X-windows code. Motif is the only way to go if you want to
> retain your sanity.
> [NJW Comment: That explains everything. Most of my thesis work was in
> raw X-windows. :)]
> Interviewer: You're kidding...?
> Stroustrup: Not a bit of it. In fact, there was another problem. Unix
> was written in 'C', which meant that any 'C' programmer could very
> easily become a systems programmer. Remember what a mainframe systems
> programmer used to earn?
> Interviewer: You bet I do, that's what I used to do.
> Stroustrup: OK, so this new language had to divorce itself from Unix,
> by hiding all the system calls that bound the two together so nicely.
> This would enable guys who only knew about DOS to earn a decent living
> Interviewer: I don't believe you said that...
> Stroustrup: Well, it's been long enough, now, and I believe most
> people have figured out for themselves that C++ is a waste of time but,
> I must say, it's taken them a lot longer than I thought it would.
> Interviewer: So how exactly did you do it?
> Stroustrup: It was only supposed to be a joke, I never thought people
> would take the book seriously. Anyone with half a brain can see that
> object-oriented programming is counter-intuitive, illogical and
> Interviewer: What?
> Stroustrup: And as for 're-useable code' - when did you ever hear of a
> company re-using its code?
> Interviewer: Well, never, actually, but...
> Stroustrup: There you are then. Mind you, a few tried, in the early
> days. There was this Oregon company - Mentor Graphics, I think they
> were called - really caught a cold trying to rewrite everything in C++
> in about '90 or '91. I felt sorry for them really, but I thought
> people would learn from their mistakes.
> Interviewer: Obviously, they didn't?
> Stroustrup: Not in the slightest. Trouble is, most companies hush-up
> all their major blunders, and explaining a $30 million loss to the
> shareholders would have been difficult. Give them their due, though,
> they made it work in the end.
> Interviewer: They did? Well, there you are then, it proves O-O works.
> Stroustrup: Well, almost. The executable was so huge, it took five
> minutes to load, on an HP workstation, with 128MB of RAM. Then it ran
> like treacle. Actually, I thought this would be a major stumbling-block,
> and I'd get found out within a week, but nobody cared. Sun and HP were
> only too glad to sell enormously powerful boxes, with huge resources
> just to run trivial programs. You know, when we had our first C++
> compiler, at AT&T, I compiled 'Hello World', and couldn't believe the
> size of the executable. 2.1MB
> Interviewer: What? Well, compilers have come a long way, since then.
> Stroustrup: They have? Try it on the latest version of g++ - you
> won't get much change out of half a megabyte. Also, there are several
> quite recent examples for you, from all over the world. British
> Telecom had a major disaster on their hands but, luckily, managed to
> scrap the whole thing and start again. They were luckier than
> Australian Telecom. Now I hear that Siemens is building a dinosaur,
> and getting more and more worried as the size of the hardware gets
> bigger, to accommodate the executables. Isn't multiple inheritance a
> Interviewer: Yes, but C++ is basically a sound language.
> Stroustrup: You really believe that, don't you? Have you ever sat
> down and worked on a C++ project? Here's what happens: First, I've
> put in enough pitfalls to make sure that only the most trivial projects
> will work first time. Take operator overloading. At the end of the
> project, almost every module has it, usually, because guys feel they
> really should do it, as it was in their training course. The same
> operator then means something totally different in every module. Try
> pulling that lot together, when you have a hundred or so modules. And
> as for data hiding. God, I sometimes can't help laughing when I hear
> about the problems companies have making their modules talk to each
> other. I think the word 'synergistic' was specially invented to twist
> the knife in a project manager's ribs.
> Interviewer: I have to say, I'm beginning to be quite appalled at all
> this. You say you did it to raise programmers' salaries? That's
> Stroustrup: Not really. Everyone has a choice. I didn't expect the
> thing to get so much out of hand. Anyway, I basically succeeded. C++
> is dying off now, but programmers still get high salaries - especially
> those poor devils who have to maintain all this crap. You do realise,
> it's impossible to maintain a large C++ software module if you didn't
> actually write it?
> Interviewer: How come?
> Stroustrup: You are out of touch, aren't you? Remember the typedef?
> Interviewer: Yes, of course.
> Stroustrup: Remember how long it took to grope through the header
> files only to find that 'RoofRaised' was a double precision number?
> Well, imagine how long it takes to find all the implicit typedefs in
> all the Classes in a major project.
> Interviewer: So how do you reckon you've succeeded?
> Stroustrup: Remember the length of the average-sized 'C' project?
> About 6 months. Not nearly long enough for a guy with a wife and kids
> to earn enough to have a decent standard of living. Take the same
> project, design it in C++ and what do you get? I'll tell you. One to
> two years. Isn't that great? All that job security, just through one
> mistake of judgement. And another thing. The universities haven't
> been teaching 'C' for such a long time, there's now a shortage of
> decent 'C' programmers. Especially those who know anything about Unix
> systems programming. How many guys would know what to do with
> 'malloc', when they've used 'new' all these years - and never bothered
> to check the return code. In fact, most C++ programmers throw away
> their return codes. Whatever happened to good ol' '-1'? At least you
> knew you had an error, without bogging the thing down in all that
> 'throw' 'catch' 'try' stuff.
> Interviewer: But, surely, inheritance does save a lot of time?
> Stroustrup: does it? Have you ever noticed the difference between a
> 'C' project plan, and a C++ project plan? The planning stage for a C++
> project is three times as long. Precisely to make sure that everything
> which should be inherited is, and what shouldn't isn't. Then, they
> still get it wrong. Whoever heard of memory leaks in a 'C' program?
> Now finding them is a major industry. Most companies give up, and send
> the product out, knowing it leaks like a sieve, simply to avoid the
> expense of tracking them all down.
> Interviewer: There are tools...
> Stroustrup: Most of which were written in C++.
> Interviewer: If we publish this, you'll probably get lynched, you do
> realise that?
> Stroustrup: I doubt it. As I said, C++ is way past its peak now, and
> no company in its right mind would start a C++ project without a pilot
> trial. That should convince them that it's the road to disaster. If
> not, they deserve all they get. You know, I tried to convince Dennis
> Ritchie to rewrite Unix inC++.
> Interviewer: Oh my God. What did he say?
> Stroustrup: Well, luckily, he has a good sense of humor. I think both
> he and Brian figured out what I was doing, in the early days, but never
> let on. He said he'd help me write a C++ version of DOS, if I was
> Interviewer: Were you?
> Stroustrup: Actually, I did write DOS in C++, I'll give you a demo
> when we're through. I have it running on a Sparc 20 in the computer
> room. Goes like a rocket on 4 CPU's, and only takes up 70 megs of
> Interviewer: What's it like on a PC?
> Stroustrup: Now you're kidding. Haven't you ever seen Windows '95? I
> think of that as my biggest success. Nearly blew the game before I was
> ready, though.
> Interviewer: You know, that idea of a Unix++ has really got me
> thinking. Somewhere out there, there's a guy going to try it.
> Stroustrup: Not after they read this interview.
> Interviewer: I'm sorry, but I don't see us being able to publish any
> of this.
> Stroustrup: But it's the story of the century. I only want to be
> remembered by my fellow programmers, for what I've done for them. You
> know how much a C++ guy can get these days?
> Interviewer: Last I heard, a really top guy is worth $70 - $80 an
> Stroustrup: See? And I bet he earns it. Keeping track of all the
> gotchas I put into C++ is no easy job. And, as I said before, every
> C++ programmer feels bound by some mystic promise to use every damn
> element of the language on every project. Actually, that really annoys
> me sometimes, even though it serves my original purpose. I almost like
> the language after all this time.
> Interviewer: You mean you didn't before?
> Stroustrup: Hated it. It even looks clumsy, don't you agree? But
> when the book royalties started to come in... well, you get the
> Interviewer: Just a minute. What about references? You must admit,
> you improved on 'C' pointers.
> Stroustrup: Hmm. I've always wondered about that. Originally, I
> thought I had. Then, one day I was discussing this with a guy who'd
> written C++ from the beginning. He said he could never remember
> whether his variables were referenced or dereferenced, so he always
> used pointers. He said the little asterisk always reminded him.
> Interviewer: Well, at this point, I usually say 'thank you very much'
> but it hardly seems adequate.
> Stroustrup: Promise me you'll publish this. My conscience is getting
> the better of me these days.
> Interviewer: I'll let you know, but I think I know what my editor will
> Stroustrup: Who'd believe it anyway? Although, can you send me a copy
> of that tape?
> Interviewer: I can do that.
> [Note - for the humor-impaired, not a true story. Making the rounds -
At 11:05 26/06/2002 +0200, you wrote:
>On Wed, 26 Jun 2002 Henri.David_at_nokia.com wrote:
> > I would say the main advantage of C over C++ for this project is that C
> > produce Faster and Smaller code. in this project, i guess we need both,
> > ans small code.
>I would say no to both statements. It is all up to how you write your code -
>you can after all write C-code with a C++ compiler.
>Naming a function lcd_update() or lcd::update() gives no difference. Björn
>named the major advantages of using C.
>But the likelyhood that somebody will make terrible slow and large code
>has increased with C++. People has a tendency to use everything C++ offers
>just because it is there (streams, new-operator, overloading operators, etc).
>Let us protect ourself from those people :-)
> // Kjell
Page was last modified "Jan 10 2012" The Rockbox Crew