Heap based mutable arrays?

Sean Hinde <>
Wed May 2 12:38:47 CEST 2001


Thomas,

> > Support for mutable arrays has almost got to the point of a FAQ.

> HIPE used a third solution for a long time. However, it 
> requires support
> from a generational garbage collector, since it relies on destructive
> updates 'under the hood'.

Yes, my understanding (from reading the papers about it) is that the current
GC is well liked by the OTP guys because it is extremely fast - much faster
than the equivalent generational version. The trade off of not having "under
the hood" destructive updates appears to be a pretty good one. This is
partly what lay behind my suggestion to simply use a heap based destructive
update mechanism like ets which has no GC.

Also once one introduces another way of doing imperative programming into
the language it has the potential to lead to more imperative style side
effect bugs ;) I'm thinking particularly about exception handling where the
result of the function call depends on whether the function crashed before
or after the array operation.

Erlang programmers have (presumably) got used to dealing with this situation
using ets so having something with the same type of library API and general
usage pattern might help somewhat to overcome the weaknesses in the
imperative nature.

Your version would overcome this (i.e. you still provide access to the old
version) but at the expense of more GC complexity..

> What were the advantages:
> 
> - Very useful, in short :-) For HIPE, graph algorithms became much
>   more pleasant. I also implemented hash tables on top of the arrays,
>   which rapidly spread through the compiler. Many common algorithms
>   are much easier to write when your array ADT has the right
>   complexity.

Would you include the declarative bit in the "right complexity"?

> I know there has been discussions about implementing something like
> this in OTP, but I don't know the precise status. Björn G. probably
> knows more :-)

I hope so.. but not at the expense of overall system performance.

Sean



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