[Python-Dev] Switch statement

Guido van Rossum guido at python.org
Fri Jun 23 22:48:47 CEST 2006

This post is too long for me to respond right now. I'm inviting others
to respond. I've got a feeling you're coming late to this discussion
and we're going around in circles.


On 6/23/06, Jim Jewett <jimjjewett at gmail.com> wrote:
> In http://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-dev/2006-June/066409.html,
> Guido wrote
> > (1) An expression of the form 'static' <atom> has the semantics of
> > evaluating the atom at the same time as the nearest surrounding
> > function definition.
> (A)  I prefer a term other than 'static'.
> Looking at various contexts in just C, C++, and Java, I have seen
> static used to imply (at least) each of private, global, singleton,
> class-level, and constant.
> This suggested usage sounds more like a cross between "auxiliary
> variable in a Lisp lambda form" and "compile-time defined constant".
> (B)  I would prefer semantics closer to Java's final variables:  by
> declaring something final, you would be promising that the next
> expression can be treated as though it were a literal constant.
> Python will evaluate it at least once after the "final" keyword but
> before it gets used; anything more than that should be up to the
> implementation.
> The only advantage I see of specifying the time more tightly is that
> people could use things that really aren't constant, iff they get the
> timing right.
> In http://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-dev/2006-June/066432.html,
> Steven Bethard posted a fix for the "I-didn't-want-a-closure" problem
> that uses this -- but realistically, people would still be burned by
> unexpected closures just as often as they are today; the only benefit
> is that the correct workaround is cleaner.
> First time use has more compelling use cases, but I'm not sure they're
> compelling enough.
> (C)  Yes, I realize that you prefer to freeze only objects (the
> results of expressions), and weren't sure about the form which also
> froze the name.  But realistically, if a "final" name is rebound, that
> is probably an error worth flagging.  I do realize that this gets into
> a wider issue about how to seal a namespace.
> > If there is no surrounding function definition,
> > 'static' is a no-op and the expression is evaluated every time.
> uhm ... OK ... so why even allow it at all?  Just for consistency with
> the implied static of a case statement, even though it won't mean the
> same thing?
> > [Alternative 1: this is an error]
> OK, but ...
> Things like re.DOTALL should also be final; things like
> urlparse.uses_relative should not.  It seems a shame to spend a
> keyword saying "treat this as constant" and still not be able to do so
> with module-level globals.
> > [Alternative 2: it is evaluated before the module is entered;
> > this would imply it can not involve any imported names but it can
> > involve builtins]
> And parsing must take at least one more pass, and static still better
> not appear inside an if statement, and ...
> > [Alternative 3: precomputed the first time the switch is entered]
> OK, though it will be anti-efficient compared to bailing out when you
> hit a match.
> Alternative 4:  computed at some point after discovering it is final,
> but before using it.  For case expressions, this would be after
> starting to compute the switch dictionary, but before executing
> anything in the suite of this or a later alternative.
> > (2) All case expressions in a switch have an implied 'static'.
> Good.  But again, I would prefer that the names also be frozen, so
> that people won't expect that they can change the clauses; using a
> variable in a clause should be fine, but rebinding that name later
> (within the same persistent scope) is at best misleading.
> > (3) A switch is implemented using a dict which is precomputed at the
> > same time its static expressions are precomputed. The switch
> > expression must be hashable. Overlap between different cases will
> > raise an exception at precomputation time.
> Again, I'm not sure it makes sense to specify the time.  Any
> specification will cause the following to be well-defined, but someone
> will be surprised at any particular result.  My best guess is that it
> your proposal would catch ("A1", "B1", "C1", "D2")
>     a="A1"
>     b="B1"
>     c="C1"
>     d="D1"
>     def f(v):
>         if sys.version_info > (2, 5, 0, "", 0):
>             a="A2"
>         else:
>             a="A3"
>         b = static "B2"
>         c = "C2"
>         static d = "D2"
>         switch v:
>         case in (a, b, c, d): ...
> I'm not convinced that we should forbid building the dictionary as
> needed, so that it may not contain the last several cases until it
> gets an input that doesn't match earlier cases.  (Though I do see the
> argument for raising an Exception as early as possible if there are
> conflicts.)
> -jJ
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--Guido van Rossum (home page: http://www.python.org/~guido/)

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