Comment on PEP-0238

Tim Peters at
Tue Jul 10 07:59:58 CEST 2001

> The last time we solved a "it's *hard* to make sure temporary context
> changes get undone!" problem in Python was via adding ">>" to
> "print" <0.8 wink>.

[Greg Ewing]
> In other words, the solution was to get rid of the
> context and make it a parameter to the operation
> instead. I think there is an important lesson to
> be learned there somewhere <0.000 wink>.

If you want to turn every + - * / etc into a long-winded function call
explicitly passing and updating a context object, you can already do so in
Java (lightly edited from
<>, to avoid split lines):

/* Demonstration program showing use of the enhanced BigDecimal class. */
/*                                                                     */
/* This shows the results of repeatedly dividing by ten, using:        */
/*   BigDecimal (decimal floating point)                               */
/*   float      (binary floating point)                                */
/* datatypes.                                                          */

import*;   // import BigDecimal and MathContext

public class decdemo
  public static void main(String args[])
    String        s;                    // work variable
    float         f=9;                  // binary floating point var
    BigDecimal    d=new BigDecimal(9);  // decimal floating point var
    MathContext def=MathContext.DEFAULT;// standard arithmetic context

    for (int i=0; i<10; i++)
      d=d.divide(BigDecimal.TEN, def);  // divide using decimal fp
      f=f/10;                           // divide using binary fp

      // pad the first result with blanks for display, then display both
      s=s.concat(new String(new char[10-s.length()])).replace('\000',' ');
      System.out.println(s+" "+String.valueOf(f));

Does anybody in their right mind want to endure (no, it doesn't look a *lot*
better in Python <wink>)

      d = d.divide(BigDecimal.TEN, def)

for routine use?  Context is an inherent part of finite arithmetic; it can't
be wished away.  Although if it's made an implicit part of thread-local
state it can be *ignored* by most people most of the time (just like *you*
likely ignore the 6 implicit inputs to, and 5 implicit outputs of, every
binary 754 fp operation you perform today).

practicality-beats-purity-ly y'rs  - tim

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