Could Python supplant Java?

James J. Besemer jb at
Mon Aug 26 19:19:46 EDT 2002

laotseu wrote:

> James J. Besemer wrote:
>> The conclusion then is that languages such as C++ and Delphi are "late
>> binding" languages and provide full Polymorphism THAT way.
> You started saying that you could implement polymorphism with early 
> binding and gave the C++ as an example. Funny, isn't it ? 

Don't confuse a sarcastic statement made when I'm exhausted by the 
argument with what I really think.  

Since I started a week ago by defining early vs. late binding I hardly 
think it's meaningful for people to argue I'm wrong by changing the 

>> Either way, there's nothing unique about Python's OOP facilities 
>> which was my
>> main point.  
> Who said so ? 

This was a very lengthy thread with many side arguments.  I don't say 
you took this position but some said Python was superior in this regard 
and I disagree.

> I don't see nothing truly new in Python, *except* for the fact that 
> you get (IMHO) best of most languages, and a clear and simple syntax 
> with it. 

I agree.

> Now if you're in for speed, leave out C++ and go for C and assembly. 
> The C++ OOP stuff is not without overhead. 

Well, yes and no.

I ran some benchmarks and depending on OS and CPU speed, C++'s overhead 
for member functions is between 25 and 50% of that for a static function 
call.  Virtual functions are 50-60% more than a static function call.

For Python, a class function call costs between 33-45% more than a 
regular global function.  I suppose the cost is the cost of 2 hash table 
lookups (one for the object reference and one for the object's member 

More interestingly, Python's function calls range from 50X to 360X 
slower than C++s.  So if C++'s OOP overhead is too much for performance 
oriented applications, than Python is right out.  [Although that's the 
inference to be made, I personally think even Python is suitable for 
some "real time" applications.]

This also clearly illustrates the difference between early and late 
binding.  Yes, there is overhead for C++ virtual functions but it's an 
extra instruction inline that runs at machine speeds.  In late binding 
languages such as Python, we're talking a chunk of runtime library C 
code -- one or two orders of magnitude slower.

> Remember that this was about : can a language with late binding be 
> used for a large project ? 

Even THAT was a side argument IIRC.  It started out Python vs. Java 
which has nothing to do with any of the above.

I agree with you that it's ridiculous to say late binding languages 
cannot be used for large projects.  There are many examples from Lisp 
and we're even beginning to see a few using Python.  Where I demur is 
that I think some early binding features become more valuable in larger 
projects.  Essential?  No.  More useful, better than not having them?  Yes.



James J. Besemer		503-280-0838 voice
2727 NE Skidmore St.		503-280-0375 fax
Portland, Oregon 97211-6557	mailto:jb at	

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