Setting "value" of an int-derived class

Sam Pointon free.condiments at
Sun Sep 3 01:33:44 CEST 2006

Ken Schutte wrote:
> So, that's good.  But, how can I change the value of x from 5 to
> something else, without creating a new instance?
> I suppose I could create a function that creates a new "foo" and copies
> its attributes, but is there a more direct way?  Is the value "5" stored
> in some special attribute I can just directly modify?

In short, no. In long, ints (and longs, for that matter) are immutable
types implemented in a way that Python can't peek at their internals
easily, and so are very resistant to mutability. Imagine the results if
you mutated 5 to 6 or similar; in fact, you don't want regular numbers
to change without some serious hackage.

As for subclasses, a similar thing holds: Python programs can't see the
internal details. Subclasses just forward the method calls like
__add__, __xor__ etc (providing they're not overriden) to the int
class, which in turn pokes around at the C level and returns an answer.

What you probably want is a proxy class, that forwards all number
methods to a wrapped int, and also has a means of setting the wrapped
int. A minimal untested implementation:

class IntWrapper(object):
    def __init__(self, num):
        self.num = num
    def __getattr__(self, attr):
        if attr == 'num':
            return object.__getattr__(self, 'num')
        return getattr(self.num, attr)

Of course, this isn't actually what you asked for, a subclass of int.
But, bar hacking on the C level, which is possible but a bit extreme,
this is the closest thing to a mutable number.

But, personally, I happen to like the memory-wastetastic,
new-instance-returning but functionally purer style. It tends to lead
to less irreplicable bizarre bugs because of objects seemingley
semi-randomly changing state, and Python's garbage collection systems
are fairly good at picking up unused objects. ;)


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