tail-rec decorator, well still blows the stack...

Terry Reedy tjreedy at udel.edu
Tue Jul 22 07:35:11 CEST 2008

ssecorp wrote:
> http://aspn.activestate.com/ASPN/Cookbook/Python/Recipe/496691
> so I try it and when I run:
> @Decorators.tail_recursion
> def fibtr(n):
>     def fibt(a, b, n):
>         if n <= 1:
>             return b
>         else:
>             return fibt(b, a + b, n - 1)
>     if n == 0:
>         return 0
>     else:
>         return fibt(0, 1, n);
> it still blows the stack. so what is the point? is it impossible to
> get "real" tail-recursion in Python?

As you have used it, the decorator wraps the *outer* non-recursive 
function which is just called once anyway.  Useless.  Try wrapping fibt 

That said, this recipe significantly increases the running time by 
multiplying the number of function calls by about three.  I do not 
regard it as removing the recursion, but, rather, as making it indirect 
(via two other calls) so as to remove the unneeded stack frames (and the 
space problem) in between recursive calls.  Much simpler is the trivial 
rewrite with while to do 'in frame recursion', or iteration.  This also 
removes the need for outer and inner function.

rearrange fibt as

def fibt(a,b,n):
   if n > 1:
     return fibt(b, a+b, n-1)
     return b

and rewrite as

def fibi(a,b,n):
   while n > 1:
     a,b,n = b,a+b,n-1
   return b

by directly binding the new arguments to the parameters.
Move the initialization inside the function (and delete the outer 
wrapper) to get

def fib(n):
   if n==0:
     return 0
     a,b = 0,1
     while n > 1:
       a,b,n = b,a+b,n-1
     return b

and even turn the induction back a step and simplify to

def fib(n):
   a,b = 1,0
   while n:
     a,b,n = b,a+b,n-1
   return b

Why do some people fight writing efficient beautiful code like this that 
works with Python's design to instead write less efficient and uglier 
code that works against Python's design?

If you do not want function calls (and runtime name resolution), do not 
write them!

Terry Jan Reedy

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