Annoying octal notation

Derek Martin code at
Mon Aug 24 15:56:48 CEST 2009

On Sun, Aug 23, 2009 at 01:13:32PM +0000, Matthew Woodcraft wrote:
> Dennis Lee Bieber <wlfraed at> writes:
> > 	About the only place one commonly sees leading zeros on decimal
> > numbers, in my experience, is zero-filled COBOL data decks (and since
> > classic COBOL stores in BCD anyway... binary (usage is
> > computational/comp-1) was a later add-on to the data specification model
> > as I recall...)
> A more common case is dates.

I suppose this is true, but I can't remember the last time I
hard-coded a date in a program, or worked on someone else's code with
hard-coded dates.  I'm fairly certain I've never done it, and if I
had, I obviously would not have used leading zeros.  I think
hard-coding dates is more uncommon than using octal. ;-)  [It
unquestionably is, for me personally.]  I tend to also discount this
example, because when we write dates with leading zeros, usually it's
in some variation of the form 08/09/2009, which, containing slashes,
is a string, not a number, and can not be used as a date literal in
any language I know.  We do it for reasons of format, which again
implies that it has more the characteristics of a string than of a
number.  To use such a thing in any programming language I can think
of would require translation from a string.

> I've seen people trip over this writing things like
> xxx = [
>     date(2009, 10, 12),
>     date(2009, 12, 26),
>     date(2010, 02, 09),
> ]

I've never seen anyone do this (no doubt because it would be an
error), but as I said, I don't think I've ever seen hard-coded dates
in any programs I've worked on.  I've never encountered anyone having
problems with octals who was not a total noob at programming.  The
changing of this syntax seems like much ado about nothing to me, and
as such is annoying, consider that I use it very often.

Derek D. Martin
GPG Key ID: 0x81CFE75D

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