Please help with MemoryError

Alf P. Steinbach alfps at
Fri Feb 12 23:12:06 CET 2010

* Antoine Pitrou:
> Le Fri, 12 Feb 2010 17:14:57 +0000, Steven D'Aprano a écrit :
>> What Python does is called "pass by sharing", or sometimes "pass by
>> object reference". It is exactly the same as what (e.g.) Ruby and Java
>> do, except that confusingly the Ruby people call it "pass by reference"
>> and the Java people call it "pass by value", thus guaranteeing the
>> maximum amount of confusion possible.
> Well, I think the Ruby people got it right. Python *does* pass parameters 
> by reference. After all, we even speak about reference counting, 
> reference cycles, etc.
> So I'm not sure what distinction you're making here.

Steven talks about the standard meaning of "pass by reference".

Essentially that means that you can implement a routine "swap" such that

   a = 1; b = 2; swap( a, b )

results in a == 2 and b == 1.

In Pascal that's 'var' parameters, in C there's no such, in C++ it's reference 
type parameters using '&' as a type builder, in C# it's 'out' and 'ref' 
parameters (I think C# has both the most practical and the most elegant 
implementation, you can see at the call site whether it's by reference), so on.

To some degree "pass by reference" is however just a collection of special cases 
with some similarity. For example, if one says that the guiding principle & main 
criterion is that one should not have to indicate the pass by reference at the 
call site, then that would exclude C#. But if one allows some indication at the 
call site, then that would perhaps include C (applying the & address op), which 
everyone agrees does not have call by reference.

So, to understand the conventional meaning of the term it is perhaps necessary 
to have some knowledge of all the special cases, like here C# versus C.

Cheers & hth.,

- Alf

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