"Strong typing vs. strong testing"

Keith Thompson kst-u at mib.org
Thu Sep 30 01:07:19 CEST 2010

RG <rNOSPAMon at flownet.com> writes:
> In article 
> <07f75df3-778d-4e3d-8aa0-fbd4bd108a57 at k22g2000prb.googlegroups.com>,
>  Squeamizh <squeamz at hotmail.com> wrote:
>> On Sep 29, 3:02 pm, RG <rNOSPA... at flownet.com> wrote:
>> > This is a red herring.  You don't have to invoke run-time input to
>> > demonstrate bugs in a statically typed language that are not caught by
>> > the compiler.  For example:
>> >
>> > [ron at mighty:~]$ cat foo.c
>> > #include <stdio.h>
>> >
>> > int maximum(int a, int b) {
>> >   return (a > b ? a : b);
>> >
>> > }
>> >
>> > int foo(int x) { return 9223372036854775807+x; }
>> >
>> > int main () {
>> >   printf("%d\n", maximum(foo(1), 1));
>> >   return 0;}
>> >
>> > [ron at mighty:~]$ gcc -Wall foo.c
>> > [ron at mighty:~]$ ./a.out
>> > 1
>> >
>> > Even simple arithmetic is Turing-complete, so catching all type-related
>> > errors at compile time would entail solving the halting problem.
>> >
>> > rg
>> In short, static typing doesn't solve all conceivable problems.
> More specifically, the claim made above:
>> in C I can have a function maximum(int a, int b) that will always
>> work. Never blow up, and never give an invalid answer.
> is false.  And it is not necessary to invoke the vagaries of run-time 
> input to demonstrate that it is false.

But the above maximum() function does exactly that.  The program's
behavior happens to be undefined or implementation-defined for reasons
unrelated to the maximum() function.

Depending on the range of type int on the given system, either the
behavior of the addition in foo() is undefined (because it overflows),
or the implicit conversion of the result to int either yields an
implementation-defined result or (in C99) raises an
implementation-defined signal; the latter can lead to undefined

Since 9223372036854775807 is 2**63-1, what *typically* happens is that
the addition yields the value 0, but the C language doesn't require that
particular result.  You then call maximum with arguments 0 and 1, and
it quite correctly returns 1.

>> We are all aware that there is no perfect software development process
>> or tool set.  I'm interested in minimizing the number of problems I
>> run into during development, and the number of bugs that are in the
>> finished product.  My opinion is that static typed languages are
>> better at this for large projects, for the reasons I stated in my
>> previous post.
> More power to you.  What are you doing here on cll then?

This thread is cross-posted to several newsgroups, including

Keith Thompson (The_Other_Keith) kst-u at mib.org  <http://www.ghoti.net/~kst>
"We must do something.  This is something.  Therefore, we must do this."
    -- Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, "Yes Minister"

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