Possibly Pythonic Tail Call Optimization (TCO/TRE)

Terry Reedy tjreedy at udel.edu
Tue Jul 14 05:36:44 CEST 2015

On 7/13/2015 3:07 PM, Marko Rauhamaa wrote:

> Or, translated into (non-idiomatic) Python code:
> ========================================================================
> def common_prefix_length(bytes_a, bytes_b):
>      def loop(list_a, list_b, common_length):
>          if not list_a:
>              return common_length
>          if not list_b:
>              return common_length
>          if list_a[0] == list_b[0]:
>              return loop(list_a[1:], list_b[1:], common_length + 8)
>          return common_length + \
>                 bit_match[8 - integer_length(list_a[0] ^ list_b[0])]
>      return loop(bytes_a, bytes_b, 0)
> ========================================================================

This is an interesting challenge for conversion.  The straightforward 
while loop conversion is (untested, obviously, without the auxiliary 

def common_prefix_length(bytes_a, bytes_b):
     length = 0
     while bytes_a and bytes_b and bytes_a[0] == bytes_b[0]:
         length += 8
         bytes_a, bytes_b = bytes_a[1:], bytes_b[1:]
     if not bytes_a or not bytes_b:
         return length
         return common_length + bit_match[
             8 - integer_length(bytes_a[0] ^ bytes_b[0])]

Using a for loop and zip to do the parallel iteration for us and avoid 
the list slicing, which is O(n) versus the O(1) lisp (cdr bytes), I 
believe the following is equivalent.

def common_prefix_length(bytes_a, bytes_b):
     length = 0
     for a, b in zip(bytes_a, bytes_b):
         if a == b:
             length += 8
             return length + bit_match[8 - integer_length(a ^ b)]
         # short bytes is prefix of longer bytes
         return length

I think this is much clearer than either recursion or while loop.  It is 
also more general, as the only requirement on bytes_a and bytes_b is 
that they be iterables of bytes with a finite common_prefix, and not 
necessarily sequences with slicing or even indexing.

Terry Jan Reedy

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