Fwd: Transparency

Collin Fagan collin.fagan at gmail.com
Wed Jul 14 19:53:16 PDT 2010

It could be my imperfect understanding your proposal, but when I hear you
talk about ArrayList and not the interface List, List. Well, I get the
feeling that you are talking about an implementation of primitives in
generics for a select few JDK classes only and this mechanism would not be
available to any old programmer who wants to use primitives.

Also while I'm commenting on this idea I'd like to mention that the
auto-boxing genie is out of the bottle. As an example my friend was working
with some code that was backed by a bunch of Map<Long,Set<Long>> objects.
The methods to populate this map took parameters declared as just long. In
this case auto-boxing causes a massive amounts of new Long objects to be

Personally I feel autoboxing ArrayList<int> to ArrayList<Integer> is no more
dangerous or surprising then the current behavior. Which in my experience is
very surprising to people. I think it would be a real benefit if one could
minimize the number of objects created by autoboxing in general. Then
something like this won't be as harmful.

To see just how bad memory allocation was under this model my friend and I
hacked up a quick Long cache. 3/4 of a gig of ram for a heap that was about
8 gig. He is championing a campaign to remove all primitive longs from his
companies code base, but it's an uphill battle.


On Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 5:57 PM, Osvaldo Doederlein <opinali at gmail.com>wrote:

> 2010/7/14 John Nilsson <john at milsson.nu>
> > On Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 12:16 AM, Nathan Bryant
> > <nathan.bryant at linkshare.com> wrote:
> > > John,
> > >
> > > If you mean what I think you mean, that seems to result in a generics
> > that is useful only for interface definition. Either it's not possible to
> > write:
> > >
> > > foo = new ArrayList<int>()
> > >
> > > Or doing so results in autoboxing to Integer, unbeknownst to the user,
> > which is a serious violation of the principle of least surprise.
> >
> > Or there is some clever hacks in ArrayList to handle the issue. An
> > empty array is just empty, so no need to have any specific array-type.
> > If the first element added is an int or Integer you could
> > optimistically assume that all input will be ints and thus allocate an
> > int[], should that assumption turnout to be wrong, in later adds you
> > allocate an Object[].
> >
> This would create some extra effort - instanceof, typecast and branches -
> in
> many critical methods like add(), get() etc. For collections of primitives,
> this would be much better than the cost of boxing; but for collections of
> reference types, we would make existing code (close to 100% of current
> code)
> slower, even if just a bit... which is not acceptable, breaks the "first,
> do
> no harm" principle. (Collections are critical enough that any 1% slowdown
> in
> the general/dominant usage will only pass with some big fight.)
> > I can see how this could be problematic for uninitialized values,
> > return null or 0? Maybe this could be solved by adding a generic
> > "zero"-value that is valid for all types?
> >
> This is not a problem. If the first value added is int and later we
> transition int[]->Object, any unused position (slack due to the exponential
> growing strategy) becomes nulls, but these values are not really contained
> by the collection (they are in positions >= size()). If we ever transition
> Object[]->int[], slack elements are initialized with 0 but once again
> they're not contained. If the collection (in Object[] state) does contains
> nulls, then that collection simply cannot transition to the optimized
> primitive-array form.
> A+
> Osvaldo
> >
> > I'm not saying that this is particularily elegent though...
> >
> > BR,
> > John
> >
> >

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