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Agreed. And it starts from his very first example, about the implementation of the copy() function. C is not a type safe language and programmers who use it knows that, sometimes it might even be an advantage. For instance for me, if I'm writing or using such a copy() function which does not ask for a length to copy, I know it is because it will need a proper C string. For some others it may be that they know that their functions will use a global maximum length and that the inputs they provide to the function are respecting that. But no half-decent C programmer will use this function as a totally safe one on any possible inputs. Especially if they saw the implementation.

The "correctness" the author is asking for here is not what you want from a typical C functions. If you really need this kind of "correctness" then maybe you are using the wrong language and should check our either a high-level tolerant scripting language or a statically typed one.




Yes, and that is just one level. When you write about programming you have to be very clear about what you are trying to get across, and when you put that focus into practice other things suffer because you are competing against the rest of the world for the reader's attention.

Kernighan and Ritchie could have decided to write the book as absolute hard-asses, making the most bullet-proof copy routine imaginable, but in the end they would've been writing a different book, not a primer for a language.


If you're illustrating concepts — such as iterating through an array to find a specific value which will be there because the data structure being examined is defined to contain it at some point, then writing a function that assumes the value won't be there is didactically bizarre.

Zed is suggesting that the teaching point of the code sample be ignored in favor of an altogether different and less useful teaching point. This is not a case of not understanding C (which he cleary does understand) but not understanding how to teach.

At best, his entire point could be addressed in K&R by a cautionary footnote or a later discussion of code hardening.




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