2010-05-30

Book review: The Design and Evolution of C++

This book is very interesting in that it doesn't tell you how to program in C++ but rather highlights why C++ is the way it is today. It starts with the very roots, an extension to the C language ('C with classes'') Bjarne devised back in 1979, because he faced a software engineering problem at the time where all currently available tools seemed inappropriate. This highly real world oriented design attitude was kept throughout the evolution of C++ - Bjarne specifically didn't want to produce an 'academic' language. This view and the absolute necessity for C compatibility and efficiency explain lots, if not all, of C++s more ugly syntactic and semantic constructs. While the book has chapters dealing with very specific parts of the language, I found the philosophical chapters the most interesting. These explain the author's personal views on programming and design in general and consequently why certain things were accepted or rejected into C++. Bjarne stresses the point that C++ was designed from the beginning to be a 'multiple paradigm' language. Object oriented programming was never meant to be, and is not, the only valid - holy grail - style of programming, that many make it out to be. It's quite frustrating to see features devised ten years ago still not properly supported by the current crop of compilers, templates for example (export anyone?).

The book is not for the novice programmer, but for the experienced C++ user who wants to know the whys behind the language. While a novice might be interested in that information too, it is not an advisable lecture for those readers, since they might easily get confused with the source code examples showing directions in which C++ did not evolve.

To quote one of the design goals: 'C++ is a general-purpose language designed to make programming more enjoyable for the serious programmer' - I think it succeeded.