[swift-evolution] [Draft] Target-specific CChar

William Dillon william at housedillon.com
Wed Mar 2 13:26:15 CST 2016

On March 2, 2016 at 11:14:26 AM, Dmitri Gribenko (gribozavr at gmail.com) wrote:

On Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 11:13 AM, Dmitri Gribenko <gribozavr at gmail.com> wrote:  
> On Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 11:10 AM, Joe Groff <jgroff at apple.com> wrote:  
>>> On Mar 2, 2016, at 11:06 AM, Dmitri Gribenko via swift-evolution <swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:  
>>> On Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 11:03 AM, William Dillon <william at housedillon.com> wrote:  
>>>> It does violate the principle of least astonishment, but we should  
>>>> acknowledge that the implementation-specific nature of C's char signedness  
>>>> is making code *less* portable, not more -- because the same code can mean  
>>>> different things on different platforms. Reflecting the same in Swift makes  
>>>> Swift code less portable, too.  
>>>> Dmitri  
>>>> That is a fair point, and I agree for the most part. However, It is my  
>>>> intent and expectation that the use of CChar would be limited to the margins  
>>>> where C APIs are imported. Once values become a part of Swift (and used in  
>>>> places outside of the C interface) they should have been cast into a pure  
>>>> Swift type (such as UInt8, Int8, Int, etc).  
>>> True, but how can you cast a CChar portably into UInt8 or Int8? Only  
>>> via the bitPattern initializer, because the regular initializer will  
>>> trap on values outside of the 0..<128 range on signed platforms or  
>>> unsigned platforms.  
>> Could we treat CChar as a "signless" byte type, so that UInt8(cchar) and Int8(cchar) both just reinterpret the bit pattern?  
> That is viable, but it opens a whole another can of worms:  
> - we need CChar to be a separate type,  
> - other unlabelled integer initializers trap when changing the numeric  
> value, and this one would be wildly inconsistent.  

... but if we don't provide any arithmetic operations on the CChar  
type, and treat it as an opaque byte-sized character type that you can  
only convert to UInt8/Int8, it might not be bad!  


I, to, like this solution.  It would be moderately more work to transition to, but I think it’s better overall.

- Will

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