Re: Garbage collection in C++

James Kanze <>
Tue, 18 Nov 2008 03:09:18 -0800 (PST)
On Nov 18, 12:40 am, Sam <> wrote:

James Kanze writes:

On Nov 17, 1:08 pm, Sam <> wrote:

James Kanze writes:

It's not necessary, no. For that matter, classes aren't
necessary either. Garbage collection is just a tool: it

So is a shovel. It's also a tool. There are situations
where you can use a shovel to do something useful. C++
isn't one of them.

You might try a better analogy. Shovels aren't used in
programming in general (although there are more than a few
programs that I would like to bury). Garbage collection is
useful in C++, and in fact, is actively being used by a
number of programmers.

Garbage collection is as useful for C++ as a fifth leg would
be useful to a dog. A dog with five legs might find some use
for the extra one, but most of the time it would just get in
the way.

Another ridiculous analogy, which doesn't relate to anything.

Some people may find some cockamamie "garbage collection
library" useful, but many more do not.

Really. Every one I've talked to who's used the Boehm collector
has found it useful.

Furthermore, there are also people who also find intermediate
code generators useful too. Specifically ones that swallow
some glob of XML, and spew out robo-generate spaghetti code
that does something else XML-related. It's useful to a small
minority, because it allows them to put their brain in "park",
and not bother learning how the stuff should work. Which
leaves them completely helpless if the end result does not
work as expected, since they have no clue how the spaghetti
code works, and what's wrong with it.

In other words, if I need to tokenize input, I should write my
tokenizer by hand, rather than use some regular expression based
tool. If I want to test my application, I should write all of
the boiler plate code by hand, rather than using some test
generator. If I want to run a program consisting of machine
instructions, I should write the machine instructions by hand,
rather than using some compiler and linker.

I think you're being a bit silly. And missing the point. Doing
less work (writing less lines of code, etc.) is good.

He discusses the subject, but not from a position of
advocacy, and actually argues that there are better
techniques available, in C++, than garbage collection.

There are certainly better techniques for some things. For
others, not necessarily. Anything which reduces the amount
of code I have to write myself is a good thing; there are

There is no such magic wand that one can wave, and make a
bunch of code disappear. Anyone who thinks that is fooling
themselves. Garbage collection-based design results in larger
memory requirements, greater resources, and slower code.

Than what? In the cases I've actually seen, garbage collection
does result in increased memory use, sometimes significantly,
and this must be taken into account. (But what is cheaper,
memory, or programmer time.) In most cases, it results in the
program running faster, or appearing to. (But of course, you
could manually optimize the non-garbage collected code to do the
same thing.)

James Kanze (GABI Software)
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