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RFC 324 (v2) Extend AUTOLOAD functionality to AUTOGLOB

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September 30, 2000 23:32
RFC 324 (v2) Extend AUTOLOAD functionality to AUTOGLOB
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=head1 TITLE

Extend AUTOLOAD functionality to AUTOGLOB

=head1 VERSION

  Maintainer: David Cantrell <>
  Date: 26 Sep 2000
  Last Modified: 30 Sep 2000
  Mailing List:
  Number: 324
  Version: 2
  Status: Developing
  Original co-author: David H. Adler <>


The functionality of the existing AUTOLOAD should be available for all

=head1 CHANGES

Comments received have been that it would be better to use AUTOSCALAR,
AUTOHASH etc instead of AUTOGLOB in the interests of encapsulation.
The argument being that if you only want to implement AUTO scalars in
your program, then doing:

C<if($type_of_thing eq 'scalar') {
	# do some stuff
} else {
	# use our parent's AUTOGLOB

breaks encapsulation.  However, these sort of shenanigans are common in
other OO languages such as Java and C++, and in any case, we still need
to 'break encapsulation' like this if RFC 8 is implemented.  If
programmers really want to use AUTOHASH, AUTOSCALAR etc then they can
put their own suitably constructed AUTOGLOB subroutine in the UNIVERSAL
class which will do all the appropriate magic.

There was also a desire to 'control what was auto-globbable' (Nate
Wiger).  Whilst I can understand this, I feel that allowing this for
some datatypes and not others is an arbitrary restriction and goes
against the general perl ethos.  By making all autoglobbing be off
by default and having quite fine-grained control over what can be
autoglobbed and in what scope, I feel that we give advanced
programmers the power that they need whilst also protecting novices
from shooting themselves in the foot.  Well, protect them from blowing
their foot completely off anyway.

Leon Brocard commented that the ability to refuse a request a la RFC 8
would be really useful.  On consideration, I agree, and have incorporated
that into this revised version.  I have also removed the 'special case'
of an AUTOGLOBbed sub not returning a reference unlike all other types.
This is also in line with RFC 8.  See also RFC 190 for a proposal for
re-dispatching methods which may be preferable to using SUPER like in
the example above.

Finally, also in line with RFC 8 I have removed the special $AUTOGLOB
variable, instead passing the name of the item in with AUTOGLOB's


Whilst the current AUTOLOAD is very useful, we do not feel that it goes
far enough.  It only works for subroutines.  We believe this sort of
functionality should be available for anything in the symbol table.  A
sensible name would be AUTOGLOB.

For example: one current use for AUTOLOAD is in the Sub::Approx module.
It is not, however, possible to write Scalar::Approx, Hash::Approx,
Array::Approx, or Filehandle::Approx.  This would allow for catching
common errors such as mis-typing of class fields as well as mis-typing
of class methods.


In the interests of backward compatibility, the existing AUTOLOAD should
be kept temporarily.  It's use should be deprecated and should generate
a suitable warning under -w.  It would not be upgraded in line with other
RFCs submitted (notably 8, 190 and 232) but the changes proposed would
go in to the AUTOGLOB melting pot.  AUTOLOAD should be removed from the
development codebase after the first stable release of perl 6.

The AUTOGLOB subroutine should expect to take three parameters, the invocant,
a scalar parameter specifying what type of item is being AUTOGLOBbed, and
another scalar with the name of the item being AUTOGLOBbed; followed by -
in the case of a sub - the sub's arguments.  We suggest that the 'type'
scalar should take values like 'scalar' for an AUTOGLOBbed scalar, 'array'
for an AUTOGLOBbed array, and so on.

We suggest that the AUTOGLOB subroutine should return a reference to an
item of the appropriate type.  That will then be dereferenced and used
as normal in the calling code.  If it returns anything other than a
reference this should be a fatal error, unless it returns undef (which,
as in RFC 8 should be taken to mean "this isn't an error but I'm declining
to handle this request"), in which case the AUTOGLOB should be suitably
delegated as in RFC 8 (see also RFC 190).

As AUTOGLOBbing is expected to be a relatively expensive and dangerous
operation, it should be off by default (with the exception of subs), and
should be turned on and off via a new lexically scoped autoglob pragma:

C<use autoglob;                      # turn on all AUTOGLOBbing>

C<use autoglob qw(scalar hash);      # turn it on for scalars and hashes>

C<no autoglob qw(filehandle scalar); # turn it off for ...>


Changes from the semantics of AUTOLOAD mean that existing AUTOLOADs
will almost certainly break badly if simply renamed.  Therefore it
would be wise to keep the existing AUTOLOAD (although deprecated)
for the first stable release of perl6, but remove it in later
releases.  This will give people sufficient time to heed the
warnings (we do heed warnings, right?) and update their code.


RFC 8: The AUTOLOAD subroutine should be able to decline a request
RFC 190: Objects : NEXT pseudoclass for method redispatch
RFC 232: Replace AUTOLOAD by a more flexible mechanism Perl Programming lists via nntp and http.
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