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Re: return of copies vs references

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Darren Duncan
March 17, 2005 15:41
Re: return of copies vs references
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As an addendum, my idea would also apply to non-attribute variables.

If you say 'my %abc' in a method or sub, and later say 'return %abc', 
then a reference to %abc will be returned by default.

So its not like I'm treating attributes differently.

-- Darren Duncan

At 3:27 PM -0800 3/17/05, Darren Duncan wrote:
>It occurs to me that I may have requested something before that 
>would cause more problems than it solves if implemented.  So I have 
>a different idea that would hopefully be efficient, powerful, and 
>easy to learn.  In short, make it work much like Perl 5.
>The idea is Perl methods and subs will always return references or 
>scalars by default, just as method/sub arguments always take 
>references or scalars by default; so we have symmetry between the 
>in/out.  And they would do this the same way regardless of the 
>caller scalar/list context.
>If the writer of a method/sub wants to return a copy of a 
>non-trivial structure like a hash or array, they explicitly copy it 
>and return the copy.  This is elegant because when they are 
>explicitly copying, they can also fully control to what depth in a 
>tree-like structure the items have either their values or their 
>references copied.
>For example, with the same $:foo, @:bar, %:baz attributes ...
>These would return references to the structure root, in all contexts:
>     return \$self.:foo;
>     return $self.:bar;
>     return $self.:baz;
>     return \$:foo;
>     return @:bar;
>     return %:baz;
>These would return a new structure with level-1 copies of the 
>elements, but if any elements are references then the copies point 
>to the same things in all contexts:
>     return $self.:foo;
>     return [$self.:bar];
>     return {$self.:baz};
>     return $:foo;
>     return [@:bar];
>     return {%:baz};
>The exact syntax could vary.  The above would scale to, say, 
>explicit 2-dimensional copy similarly to Perl 5, like this:
>     return [${ [$_] }];
>     return [{ [$_] }];
>Now, I am operating under the assumption here that in Perl 6, the 
>line between having a reference to something or having that thing is 
>blurred, and so there is no need to do explicit dereferencing; eg, 
>no @{} or %{}.
>All that the caller context would then determine is whether what the 
>method/sub returned is flattened or not; the caller context would 
>not determine whether the method/sub returns a copy or a reference.
>Question: Is there a trait for a sub/method that specifies whether 
>it forces a scalar or list context?
>Any opinions on this?
>-- Darren Duncan

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