Go to statement considered harmful. Author: Edsger W. Dijkstra, Technological University, Eindhoven, The Netherlands View colleagues of Edsger W. Dijkstra . “GOTO considered harmful” needs to be read in its historical context, where structured programming (for Thanks for posting Dijkstra answer. One of the comments did mention Dijkstra’s article Go to Statements Considered Harmful, but aside from that mention, there was much.

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Dijkstra’s belief that unstructured goto statements are detrimental to good programming is still true. In order to speed up its publication, the paper was converted into a “Letter to the Editor”. Dijkstra mentions the design of the case or select control dijkstta structure as proposed by Hoare and Wirth. Other languages such as Modula-2 and Oberon also do not provide goto, but appear to lack enough flow control constructs to make it convenient to write early loop exits and exception handling code; it would seem that such languages were linguistic experiments that took Dijkstra’s maxim too far and failed.

Accordingly, the complication appears not when we analyze a goto statement, but when we try to figure out what we know about a ahrmful when control passes through a label.

This is an observation that narmful single statement pointer is not sufficient to define the state of an executing program if the program employs subroutines variously known as proceduresfunctionsor methods. All structured programming languages provide some form of the if-then flow hamrful construct:. Isn’t the claim dijksta goto statements are harmful just an opinion? There was never any real evidence that Goto was harmful, as the article states people accepted it was harmful without any proof.

Another common use for goto statements is in the handling of exceptionsor what Dijkstra called abortion clauses.

Today, of course, the two terms are still both used in the context of programming, but whereas error means as it always has a mistake produced by either a person or a machine, the term bug has come to mean something more specific, applied only to the realm of man-made systems, particularly programmable computers, to denote a specific failure in design or unexpected execution result.

Dijkstra reminds us that it was originally proposed as a superior alternative to the clumsy use of multiple if s, goto s, and labels.

Two classic examples dijkstrx the factorial function, n! This is the in-between state he refers to, or a state in the execution between two sequence pointsduring which the variable n still contains its old value instead of its new value. Dijkstra later abandoned the search for program provability and turned instead to the study of techniques for correct program derivation.


The reason is – and this seems to be inherent to sequential processes – that we can interpret the value of a variable only with respect to the progress of the process. This second construct is the most obvious replacement for the unstructured test-and-goto construct:. Both gotl replace the use of an explicit goto, as shown in the following code:.

But without rules that enforce these limitations, the goto statement provided by a language cannot be said to be truly well-structured. Between any two sequence points, the state of the considdred is not well-defined, which means that until the next sequence point is reached, the values of the program variables are in an indeterminate or in-between state. So each continue statement adds cnosidered and only one more set of conditions to consider when we think about what the loop does.

What follows is Dijkstra’s famous “Go To” letter to CACM inalong with annotations that discuss the details of the letter from a historical perspective. By pushing the opposing views further apart, it becomes more likely that the essay will cause a permanent break between opposing views rather than contribute to a resolution of the debate. Dijkstra states that goto statements may be deemed acceptable only for alarm exitswhich we would call fatal exceptions. It is more difficult in some languages especially some older languages to write multiple if-then sequences, so the construct ends up looking like the following code, which is functionally equivalent but harder to read:.

This construct is functionally equivalent to a do-while loop, but provides a clearer intent of the controlling entity the counter or index of the loop iterations:. More efficient implementations are possible, such as using an index into a jump table, or rearranging the comparisons to emulate an unrolled binary search, etc. A large part of the debate that followed the publication of “GOTO Considered Harmful”, and which smolders to this day, concerned whether there are any corner cases where gotos are the better choice.

Save a copy of a specified file name. Have programming languages evolved since Dijkstra’s letter was published to the point that goto is no longer needed?

If a program has no loops or function calls, you can simply mark the point in the program that execution has reached, and you know everything that dijksra happened so far. On the surface, this loop is no harder to analyze than the earlier version–after all, it behaves in the same way.

Considered harmful

They’ve become boring cliches. Programming without using Goto is harder and in some cases needs more lines of code. Who says computer scientists don’t have a sense of humor? Some languages, such as Java, provide a finally clause as part of the try-catch statement to provide a way to specify actions that must be taken regardless of whether or not an exception occurs.


Logically jarmful, such clauses are now superfluous, because we can express repetition with the aid of recursive procedures. He is a jerk. Dijkstra seems to imply that iterative looping inductive statements are intellectually harder to grasp than recursion, which is the kind of thing only a mathematician would say. My second remark is that our intellectual powers are rather geared to master static relations and that our powers to visualize processes considefed in time are relatively poorly developed.

The code below is a C function that utilizes goto statements fairly effectively for error handling and recovery. The execution of a program is well-defined only at specific sequence points, which typically occur at the end of statements, prior to function calls, and at specific points in the evaluation of subexpressions.

In parting, I can’t resist giving one last example of goto statements. This is designed to replace the multiple if-then construct, making it more obvious what the intended meaning is, i. With goto statements, it becomes much harder to characterize how far a program has gone in its execution. Harfmul the authors horror had he witnessed the use of properties in modern object oriented languages! If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your criticisms, however, you’ll leave “considered harmful” out of your writing.

Andrew Koenig

considred Maybe lexical scope for goto labels, rather than global symbols??? For that reason we should do as wise programmers aware of our limitations our utmost to shorten the conceptual gap between the static program and the dynamic process, to make the correspondence between the program spread out in text space and the process spread out in time as trivial as possible.

Roboprog on Feb 8, Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Because this loop has n! This type of use of goto statements is generally accepted as a “correct” use of goto.

“GOTO Considered Harmful” Considered Harmful () [pdf] | Hacker News

Biography of Edsger W. You can’t help but create spaghetti code. This paper was written at a time when the accepted way of programming was to code iterative loops, if-then s, and other control structures by hand using goto statements.