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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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This is an observation that a single statement pointer is not sufficient to define the state of an executing program if the program employs subroutines variously known as proceduresfunctionsor methods. We introduce you to Apple’s new Swift programming language, discuss the perils of being the third-most-popular mobile platform, revisit SQLite on Androidand much more!

Go To Statement Considered Harmful

He proposes that goto statements should be abolished from all high-level programming languages. Because proving a program correct can be an enormous task, I will concentrate on just one subtask: Accordingly, the complication appears not when we analyze a goto statement, but when we try to figure out what we know about a program when control passes through a label.

Dijkstra observes that the value of a given variable in a program can only be known if the history of the program’s execution is known precisely up to a given point in time. With goto statements, it becomes much harder to characterize how far a program has gone in its execution. This movement, which began in the late s, was similar in spirit to the earlier movement in mathematics known as Hilbert’s programmeexpressed by David Hilbert, which was intended to codify all of mathematics in a complete and all-inclusive set of laws derived from nothing more than the building blocks of the natural numbers and the rules of simple logic and arithmetic.

And so now we have — yes — return, and also break, exceptions, etc.


However, he is attempting to go hafmful simply tracking the location of the current execution thread, to making an explicit connection between a statement in the source code text and a program execution state. And of course asm, try writing anything in asm without jumps: Two variants are generally provided, one with the conditional test before the loop body providing at least one iteration:.

Dijkstra did not mean that all uses of goto were bad, but rather that superior control structures should exist that, when used properly, would eliminate most of the uses of goto popular at the time.

Since the s, several advances in programming theory have occurred. One of the comments did mention Dijkstra’s article Go to Statements Considered Harmfulbut aside from that mention, there was much opinion and little fact. More recently I discovered why the use of the go to statement has such disastrous effects, and I became convinced that the go to diikstra should be abolished from all “higher level” programming languages i.

In my current project I use both.

As soon as we include in our language procedures we must admit that a single textual index is no longer sufficient. It must be remembered that many of the terms we take for granted today were not firmly established place at the time, and there was no commonly accepted language dijmstra pseudo-language in use for discusing algorithms and programs.

Andrew Koenig

It is also worth noting that there are programming languages that do not provide structured flow control constructs at all.

They did not go much beyond stating the commenters’ opinions. The publication of such an influential paper in this particular format led to an almost immediate snowclone effectas documented on Wikipedia: This makes a big difference in security and usability of GOTOs. Dijkstra introduces the concept of an in-between moment prior to the completion of a program statement. The theory, called formal verificationwas that a small set of programming constructs if-then-else and looping statements, primitive data types, as so forth could be devised that would be sufficiently powerful to make it possible to define any possible programming task, and which could be mathematically proven to be correct i.


In one of two ways: With the inclusion of procedures we can characterize the progress of the process via a sequence of textual indices, the length of this sequence being equal to the dynamic depth of procedure calling. If you add function calls, your marker becomes a stack: Not surprisingly, then, much of the early work in computer science was undertaken with the goal of making computer programming a rigorous engineering discipline with a solid foundation in mathematics and logic.

If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your criticisms, however, you’ll leave “considered harmful” out of your writing. This is equivalent to the sequence of multiple if-then statements shown above, with the default selection acting the part of the last else clause.

Considered harmful

Language designers cannot anticipate all possible dijostra scenarios, and providing an “escape mechanism” out of the normal control structures gives the programmer the ability to program around the syntactic limitations imposed by the language when the need arises.

In a similar vein, the goals of formal verification were eventually seen as unworkable.

This is a subtle way of admitting that some forms of recursion require potentially infinite resources i. The letter has become quite famous or infamous, depending on your feelings about goto statements in the 40 years since it was first published, and is probably the most often cited document about any topic of programming.