Why Case Sensitive?

Discussion in 'C Programming' started by Bart, Jul 19, 2007.

  1. Bart

    Bart Guest

    Why is C case sensitive?

    I know it's a bit late to change it now but there would seem to be far
    more advantages in ignoring letter case in source code.

    In real life such a situation would be ridiculous (eg. the 16 ways of
    writing my name) and, in some cases, frightening.

    Is it to avoid having to think up new identifiers? And how would you
    distinguish case when reading out bits of code over the phone for

    Bart, Jul 19, 2007
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  2. Bart

    santosh Guest

    C is case sensitive because computing systems are naturally case
    sensitive. It takes extra effort to *not* be case sensitive. Input
    devices like keyboards need to distinguish between cases, as do
    output devices, text utilities, typesetting systems etc.

    Real world is case sensitive and so are computers.
    santosh, Jul 19, 2007
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  3. Bart

    Chris Dollin Guest

    Because there's no good reason to make it case-insensitive, case
    sensitivity comes for free, and case sensitivity allows some
    useful conventions such as UPPERCASE macros and having a convenient
    distinction between Types and objects.
    Whatever worked. The nice thing about having real people at the
    other end of the phone is that you can sort out a protocol in
    the cases where it matters. ("I'll email you the source" is one

    I don't know about you, but I pronounce INT and int differently
    when I think it might matter.
    Chris Dollin, Jul 19, 2007
  4. It can be a problem, because humans remember words, not punctuation.

    I use the convention that if a function depends on the standard library and
    nothing else then it is all lowercase, whilst if it calls platform-specific
    functions it starts with an uppercase letter.

    Fortran 77 is case insensitive, and this contributes to Fortran 77 code
    being quite hard to read.
    Malcolm McLean, Jul 19, 2007
  5. Bart

    santosh Guest

    [ ... ]
    The do remember case. Case is used to indicate context specific
    information in the written language. Computers that don't support
    case sensitivity are like the "l33t" and "sms" type posters - ugly
    and confusing to understand.
    What about functions that don't call any external code, or code
    that's neither platform specific nor part of the Standard C library?
    santosh, Jul 19, 2007
  6. Malcolm McLean skrev:
    If the implementation changes you may end up with naming inconsistency.

    August Karlstrom, Jul 19, 2007
  7. If a function does no IO then there is no reason for it to call any
    platform-specific functions, except very rarely when for efficiency reasons
    a calcualtion cannot be coded in C. So separate your functions from your
    procedures, and the situation cannot arise.

    Unfortunately reality sometimes kicks in. For instance a lot of long
    procedures work fine in development, but for commercial use they need to
    support progress bars and user cancels. Error conditions can also be a
    problem, as can dependencies on big datasets. Generally however the system
    Then of course the standard does provide methods for basic IO, which can
    Malcolm McLean, Jul 19, 2007
  8. Bart skrev:
    Exactly, but on the other hand, with case insensitivity the compiler
    will accept 16 different ways to refer to the object designated by BART
    which imho. is even more confusing.
    E.g. by spelling out each character prefixed by upper/lower or by saying
    "in lower case", "in UPPER CASE", "in camelCase", "in PascalCase" etc.
    before the name of the identifier.

    A third alternative is to allow only one "spelling" of an identifier,
    that is if an identifier is declared as Bart

    1. it must be referred to as Bart and

    2. the identifiers BART, bart, bArt etc. can not exist in the same scope.

    August Karlstrom, Jul 19, 2007
  9. This is true NOW, but was not generally true prior to 1970 or so. The
    first computers I worked with didn't have much in the way of lowercase
    letters. There's a reason why Basic wasn't case-sensitive, and I
    recall that F66 required all upper case.
    Not entirely true either... The Romans and Greeks lived in
    case-insensitive worlds.
    Mark McIntyre

    "Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place.
    Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are,
    by definition, not smart enough to debug it."
    --Brian Kernighan
    Mark McIntyre, Jul 19, 2007
  10. Bart

    Bart Guest

    No, in the real world Tom, tom and TOM are not considered to be
    different names. And when sorting you don't really want Aardvark to
    come after zebra.

    Yes, some extra effort is needed to ignore case when determining
    whether one name (or title, filename, etc) is identical to another.

    I think a case insensitive C would have still worked well, and you
    could still use upper case for macros and obey the usual conventions,
    except you couldn't use the identical name, in the same scope, for a
    Type and a Variable** for example; you'd need to think up something
    new. [** I have a feeling someone will say these two use different
    namespaces so identical names would be possible]

    Bart, Jul 20, 2007
  11. The first computers *you* worked with... In 1965 Ascii was standardized
    for the second time and that version had lower case letters. And in
    1959 IBM Stretch (7030) was first purchased, which also had lower case
    letters. I think around 1970 almost *all* computers had lowercase
    letters. Whether you could print them on the line printers of that time
    is questionable, but they could certainly be displayed on the terminals
    when they were tube terminals. The first computer I worked on (back in
    1969) was case sensitive. But have a look at
    and find a host of very old papertape codes that include lower case
    letters. The MC Flexowriter code was the first code I did use.

    But the actual question is easy to answer. C ultimately derives from
    Algol, and that was case sensitive. And the reason for that is easy
    to explain, the computers to implement Algol were mostly in Europe, and
    there case distinction was quite common in the paper-tape codes (the
    most frequently used device to input programs). Using additional
    translations in the compiler to make it case insensitive was prohibitive,
    as memory space was scarce.
    F66 derives from a much older language, and I think that even F66 allows
    both cases in strings. Basic probably is single case (yes, originally it
    *was* single case), because that was much easier.
    Oh. There are many scripts that still are used and do not even have a
    case distinction. But that is entirely different.
    Dik T. Winter, Jul 20, 2007
  12. Why is C case sensitive?
    Some people are trying to use this feature of English to claim that they
    are not subject to the US income tax.
    You don't read out bits of code over the phone. If you ever read out
    *passwords* over the phone, you can take a long time doing it, and it's
    still horribly error-prone. ("Upper case B as in Bastard, open square
    bracket, control lowercase R as in Retard, digit nine, ....")

    Some case-related questions for Standard C:

    What is the maximum number of cases allowed? What is the maximum
    number of cases actually implemented in a locale for a real language?
    (e.g. Tholian doesn't count. Klingon might as some people have
    tried to flesh it out as a complete language. Real human languages
    count, even ones that are dead like ancient Egyptian.)

    Is it permissible in a standard C implementation that (where c is a char)
    c != toupper(c) for all values of c where isalpha(c) != 0,
    c != tolower(c) for all values of c where isalpha(c) != 0,
    and c == toupper(toupper(toupper(c))) for all values of c where isalpha(c) != 0?

    (in other words: there's three cases, toupper() does a "circular
    right rotate case", and tolower() does a "circular left rotate
    case". There's no "uppermost case" or "lowermost case".)
    Gordon Burditt, Jul 20, 2007
  13. Bart

    Flash Gordon Guest

    Malcolm McLean wrote, On 19/07/07 22:34:
    What does separating functions and procedures have to do with it? Apart
    from implying you are using the term function in a non-C way which means
    you should have stated that up front if you want to be understood.
    If you think any of the above don't come in to play in development then
    you should not be involved in SW development, since everything you
    mention should have been in the requirements and design before you even
    consider starting your source code editor.
    Anyone with any knowledge knows that any IO operation can fail. This is
    why where it is really critical you have multiple physical IO paths. So
    of course the standard C IO functions can fail.
    Flash Gordon, Jul 20, 2007
  14. Bart

    santosh Guest

    [ ... ]
    Yeah I know, as is my native language, but I was talking about
    English, since it comes closest to a global language, if there ever
    was one.
    santosh, Jul 20, 2007
  15. Gordon Burditt said:

    Well, maybe *you* don't. I have done so on several occasions.
    Richard Heathfield, Jul 20, 2007
  16. Quite possibly. However the terminals (?VT52 and Tek4100?) on our Vax
    cluster didn't provide any trivial way to enter lower case, and
    neither VMS nor Fortran gave a hoot anyway.....
    The keyboards I used in Oxford in the early *eighties* didn't even
    HAVE lowercase letters on the keyboards - and the teletype paper only
    printed Ucase anyway....
    Yes, thats true. As far as I recall F66 required all code to be
    uppercase. I recall being very happy when we got an upgrade which
    allowed mixed case because by that time most of my coding was done via
    a terminal emulator running on a Sun-1 or PCXT which of course /did/
    have mixed case...
    Mark McIntyre

    "Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place.
    Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are,
    by definition, not smart enough to debug it."
    --Brian Kernighan
    Mark McIntyre, Jul 20, 2007
  17. If you program business logic then you have requirements and design. If you
    are doing scientific programming then the interest is in proving the
    algorithm. So you are not interested in UI issues, only if the general
    approach works. However eventually the function will have to be packaged for
    a non-programming user.
    Malcolm McLean, Jul 20, 2007
  18. Bart

    Flash Gordon Guest

    Malcolm McLean wrote, On 20/07/07 21:44:
    Please don't snip attributes for still included text. You wrote the below.
    Then you also have requirements (or you are not required to write the
    code), and the code still needs to be designed.
    So you design it to be able to but in a fancier user interface. It's
    what is called designing for expected extensions and saves a lot of work.

    In any case, you *still* need to handle errors, because if you don't you
    don't know if the results you get are due to uncaught errors or not.
    Flash Gordon, Jul 20, 2007
  19. It doesn't work like that.
    I've had this before from people who work in businessy type systems and
    think that games can be formally specified using the same techniques. They
    can't and no games company does that, for lots of reasons. One is that no
    one cares if output is correct, just whether it plays. Another is that you
    don't know how well the program is going to perform until it is in quite an
    advanced stage of development, at which point you decide how much geometry
    to throw at the rasteriser.
    Scientific programming is a bit different to games, but again you can't
    generally specify the program and then write it. If you can do that then
    it's not reasearch.
    Malcolm McLean, Jul 20, 2007
  20. Bart

    Ian Collins Guest

    But the design may be done in code...
    Ian Collins, Jul 20, 2007
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