[plt-dev] request not to use all-caps identifiers

From: Robby Findler (robby at eecs.northwestern.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 12 11:39:37 EDT 2010

I believe Matthias at one point advocated all caps for constants, but
I don't recall why anymore.


On Mon, Apr 12, 2010 at 8:44 AM, Jay McCarthy <jay.mccarthy at gmail.com> wrote:
> As the originator of the variable, I have to say I'm not terribly
> bothered by all caps used sparingly.
> I use caps (only this once as far as I know) to signify: wacky
> constant coming up.
> My use doesn't have anything to do with Java. (I've never written a
> Java program longer than 10 lines.) It is more likely to have
> something to do with C.
> If I wanted to be a pain, I could say I'm going back to our roots when
> everything was in caps. (Whenever I look at books that present Scheme
> in all caps it is soooo disturbing. Blech.)
> Jay
> On Mon, Apr 12, 2010 at 7:26 AM, Neil Van Dyke <neil at neilvandyke.org> wrote:
>> I just noticed this variable named "TEXT/HTML-MIME-TYPE" in the excellent
>> Web server API, and wanted to request that PLT not get in the habit of using
>> all-caps.
>> As far as I know, the reason Java kids use all-caps for constants is an
>> artifact of 1970s C, and no longer makes sense.  C had no "const" at the
>> time, and compilers and computers were very limited, but they did have the C
>> preprocessor.  So people used preprocessor macros for constants.  The C
>> preprocessor was very crude and ill-conceived by Scheme syntax extension
>> standards.  It was easy to break your code because you unknowingly used a
>> preprocessor macro that, say, expanded to function call with side effects
>> despite looking like a variable reference, or reassigned your variables, or
>> expanded to more than one expression, or even expanded to an incomplete
>> expression or statement.  Because preprocessor macro names were identifiers
>> just like variable and function names, a naming convention of putting macro
>> names in all-caps helped to flag this bit of code that did not behave as a
>> variable or function.  Then, when Java was being developed, the professional
>> programmers for whom it was originally targeted were at the time C and C++
>> programmers, so Java was made to look a lot like C++.  (Ironically, it was
>> the analogue of COBOL and 4GL programmers who became most of the Java
>> programmers, not the embedded systems, technical, and shrinkwrap developers
>> who wanted the language to look like C/C++.)  Some Java person must've
>> thought that using all-caps for constants was a good idea, because, hey,
>> that's how it's done in C++, so they started doing that in Java, even though
>> Java did not have the dangerous preprocessor and it did get "const".  So now
>> you see Java programmers writing "someFooBar =
>> --
>> http://www.neilvandyke.org/
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> --
> Jay McCarthy <jay at cs.byu.edu>
> Assistant Professor / Brigham Young University
> http://teammccarthy.org/jay
> "The glory of God is Intelligence" - D&C 93
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