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 mentions the design of the case or select control flow structure as proposed by Hoare and Wirth. Have programming languages evolved since Dijkstra’s letter was published to the point that goto is no longer needed?

Wirth, Niklaus, and Hoare C.

With the inclusion of procedures we can characterize the progress of the process via a sequence of textual indices, the length harjful this sequence being equal to the dynamic depth of procedure calling. But only if goto was not removed from the underlying language. The form of the for-loop shown above iterates the body of the loop zero or more times.

The publication of a “considered harmful” essay has a strong tendency to alienate neutral parties, thus weakening support for the point of view the essay puts forth. The difficulty is that such a coordinate, although unique, is utterly unhelpful.

This is generally true in most current programming languages, the majority of which operate in a linear, statement-by-statement fashion.

Maybe lexical scope for goto labels, rather than global symbols??? This paper talks about a certain kind of GOTOs: Proving that a program fragment is correct and describing what a program has done so far. 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.

However, “X considered harmful” was already a well-established journalistic cliche in — which is why Wirth chose it. Currently working on “tooling” for HPC application, and use goto all the time. Dijkstra reminds us that it was originally proposed as a superior alternative to the clumsy use of multiple if s, goto s, and labels.


The illlustration below shows the headline of a letter to the New York Times published August 12, However, for most programming applications, and consequently what is actually supported by most programming languages, recursion plays only a minor but still very useful role. Dijkstra admits that not all of the flow control structures provided by a language will satisfy all programming needs. 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.

The set of flow control statements and clauses provided should be powerful and flexible enough so that a programmer can express his ideas clearly and succintly without having to resort to the use of extraneous control variables or to rearrange his code unnaturally just to get around the syntactical restrictions of the language.

But here’s what they might not know about it: The main point is that the values of these indices are outside the programmer’s control; they are generated either by the write-up of his program or by the dynamic evolution of the process whether he wishes or not. There was much debate and discussion at the time about what terms to use for programming concepts, and most of the terms we use today took many years to be widely accepted. After each failure, however, resources must be deallocated.

Andrew Koenig

This construct is functionally equivalent to a do-while considerex, but provides a clearer intent of the controlling entity the counter or index of the loop iterations:. The hope was that programming languages could be developed that made it possible to prove the correctness of programs. That was consistent in much of what I read.

This is discussed further in Example L-1 and Example N-1 below. Some older languages do not provide a default or otherwise clause. This reflects the fact that, at that time, recursion was very much in vogue and was considered by many, especially the more academically inclined, to be a superior form of expressing programs and algorithms.

The control flow statements described above are sufficient for most programming logic, but there are programming situations that require more powerful constructs. Dijkstra introduces more complex flow control statements such as if-then-else conditional statements and case a. It is rather trivial to consicered if a control flow is reducible can be a platform requirement, e. Other variants of the for-loop allow more than one loop counter or loop index to be specified.


This type of use of goto statements is generally accepted as a “correct” use of goto. This is the Tao of goto: Single tags These tags can be used alone gotl don’t need an ending tag. However, they do not corrupt or obfuscate the program execution state. Optimizers have also gotten better over the years–it would be fairly easy to transform the idiomatic find-loop pattern based on flags to the one that uses the goto. The decisions to not use Goto was decided by managers with no real world programming experience.

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.

All structured programming languages provide some form of the if-then flow control construct:. 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.

I’d Consider That Harmful, Too

Here it is, used in OpenBSD’s httpd: Also some algos express them self best using goto’s. The faculty were constantly saying, “We’re doing structured programming now! Goto programming statement Wikipedia: Dijkstra still allowed for the use of goto for more complicated programming control structures.

Languages such as Smalltalk, Eiffel, and Java provide control statements for early and nested loop exits and harmfyl handling, so goto is not really needed. In the absence of modern optimizing compilers this was very inefficient. To fully support the eijkstraa language should handle negative increment values as well.

I’d Consider That Harmful, Too

They did not go much beyond stating the commenters’ opinions. He points out that choosing this style of dialogue is ultimately counterproductive: If the program contains loops, you can use a similar stack, with one entry for each nested loop.

But here’s what they might not know about it:.

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