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Monday, July 17, 2006

C# is subway, C++ is automobile

I've been thinking of an analogy between C# and C++ to the real world. Suddenly It popped into my head when I was in the subway. I was thinking of comparing the user of the subway to the driver of a car but it didn't seem fair so I decided to compare the subway driver to the car driver.

As a subway driver you don't have to steer, nor watch for intersections. In C# you don't have to make hard design decision, not to watch for platform support. But as a car driver you have to steer, change gears, and watch your sides even not in an intersection. Likewise in C++, you sometimes have to decide whether to sacrifice one thing for the other, usually memory VS time, or flexibility VS simplicity. You also have to watch different platforms Endianess, int size, and such stuff.

In subway you have predefined stations, and the path is optimized to fit for those, it would be costly to head somewhere that is not near a station. In C# you have predefined intentions in the language and the framework design, you would suffer if you decided to do something that wasn't intended to be done. For example, C# is business-oriented; its classes are best fit for common business tasks; would you consider doing a NASA space shuttle software using it ? In a car, you can virtually go anywhere, provided you have the right directions- and enough gas. Not always the paths will be perfect but some paths can be even shorter than the subway path, If you were an experienced driver or you have a good GPS map. In C++, you can do anything, provided you have the theoretical knowledge- and a linker that can link to ASM in case of system programming. You can do stuff in C++ by nature needs efficiency. Try to write a memory manager (in the system programming context) in C#, it is possible but it would take more time than to do it in C++ WITH the same efficiency.

Driving a subway is boring by nature, but it can be fun if you have a big speed. In C#, you do nothing special, every thing is ready for you. It would be fine in case you are making an enterprise-scale project. In a car, driving is boring and hell for people who can't drive well, they will keep banging in every turn, but if you know the tricks of it, and fair knowledge of the motor and its capabilities, you can do magic- see NFS: Underground 2. In C++, it is hard and ugly code if you don't have the essence of mastering it. If you do, you Will enjoy it, and can do software you never imagined it is possible- read for an example about loop-unrolling.

You would absolutely use subway if you are gonna a predefined place and you don't want to make a lot of effort. But you would use the car for a custom path that is not in the subway's map. Same in C# and C++, you don't have to use only one for all of the time. Just use what is suitable for what you wanna do. And remember, knowing only how to use the subway or the car, is not good enough, cuz at some point you will need the other.

Finally, some points here may have personal influence because I like C++. I admit I hate using C++ for some tasks, but I like its power and flexibility regardless of its complexity.

If you have another opinion or seeing something missing, you are welcome to comment.

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