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Archive for November 20th, 2012

.NET/C# duh moment of the day: “A char can be implicitly converted to ushort, int, uint, long, ulong, float, double, or decimal (not the other way around; implicit != implicit)”

Posted by jpluimers on 2012/11/20

A while ago I had a “duh” moment while calling a method that had many overloads, and one of the overloads was using int, not the char I’d expect.

The result was that a default value for that char was used, and my parameter was interpreted as a (very small) buffer size. I only found out something went wrong when writing unit tests around my code.

The culprit is this C# char feature (other implicit type conversions nicely summarized by Muhammad Javed):

A char can be implicitly converted to ushort, int, uint, long, ulong, float, double, or decimal. However, there are no implicit conversions from other types to the char type.

Switching between various development environments, I totally forgot this is the case in languages based on C and Java ancestry. But not in VB and Delphi ancestry  (C/C++ do numeric promotions of char to int and Java widens 2-byte char to 4-byte int; Delphi and don’t).

I’m not the only one who was confused, so Eric Lippert wrote a nice blog post on it in 2009: Why does char convert implicitly to ushort but not vice versa? – Fabulous Adventures In Coding – Site Home – MSDN Blogs.

Basically, it is the C ancestry: a char is an integral type always known to contain an integer value representing a Unicode character. The opposite is not true: an integer type is not always representing a Unicode character.

Lesson learned: if you have a large number of overloads (either writing them or using them) watch for mixing char and int parameters.

Note that overload resolution can be diffucult enough (C# 3 had breaking changes and C# 4 had breaking changes too, and those are only for C#), so don’t make it more difficult than it should be (:

Below a few examples in C# and VB and their IL disassemblies to illustrate their differnces based on asterisk (*) and space ( ) that also show that not all implicits are created equal: Decimal is done at run-time, the rest at compile time.

Note that the order of the methods is alphabetic, but the calls are in order of the type and size of the numeric types (integral types, then floating point types, then decimal).

A few interesting observations:

  • The C# compiler implicitly converts char with all calls except for decimal, where an implicit conversion at run time is used:
    L_004c: call valuetype [mscorlib]System.Decimal [mscorlib]System.Decimal::op_Implicit(char)
    L_0051: call void CharIntCompatibilityCSharp.Program::writeLineDecimal(valuetype [mscorlib]System.Decimal)
  • Same for implicit conversion of byte to the other types, though here the C# and VB.NET compilers generate slightly different code for run-time conversion.
    C# uses an implicit conversion:
    L_00af: ldloc.1
    L_00b0: call valuetype [mscorlib]System.Decimal [mscorlib]System.Decimal::op_Implicit(uint8)
    L_00b5: call void CharIntCompatibilityCSharp.Program::writeLineDecimal(valuetype [mscorlib]System.Decimal)
    VB.NET calls a constructor:
    L_006e: ldloc.1
    L_006f: newobj instance void [mscorlib]System.Decimal::.ctor(int32)
    L_0075: call void CharIntCompatibilityVB.Program::writeLineDecimal(valuetype [mscorlib]System.Decimal)

Here is the example code: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in .NET, Agile, Algorithms, C#, C# 1.0, C# 2.0, C# 3.0, C# 4.0, C# 5.0, C++, Delphi, Development, Encoding, Floating point handling, Java, Software Development, Unicode, Unit Testing, VB.NET | 1 Comment »

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