Jason Baker Jason Baker - 14 days ago 10
C++ Question

Why doesn't C++ have a garbage collector?

I'm not asking this question because of the merits of garbage collection first of all. My main reason for asking this is that I do know that Bjarne Stroustrup has said that C++ will have a garbage collector at some point in time.

With that said, why hasn't it been added? There are already some garbage collectors for C++. Is this just one of those "easier said than done" type things? Or are there other reasons it hasn't been added (and won't be added in C++11)?

Cross links:



EDIT: Just to clarify, I understand the reasons why C++ didn't have a garbage collector when it was first created. I'm wondering why the collector can't be added in.

Answer

Implicit garbage collection could have been added in, but it just didn't make the cut. Probably due to not just implementation complications, but also due to people not being able to come to a general consensus fast enough.

A quote from Bjarne Stroustrup himself:

I had hoped that a garbage collector which could be optionally enabled would be part of C++0x, but there were enough technical problems that I have to make do with just a detailed specification of how such a collector integrates with the rest of the language, if provided. As is the case with essentially all C++0x features, an experimental implementation exists.

Please see the above link for a more detailed discussion on why GC is hard.

There is also a good discussion of the topic here.

General overview:

C++ is very powerful and allows you to do almost anything. For this reason it doesn't automatically push many things onto you that might impact performance. Garbage collection can be easily implemented with smart pointers (objects that wrap pointers with a reference count, which auto delete themselves when the reference count reaches 0).

C++ was built with competitors in mind that did not have garbage collection. Efficiency was the main concern that C++ had to fend off criticism from in comparison to C and others.

There are 2 types of garbage collection...

Explicit garbage collection:

C++0x will have garbage collection via pointers created with shared_ptr

If you want it you can use it, if you don't want it you aren't forced into using it.

You can currently use boost:shared_ptr as well if you don't want to wait for C++0x.

Implicit garbage collection:

It does not have transparent garbage collection though. It will be a focus point for future C++ specs though.

Why Tr1 doesn't have implicit garbage collection?

There are a lot of things that tr1 of C++0x should have had, Bjarne Stroustrup in previous interviews stated that tr1 didn't have as much as he would have liked.