Re: R-alpha: Recycling

Z. Todd Taylor (
Tue, 25 Feb 1997 07:07:10 -0800

Date: Tue, 25 Feb 1997 07:07:10 -0800
From: (Z. Todd Taylor)
Subject: Re: R-alpha: Recycling

> I agree that recycling is useful. So are stretchy vectors. The problem
> is debugging. Recycling can introduce insidious errors in straight
> data analysis where little programming is involved.
>   Recycling should be explicit, not implicit. rep() does that for
> vectors. If it is not sufficient for all cases, maybe it should be
> extended or a new function introduced. Then recycling will only occur
> when it is clear that that is what we want because we have used the
> recycling function.
>   Jim

While I disagree that recycling should require explicit
invocation, I note that R is currently more error-prone than S
in this respect because it doesn't warn if the longer of two
vectors is not an even multiple of the length of the shorter
one (I'm still using version 0.15).

In R:
   > x
   [1] 1 2 3
   > y
   [1] 1 2
   > x + y
   [1] 2 4 4

In S:
   > x
   [1] 1 2 3
   > y
   [1] 1 2
   > x + y
   [1] 2 4 4
   Warning messages:
     Length of longer object is not a multiple of the length \
                    of the shorter object in: x + y

Maybe the right approach is to invent a "pedantic" option or a
"lint" option that, when activated, makes the R interpreter very
picky and loud-mouthed about things like recycled or strechy
vectors, partial name matching, and other horrors that also
happen to be very useful.  Once things are debugged, the option
could be turned off.  This seems better to me than reverting to
bondage-and-discipline in the language itself.

Z. Todd Taylor
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
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