[m-dev.] integer conversions

Julien Fischer jfischer at opturion.com
Tue May 26 16:43:28 AEST 2020

Hi Zoltan,

On Tue, 26 May 2020, Zoltan Somogyi wrote:

> I think we should start by deciding what principles should govern
> what conversion predicates or functions should exist; the identities
> of those predicates/functions will then follow.
> There are several dimensions on which the conversions differ.
> Dimension 1 is whether the conversion can fail for some values
> of the FromType, and if so, how to we handle it. The possibilities are
> 1a the conversion cannot fail, e.g. int8.to_int,
> 1b the conversion can fail, and so can the predicate, e.g. int8.from_int,
> 1c  the conversion can fail, but the predicate throws an exception when
>   this happens, e.g. int8.det_from_int, and
> 1d the conversion can fail, but the predicate returns a mathematically
>   unsound result instead of failing or throwing, e.g. int8.cast_from_int.
> Since all four variants exist, and since I don't recall anyone objecting
> to their addition, we seem to agree that all four kinds are justified in
> some cases. But we haven't discussed exactly *which* cases.
> It seems clear that we shouldn't have the 1a variant for conversions
> that can fail. But should we have some or all of the 1b, 1c and 1d
> variants for conversion that cannot fail? I think the answer should be "no"
> for 1b and 1c,

Yes, there's no point in having them for things that cannot fail.

> but there is a case for 1d, i.e. cast operations that
> happen to always produce a mathematically correct result.


> Dimension 2 is whether the conversion is done by a predicate or
> function. This depends on Dimension 1. 1a, 1c and 1d are det and therefore
> can be done by a function, but 1b is semidet, and therefore should be done
> by a predicate. But should there be predicate versions of 1a, 1c and 1d
> as well? I vote no, since the presence of predicate versions complicates
> error messages, especially when higher order code is involved.

I vote no as well.  My intention when I added these, was that only the
semidet ones would be predicates; it is syntactically more convenient
for others to be functions.  (This is a common pattern in the standard
library, e.g a a semidet predicate named foo and a det function version
called det_foo.)

> Dimension 3 is whether we convert from FromType to ToType
> using a predicate/function in the FromType module, such as int8.to_int,
> or one in the ToType module, such as int.from_int8. In this dimension,
> I think what we should strive for is consistency. I see three reasonable
> choices:
> 3a  all conversion predicates/functions are in FromType's module ONLY
> 3b all conversion predicates/functions are in ToType's module ONLY
> 3c all conversion predicates/functions are in BOTH FromType's module AND
>    ToType's module.
> I think option 3c has too many predicates, but reaching either 3a or 3b
> would require deleting existing predicates, including predicates
> in the 2020 stable release, which would require obsoleting them first.
> In this dimension, I have no preference.

I don't think 3c is going to hurt and it will avoid users from having
to hunt around for which module contains the conversion procedure.
In some cases, it may also avoid additional module imports.

> Dimension 4 is symmetry: is we support conversion from type A to type B,
> should we support conversion from type B to type A? I vote yes.



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