387. std::complex over-encapsulated

Section: 29.5 [complex.numbers] Status: CD1 Submitter: Gabriel Dos Reis Opened: 2002-11-08 Last modified: 2016-02-10

Priority: Not Prioritized

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Discussion:

The absence of explicit description of std::complex<T> layout makes it imposible to reuse existing software developed in traditional languages like Fortran or C with unambigous and commonly accepted layout assumptions. There ought to be a way for practitioners to predict with confidence the layout of std::complex<T> whenever T is a numerical datatype. The absence of ways to access individual parts of a std::complex<T> object as lvalues unduly promotes severe pessimizations. For example, the only way to change, independently, the real and imaginary parts is to write something like

complex<T> z;
// ...
// set the real part to r
z = complex<T>(r, z.imag());
// ...
// set the imaginary part to i
z = complex<T>(z.real(), i);

At this point, it seems appropriate to recall that a complex number is, in effect, just a pair of numbers with no particular invariant to maintain. Existing practice in numerical computations has it that a complex number datatype is usually represented by Cartesian coordinates. Therefore the over-encapsulation put in the specification of std::complex<> is not justified.

Proposed resolution:

Add the following requirements to 29.5 [complex.numbers] as 26.3/4:

If z is an lvalue expression of type cv std::complex<T> then

Moreover, if a is an expression of pointer type cv complex<T>* and the expression a[i] is well-defined for an integer expression i then:

In 29.5.2 [complex] and 29.5.3 [complex.special] add the following member functions (changing T to concrete types as appropriate for the specializations).

void real(T);
void imag(T);

Add to 29.5.4 [complex.members]

T real() const;

Returns: the value of the real component

void real(T val);

Assigns val to the real component.

T imag() const;

Returns: the value of the imaginary component

void imag(T val);

Assigns val to the imaginary component.

[Kona: The layout guarantee is absolutely necessary for C compatibility. However, there was disagreement about the other part of this proposal: retrieving elements of the complex number as lvalues. An alternative: continue to have real() and imag() return rvalues, but add set_real() and set_imag(). Straw poll: return lvalues - 2, add setter functions - 5. Related issue: do we want reinterpret_cast as the interface for converting a complex to an array of two reals, or do we want to provide a more explicit way of doing it? Howard will try to resolve this issue for the next meeting.]

[pre-Sydney: Howard summarized the options in n1589.]

[ Bellevue: ]

Second half of proposed wording replaced and moved to Ready.

[ Pre-Sophia Antipolis, Howard adds: ]

Added the members to 29.5.3 [complex.special] and changed from Ready to Review.

[ Post-Sophia Antipolis: ]

Moved from WP back to Ready so that the "and 29.5.3 [complex.special]" in the proposed resolution can be officially applied.

Rationale:

The LWG believes that C99 compatibility would be enough justification for this change even without other considerations. All existing implementations already have the layout proposed here.