Defect Report #201

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Submitter: Clive Feather (UK)
Submission Date: 1999-07-06
Reference Document: ISO/IEC WG14 N883
Version: 1.9
Date: 2007-09-06
Subject: Integer types longer than long

Require that size_t be no wider than unsigned long and ptrdiff_t be no wider than signed long.

If this change is not made now, there will be a window of opportunity - of at least two years - when implementations can make size_t be wider than unsigned long. By the time any future Amendment is ready it will be impractical to re-impose the restriction. If the change is made now, it can always be relaxed if it becomes necessary.

Various types in the Standard are defined as integer types. Two of these size_t and ptrdiff_t - are frequently manipulated and on many implementations need to hold values of the same order as [un]signed long. In C89 there are various programming idioms that involve these types but also need a standard integer type. For example:

printf ("%lu", (unsigned long) sizeof X);
int *P1, *P2;
... /* make P1 and P2 point into the same array*/
malloc (sizeof (int) * labs (P1 - P2));
If these types are allowed to become wider than long, these idioms will stop working. More importantly, this might not happen when the code is compiled but rather when large values first get used by a previously working program. This is clearly a Quiet Change.

There do not appear to be any implementations which would be affected by this proposal, and it eliminates the vast majority of potential problems with these two types. While there are other types that theoretically meet these criteria, such as sig_atomic_t, in practice they are unlikely to be larger than long and no action is needed. There are also types in POSIX and other standards, such as off_t, which are similarly affected, but they are outside the scope of C9X; the recommended practice section would assist them.

Suggested Technical Corrigendum
Append a new paragraph to 7.18.3:

The value of SIZE_MAX shall be no greater than that of ULONG_MAX. The absolute values of PTRDIFF_MIN and PTRDIFF_MAX shall be no greater than those of LONG_MIN andLONG_MAX respectively.
or change the first part of 7.17 paragraph 2 to:
[#2] The types are ptrdiff_t which is the signed integer type of the result of subtracting two pointers (the width of ptrdiff_t shall be no greater than that of signed long);
which is the unsigned integer type of the result of the sizeof operator (the width of size_t shall be no greater than that of unsigned long); or both (the changes are equivalent in effect).

Possibly also add the following paragraph somewhere (perhaps in

Recommended practice

Implementations should provide a mode which will warn of conversions (including those involving an explicit cast) where:

(Headers provided by the implementation are not limited to those defined by this Standard, but explicitly excludes <stdint.h>.)

Committee Response
There is no consensus to make this change or any change along this line.

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