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Nine Reasons Not To Use Int

, 9 Feb 2004
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A Parody

Nine Reasons Not To Use "int". A parody on "Nine reasons not to use serialization".
Suggested by Dirk Vandenheuvel.

For my first article, I thought we'd have a little fun. I hope nobody minds. I hope people take it with good humor! And I really hope that it gets listed in the ProductShowcase page!


If you want to know to get your application to save information in the form of numbers, then a quick skim through MSDN magazine or a quick search on newsgroups will give you the answer: int.

Just declare your variables as "int" and there you go. It's a simple matter of typing in three little letters: i-n-t, and couple seconds later it's done. Alternatively, you could use float, double, real, byte, char, short.

All very simple, but unfortunately all very wrong. There are a number of reasons why you not not opt for the simple approach. Here are nine important ones.

1. It forces you to design your classes a certain way

"int" only works with integers. This means that your class needs to manage only integers, not real things like "float" or "imaginary" or polar coordinates. You can not have numbers that have digits past the decimal point. And it forces restrictions on how you perform math--dividing one "int" by another "int" may not result in the correct value!

2. It is not future-proof for small changes

If you use "int", then all the stuff after the decimal point will get dumped. You have no control over this. If you change the name of the variable to something other than "int", then your code will break. You can get around this by implement the IInt interface. This gives you much better control of how data is stored and retrieved to and from an "int". Unfortunately...

3. It is not future-proof for large changes

An "int" is a type. If you change your "int" variable names or strong-name your assemblies, you're going to hit all sorts of problems. Even if you manage to code the necessary contortions to get round this, you're going to find that ...

4. It is not future-proof for massive changes

"int" isn't going to be around in five years or so. By then, we'll all be coding in real numbers (puns intended). If you start implementing the IInt interface in your code now, then its tendrils are going to be everywhere in five years' time. Your code is going to be full of little hacks to cope with version changes, class re-naming, refactoring, etc. Some time in the future, .NET will be superseded by something even more wonderful. Nobody knows what this something wonderful will be, but you can bet that writing code-read data serialized by version 1.1 of the .NET's "int" type is going to be a pig. I wrote some VB6 code 5 years ago and used "int" on a 16 bit processor, when "int" meant 16 bits. A neat, easy way of storing information to disk, I thought. And it was, until .NET came along and then I was stuck, because you see, on my new 32 bit processor, "int" now means 32 bits!

5. It is not secure

Using "int" is inherently insecure. It's bit format is widely known. In addition, "int" works by creating "bits", either a 1 or a 0. Disk files on disk containing 1's and 0's will pose a potential security risk. If, instead, you implement the IInt interface, then, even if you're not exposing bits through your classes, anyone can see your bits anyway, since "int" is a public type.

6. It is inefficient

"int" is verbose. It often has many more bits than you actually need. And, if you are using the IInt interface, more bits gets stored along with data. This makes "int" very expensive in terms of disk space.

7. It is a black box

The odds are you don't really know how "int" works. I certainly don't. Is it big-endian or little-endian? Is the MSB the first bit or the last bit? What does MSB mean anyways? All this means that there are going to have all sorts of quirks and gotchas that you can't even conceive of when you start using "int". Did you know that "int" actually uses the 32 bits? When you think you're creating a bunch of "int's", actually hardware is doing something. What are the implications of that? The only thing I know is that I will not know about them until it's too late.

8. It is slow

When I did some research for a previous article (, I noticed a few interesting things. I wrote a class that contained two "int" values. I created 100,000 instances of this class, stored them to disk, and then read them back again. I did this two ways. First of all, I did it the "proper" way, by implementing two variables of type "int". Secondly, I did it the "dirty" way, by streaming out and back in 100,000 pairs of "int". Which way was faster? Perhaps not surprisingly, the dirty way. Lots faster. Surprised? I wasn't.

9. It is weird

"int" does a lot of cunning work. This means that it doesn't necessarily behave the way you might expect. When you divide by 0, for example, exceptions get thrown.

Have no regrets

Although .NET provides a number of quick and easy ways to use "int", do not use them. A week, a month, a year, or five years down the line you will regret it.


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Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberPaul M. Parks2-Feb-12 4:38 
GeneralOther related documents parts links - where are the links Pinmemberlucho_198131-Mar-08 16:07 
GeneralWorthless, waste of time Pinmembernlleach18-Sep-06 9:24 
GeneralRe: Worthless, waste of time PinmvpJohn Simmons / outlaw programmer29-Jul-07 1:56 
GeneralTo those who dislike this parody: PinsussFletch F. Fletch8-Oct-05 7:15 
GeneralRe: To those who dislike this parody: Pinmemberdojohansen29-Dec-08 1:50 
GeneralNOT FUNNY TIME CONSUMING STUPID ARTICLE Pinmembertmeg21-Aug-05 11:50 
GeneralHeh heh! Funny! PinmemberMatthew Hanna4-Jul-05 6:19 
GeneralI didn't get it at first... PinmemberSpunk12-Dec-04 4:08 
General9 ERRONEOUS reasons PinmemberLorenzoDV27-Apr-04 13:14 
I don't even know why I'm about to take the time to disagree on every single point of this pointless article that I just rated "poor".
1. A good programmer knows when he/she needs floating point numbers and when he/she doesn't. int won't force me designing anything anyhow.
2. If you know int doesn't store decimals, you know it'll dump them. You are not supposed to "control" this. Ah, and you spelled "name" instead of "type"....
3. Changing int variable names will need refactoring, so? int is a type as our clever contributor says, and I add that floats, bytes, doubles are ALL type as everything in the CLR type system. Names and types are two different attributes bound to what we call a "variable" and they are not bound together in ANY way.
4. The width of a "int" is dictated by the compiler, not the the processor Mr. Contributor. And also, VB6 was 32-bit already.
5. You are mixing security conearns with scope concerns. A private member is not meant to be inaccessible, by dumping memory for example. If you need security, you should handle it yourself the way you need, as with ANY other numeric type.
QUOTE: "It's bit format is widely known."
6. Int is 32-bit because 32-bit words (aka DWORDs) are handled more efficently by x86 32-bit processors than 16-bit or 8-bit words. And float is 32-bit also.
7. QUOTE: "Is it big-endian or little-endian? Is the MSB the first bit or the last bit?" Suprise! Wasn't int bit format "widely known" (see point 5)??? int is a 32-bit integer word, using the internal endian and code of the processor. On x86's that means little-ending 2's complemented. int is a black box like all other types and that's what OO programming is all about: abstraction!
8. Your explaination here is horrible. No one could figure out what that "experiment" really was... assuming you ever made it, of course.
9. It's now "weird", it's ROBUST! int does not have the concept of positive or negative infinity, so it's good thing for it to throw exceptions if divided by 0. You could always go back to the C/C++ days: dividing by 0 wouldn't throw anything, except crashing the entire process or OS because of the overflow. Imagine this happening in critical software: did you know 90% of security vulnerabilities exploits are based on causing overflows and out of bounds error that today's native apps MAY not handle?? Think about it.
And anyway you can always have a check-free int operating into a unchecked code block in C#... at your own risk.
Did I say I rated this "poor"?
CodeProject should remove this piece of trash that's only here to waste people's time and to confuse the idease of newbies.

GeneralRe: 9 ERRONEOUS reasons PinmemberColin Angus Mackay27-Apr-04 13:33 
GeneralRe: 9 ERRONEOUS reasons PinmemberLorenzoDV28-Apr-04 21:35 
GeneralRe: 9 ERRONEOUS reasons PinmemberColin Angus Mackay29-Apr-04 0:55 
GeneralRe: 9 ERRONEOUS reasons PinmemberLorenzoDV29-Apr-04 4:21 
GeneralRe: 9 ERRONEOUS reasons PinmemberColin Angus Mackay29-Apr-04 5:36 
GeneralRe: 9 ERRONEOUS reasons PinmemberLorenzoDV29-Apr-04 12:56 
GeneralRe: 9 ERRONEOUS reasons PinsussYou Need A Vacation Lady24-Jun-04 14:25 
GeneralRe: 9 ERRONEOUS reasons Pinmemberfrasse531-Dec-04 20:07 
GeneralRe: 9 ERRONEOUS reasons PinsussAnonymous21-Feb-05 16:44 
GeneralRe: 9 ERRONEOUS reasons PinmemberBaris Kurtlutepe1-May-04 3:07 
GeneralGET SERIOUS!! PinmemberGRENDIZER14-Apr-04 7:39 
GeneralRe: GET SERIOUS!! Pinsussasdfasdgasgdasdgasdg24-Jun-04 14:38 
GeneralWow PinmemberNavin25-Mar-04 5:14 
GeneralRe: Wow Pinmemberdarrenk7230-Mar-04 11:41 
GeneralRe: Wow PinmemberSuper Lloyd19-May-06 3:24 

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