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Hungarian Notation in Microcontroller Code

, 8 Jun 2014 CC (ASA 3U) 4.5K 2
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I'm advocating for the use of Hungarian notation in microcontroller code

What happened to Hungarian Notation?

Hungarian notation had fallen out of use in the mainstream programming, compared to late 1990s and early 2000s. In my observation, today the default setting in the majority of the code writers' minds is Hungarian notation: off. What had caused this? Is there really no use for Hungarian notation?

Mainstream IDEs have Evolved

Mainstream Integrated Development Environments (IDE) have been getting increasingly more powerful. Now they provide on-the-fly some reference information about variables. This reduces the need to encode additional meta-information (type, scope) into the name of the variable.

OO Languages vs. Non-OO Languages

OO languages (such as C# and Java) vs. non-OO languages (such as plain C). OO program may use a larger set of data types, which can include a large number of classes. Remembering (and sometimes inventing) a map of Hungarian prefixes becomes more tedious.

Using the prefix p for pointers in C++ is still a good idea. Pointers should be treated with additional care, so it wouldn’t hurt to have this additional bit of labeling. Similarly, fp for function pointers.

Refactoring

Refactoring has emerged as a major force in software development.  Hungarian notation, however, predates the wide use of refactoring.  For example, an initial version of the code may have status represented by a string.  Later it gets refactored to an enum which provides condition for switch statements.  Later it gets refactored again, and condition is replaced with polymorphism. 

  • Without Hungarian, the metamorphoses of the member variable (field) would be something along the lines of
    string m_status -> StatusEnum m_status -> Status m_status
    The type of the member variable changes but the name remains the same.
  • With Hungarian
    string m_strStatus -> StatusEnum m_iStatus -> Status m_objStatus
    Notice that both the type and the name change.

The first case requires less change to the source code.  Then again, automated refactoring aids would make everything smoother.

Embedded Programming

Code for microcontrollers (especially, the relatively small 8- and 16-bit ones) is often written in plain C. IDEs for microcontrollers often lack Intellisense and other productivity features. As a result, I think that Hungarian notation is still strongly indicated for microcontroller code.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

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About the Author

Nick Alexeev
Systems Engineer Prolitech
United States United States
doing business as Prolitech
Redwood City, CA
http://www.prolifictec.com

blog (mostly technical)
http://reconvolution.blogspot.com

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Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralThoughts Pin
PIEBALDconsult22-Sep-14 9:47
professionalPIEBALDconsult22-Sep-14 9:47 
QuestionWhy Hungarian Notation is no longer common. Pin
Bill_Hallahan9-Jun-14 16:17
memberBill_Hallahan9-Jun-14 16:17 
GeneralLanguage more than target system Pin
John Brett9-Jun-14 6:28
memberJohn Brett9-Jun-14 6:28 

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