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Call by name v call by value

All the programming languages that we train on provide the facility for you to write a named block of code and the call it from elsewhere - such blocks are known as subs in Perl, functions in PHP, Procs in Tcl, and functions or methods in Python. They're a vital part of any "grown up" programming system, allowing for modular coding and the re-use of common facilities between many of your programs.

Code blocks aren't used in isolation - they need to have information that they're to work on passed in, usually in the form of parameters. There are two ways of doing this.

You can pass in parameters by VALUE. If you do this, the contents of the variable are copied into the named block of code. That's a very safe way of doing things - since the value is copied in, any changes made to it within the named block of code will not cause any change to the data from which it was passed in the main code. If you like, this is rather like me handing you a photocopy of a document - no matter how much you draw all over the photocopy, you're not damaging my original.

You can pass in parameters by NAME. In a call by name system, a variable within your named block of code points to the same piece of computer memory as the variable in the calling code and if a function alters the content of a variable in a scheme such is this, it also alters the calling variable. This is like me loaning you an original document - if you draw all over it, you've damaged the only copy and it can't be recovered

So call by NAME is very much more flexible that call by VALUE - perhaps dangerously so.

Which scheme do the languages on which we provide training work?

In Perl, you're calling by name through the special list @_. It is, however, a convention to copy the contents of that variable into a named variable within your sub, thus making it look like call by value.

In PHP, you call by value by default. If you add an extra & (Ampersand) in front of the variable name in the function definition, you're telling it to pass parameters by name instead.

In Tcl, you call by value. If you need to call by name, you actually pass in the name as a value and then use the upvar command. This always takes a while to explain on the Tcl courses!

In Python, you call by name. Everything is an object, and you simply pass in a reference to the object.

In C, you're calling by value most of the time. If you preceed your called value with and ampersand (&) then you're passing in the address at which the value can be found - i.e. you're calling by name.
(written 2005-05-11, updated 2006-06-05)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
H105 - PHP - Functions
  [3026] Coding efficiency - do not repeat yourself! - (2010-11-02)
  [2929] Passing a variable number of parameters in to a function / method - (2010-08-20)
  [2737] Improving your function calls (APIs) - General and PHP - (2010-04-24)
  [2682] Adding extensions to PHP Open Source applications - callbacks - (2010-03-17)
  [2630] Static variables and ampersands in PHP - (2010-02-10)
  [2488] A variable number of arguments in a PHP function - (2009-11-02)
  [1784] Global - Tcl, PHP, Python - (2008-09-03)
  [1380] Static variables in PHP - (2007-10-05)
  [1357] Clean my plate, but keep my wine bottle. (PHP; Static) - (2007-09-18)
  [1267] is there a lookup function in php? - (2007-07-15)
  [1202] Returning multiple values from a function (Perl, PHP, Python) - (2007-05-24)
  [1163] A better alternative to cutting and pasting code - (2007-04-26)
  [1021] PHP - static declaration - (2007-01-04)
  [936] Global, Superglobal, Session variables - scope and persistance in PHP - (2006-11-21)
  [866] A lazy programmer is a good programmer - (2006-09-15)
  [775] Do not duplicate your code - (2006-06-23)
  [421] Don't repeat code - use loops or functions - (2005-08-21)
  [409] Functions and commands with dangerous names - (2005-08-11)
  [340] Code and code maintainance efficiency - (2005-06-08)
  [339] Passing information into and out of PHP functions - (2005-06-07)
  [223] There is a function in PHP to do that - (2005-02-21)
  [96] Variable Scope - (2004-10-22)

P209 - Subroutines in Perl
  [3833] Learning to use existing classes in Perl - (2012-08-10)
  [3574] Perl functions such as chop change their input parameters - (2012-01-10)
  [3066] Separating groups of variables into namespaces - (2010-11-24)
  [2833] Fresh Perl Teaching Examples - part 2 of 3 - (2010-06-27)
  [2550] Do not copy and paste code - there are much better ways - (2009-12-26)
  [2069] Efficient calls to subs in Perl - avoid duplication, gain speed - (2009-03-07)
  [1921] Romeo and Julie - (2008-12-04)
  [1860] Seven new intermediate Perl examples - (2008-10-30)
  [1850] Daisy the Cow and a Pint of Ginger Beer - (2008-10-21)
  [1826] Perl - Subs, Chop v Chomp, => v , - (2008-10-08)
  [1782] Calling procs in Tcl and how it compares to Perl - (2008-09-02)
  [969] Perl - $_ and @_ - (2006-12-07)
  [588] Changing @INC - where Perl loads its modules - (2006-02-02)
  [531] Packages in packages in Perl - (2005-12-16)
  [357] Where do Perl modules load from - (2005-06-24)

T207 - Tcl/Tk - Procedures and Variable Scope
  [4398] Accessing variables across subroutine boundaries - Perl, Python, Java and Tcl - (2015-01-18)
  [3629] Sharing lots of values in Tcl without having lots of global declarations - (2012-02-28)
  [3414] Passing back multiple results in Tcl - upvar and uplevel - (2011-09-01)
  [3192] Tcl - Some example of HOW TO in handling data files and formats - (2011-03-04)
  [2520] Global and Enable - two misused words! - (2009-11-30)
  [2476] Tcl - uplevel to run code at calling level - (2009-10-24)
  [2466] Tcl - passing arrays and strings in and back out of procs - (2009-10-22)
  [1404] Tcl - global, upvar and uplevel. - (2007-10-24)
  [122] Passing arrays to procs in Tcl - (2004-11-18)

Y105 - Python - Functions, Modules and Packages
  [4724] From and Import in Python - where is the module loaded from? - (2016-11-06)
  [4722] Embedding more complex code into a named block - (2016-11-04)
  [4719] Nesting decorators - (2016-11-02)
  [4662] Recursion in Python - the classic example - (2016-03-07)
  [4645] What are callbacks? Why use them? An example in Python - (2016-02-11)
  [4448] What is the difference between a function and a method? - (2015-03-04)
  [4441] Reading command line parameters in Python - (2015-02-23)
  [4410] A good example of recursion - a real use in Python - (2015-02-01)
  [4407] Python - even named code blocks are objects - (2015-01-28)
  [4361] Multiple yields and no loops in a Python generator? - (2014-12-22)
  [4212] Python functions - an introduction to how they work - (2013-11-16)
  [4161] Python varables - checking existance, and call by name or by value? - (2013-08-27)
  [4029] Exception, Lambda, Generator, Slice, Dict - examples in one Python program - (2013-03-04)
  [3945] vargs in Python - how to call a method with unknown number of parameters - (2012-12-06)
  [3931] Optional positional and named parameters in Python - (2012-11-23)
  [3885] Default local - a good choice by the author of Python - (2012-10-08)
  [3852] Static variables in Python? - (2012-08-29)
  [3766] Python timing - when to use a list, and when to use a generator - (2012-06-16)
  [3695] Functions are first class variables in Lua and Python - (2012-04-13)
  [3662] Finding all the unique lines in a file, using Python or Perl - (2012-03-20)
  [3474] Python Packages - groupings of modules. An introduction - (2011-10-11)
  [3472] Static variables in functions - and better ways using objects - (2011-10-10)
  [3464] Passing optional and named parameters to python methods - (2011-10-04)
  [3459] Catching the fishes first? - (2011-09-27)
  [3280] Passing parameters to Python functions - the options you have - (2011-05-07)
  [3159] Returning multiple values from a function call in various languages - a comparison - (2011-02-06)
  [2998] Using an exception to initialise a static variable in a Python function / method - (2010-10-13)
  [2994] Python - some common questions answered in code examples - (2010-10-10)
  [2878] Program for reliability and efficiency - do not duplicate, but rather share and re-use - (2010-07-19)
  [2766] Optional and named parameters to Python functions/methods - (2010-05-15)
  [2718] Python - access to variables in the outer scope - (2010-04-12)
  [2506] Good example of recursion in Python - analyse an RSS feed - (2009-11-18)
  [2481] Sample code with errors in it on our web site - (2009-10-29)
  [2440] Optional parameters to Python functions - (2009-10-07)
  [2439] Multiple returns from a function in Python - (2009-10-06)
  [2011] Conversion of OSI grid references to Eastings and Northings - (2009-01-28)
  [1879] Dynamic code - Python - (2008-11-11)
  [1871] Optional and named parameters in Python - (2008-11-05)
  [1870] What to do with a huge crop of apples - (2008-11-04)
  [1869] Anonymous functions (lambdas) and map in Python - (2008-11-04)
  [1790] Sharing variables with functions, but keeping them local too - Python - (2008-09-09)
  [1464] Python Script - easy examples of lots of basics - (2007-12-08)
  [1134] Function / method parameters with * and ** in Python - (2007-04-04)
  [959] It's the 1st, not the 1nd 1rd or 1th. - (2006-12-01)
  [949] Sludge off the mountain, and Python and PHP - (2006-11-27)
  [913] Python - A list of methods - (2006-11-03)
  [912] Recursion in Python - (2006-11-02)
  [900] Python - function v method - (2006-10-20)
  [821] Dynamic functions and names - Python - (2006-08-03)
  [749] Cottage industry or production line data handling methods - (2006-06-07)
  [745] Python modules. The distribution, The Cheese Shop and the Vaults of Parnassus. - (2006-06-05)
  [668] Python - block insets help with documentation - (2006-04-04)
  [561] Python's Generator functions - (2006-01-11)
  [418] Difference between import and from in Python - (2005-08-18)
  [386] What is a callback? - (2005-07-22)
  [303] Lambdas in Python - (2005-05-06)
  [294] Python generator functions, lambdas, and iterators - (2005-04-28)
  [105] Distance Learning - (2004-10-31)


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