Generic programming

Style of computer programming / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Generic programming is a style of computer programming in which algorithms are written in terms of data types to-be-specified-later that are then instantiated when needed for specific types provided as parameters. This approach, pioneered by the ML programming language in 1973,[1][2] permits writing common functions or types that differ only in the set of types on which they operate when used, thus reducing duplicate code.

Generics was introduced to the main-stream programming with Ada in 1977 and then with templates in C++ it became part of the repertoire of professional library design. The techniques were further improved and parameterized types were introduced in the influential 1994 book Design Patterns.[3]

New techniques were introduced by Andrei Alexandrescu in his 2001 book, Modern C++ Design: Generic Programming and Design Patterns Applied. Subsequently, D implemented the same ideas.

Such software entities are known as generics in Ada, C#, Delphi, Eiffel, F#, Java, Nim, Python, Go, Rust, Swift, TypeScript, and Visual Basic .NET. They are known as parametric polymorphism in ML, Scala, Julia, and Haskell (Haskell terminology also uses the term "generic" for a related but somewhat different concept).

The term "generic programming" was originally coined by David Musser and Alexander Stepanov[4] in a more specific sense than the above, to describe a programming paradigm whereby fundamental requirements on data types are abstracted from across concrete examples of algorithms and data structures and formalized as concepts, with generic functions implemented in terms of these concepts, typically using language genericity mechanisms as described above.