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Department of Computer Science and Technology

Wheeler Lectures


C++11 Style

The first Wheeler Lecture was held at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory on Wednesday 15 February 2012, at 16:00. The speaker was Bjarne Stroustrup, who talked on C++11 Style.


We know how to write bad code: Litter our programs with casts, macros, pointers, naked new and deletes, and complicated control structures. Alternatively (or in addition), obscure every design decision in a mess of deeply nested abstractions using the latest object-oriented programming and generic programming tricks. For good measure, complicate our algorithms with interesting special cases. Such code is incomprehensible, unmaintainable, usually inefficient, and not uncommon.

But how do we write good code? What principles, techniques, and idioms can we exploit to make it easier to produce quality code? I will make an argument for type-rich interfaces, compact data structures, integrated resource management and error handling, and highly-structured algorithmic code. I will illustrate my ideas and motivate my guidelines with a few idiomatic code examples.

I will use C++11 freely. Examples include auto, general constant expressions, uniform initialization, type aliases, type safe threading, and user-defined literals.

C++ features are only just starting to appear in production compilers, so some of my suggestions have the nature of conjecture. However, developing a “modern style” is essential if we don’t want to maintain newly-written 1970s and 1980s style code in 2020.

This presentation reflects my thoughts on what “Modern C++” should mean in the 2010s: a language for programming based on light-weight abstraction with a direct and efficient mapping to hardware, suitable for infrastructure code.

Biographical notes

Bjarne Stroustrup is the designer and original implementer of C++ and the author of:

  • Programming Principles and Practice using C++
  • The C++ Programming Language
  • The Design and Evolution of C++

and many other publications.

His research interests include distributed systems, design, programming techniques, software development tools, and programming languages. He is actively involved in the ANSI/ISO standardization of C++.

Dr. Stroustrup is a Distinguished Professor and holder of the College of Engineering Chair in Computer Science at Texas A&M University. He retains a link with AT&T Labs— as an AT&T Fellow. He has received numerous honors, including an honorary professorship in the University of Aarhus, Dr. Dobb's Excellence in Programming award, the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement from Sigma Xi, the IEEE Computer Society's Computer Entrepreneur Award, and the ACM Grace Murray Hopper award. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and an ACM and IEEE Fellow.

He received his Cand. Scient. (Mathematics and Computer Science) 1975, University of Aarhus Denmark, and Ph.D. (Computer Science) 1979, Cambridge University, England.