C++ is dead. Long live C++

December 1, 2011
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(This article was first published on Quantitative thoughts » EN, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

During the summer I was contacted by a hedge fund from Bahamas. The fund was looking for someone with R language skills on-site and insisted for phone interview. Besides obvious questions about finance, statistics, coding and how many tennis balls can fit in Boeing 747 (ok, this question was omitted), they wanted to know if I code in C++. So, I told them true – the last time I wrote a line in C++ was more or less 10 years ago. Long story short – it made me thinking about existence of C++.

10 yeas ago I was told, that C++ is going to disappear soon and Java is the king. At that time neither HN nor stackoverflow existed (meaning, that I had to rely on limited source), so I took it for granted, so here I am.

What do we have 10 years later? Neither C++ is dead, nor Java is sexy anymore. Actually is opposite – if you use Java, then you are clumsy programmer with lack of imagination. Does it sounds offensive? Then read for example the comments of Scala vs Java article and you will get the same feeling. Replacement of  Sun with Oracle does not help either.

But lets go back to C++. Google trends says, that C++ enjoys either maturity or decline. However, if you concentrate on specific industry, you will have a different picture. Kernel development (C not C++), game industry, number crunching, data mining, finance – where C++ matters. I know, I know, that you can write a magic code with Ruby or Python and it will perform almost as C++. And I saw a video, where guys were claiming, that they tuned “a bit”  Java and now it is able to deal with more that 1 million requests a second. Only the thing they did was elimination of garbage collection. The question – is it really worth of doing that way?

Next thing is to check what is demand for C++. Time to time I scroll through HN to be millionaires list and strangely enough C++ is demanded for back end systems, where performance or data amount is an issue. However, if you are targeting finance industry exclusively, then you may find this discussion interesting. Basically, it says, that there is stable demand for C++. Worth to say nonetheless, that C++ is mostly used by front and middle offices (where quants live) and the demand diminish in back office.

With such subjective study in mind I purchased C++ Primer by Stanley B. Lippman, which I recommend to beginners or disillusioned users like me. So far I built 2 small projects and in which one of them I parse 1.5 million terms to get a list of most used terms. R language does that in minutes, C++ in seconds.

Welcome back C++. It seems, that I miss you.

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