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Bjarne Stroustrup on the 30th anniversary of Cfront (the first C++ compiler)

At that time, what was your vision about C++? How did you see its future?

Obviously, I did not predict C++s enormous, and occasionally explosive growth. I was focused on improving the language, on figuring out how to write libraries, on improving the compiler, and on explaining how to use it all.

On the other hand, most of what we see in C++ today has deep roots into the early days. Classes, function declarations (function prototypes), constructors, and destructors were part of the very first design. I included inline functions and overloaded assignments a couple of years later. The distinction between initialization and assignment was there. General overloading of operators came a bit later (1983 or so) together with virtual functions. People often forget that parameterized types were there from the start. I used a vector macro with the element type as a macro parameter from the earliest days and Cfront shipped with a <generic.h> header. For a couple of years, I thought macros would be enough to support generic programming. I was very wrong about that, but I was right about the need to parameterize types and functions with (other) types. The result became templates (1988).

The basic idea was to extend the language with facilities allowing users to define powerful, elegant, and efficient abstractions. This contrasts with the idea of supporting application-specific abstractions directly in the language. To this day, C++ has Cs basic machine model to allow efficient and reasonable portable use of hardware. We are also still working on incremental improvements of C++s support for efficient abstraction.

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