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8/24/04 2:27 PM
Copyright 2004 David C. Loebig

Random Digressions

Help.Stacks.Heaps and Piles


Help-dot-Stacks-dot-Heaps and Piles

Please help me understand. To wit: “When boxing occurs, the contents of a value type are copied from the stack into memory allocated on the managed heap.”

It comes from a computer book, which is a literary genre where completely made up words form long, cryptic sentences without any vowels, and ordinary words become vexing befuddlements.

So what in blazes does that sentence mean?

I know what all the words mean. I use them myself from time to time. You’d think I’d understand that sentence.

But it is no ordinary sentence written by simple folk like you and me. It was written by a “computer author” in a book about ASP.NET and OTHER/ODDLY_fORMED.WORds.BORING.

Perhaps it’s best to take the sentence step-by-step. First it says “when boxing occurs.”

I think I get that. When somebody puts something in a box.

Or does it mean the kind of boxing with gloves and punching? I imagine the busy little electrons inside my computer leaving work Friday night and getting together to smoke cigars, drink beer and watch a fight between the gigabytes and the megahertz. Come to think of it, my computer behaves that way a lot.

Next it says “the contents of a value type.” There are moral values, monetary values and color values. The contents of one of these values are important in this sentence because they “are copied from the stack.” I’ve never seen values in stacks, but when people preach values you usually end up hip deep in a pile of it.

I’m not sure, but this might mean a pile of moral values we should copy, which sounds kind of moralizing if you ask me. It must be a Republican pile.

Finally it says that this pile should be copied “into memory allocated on the managed heap.”

Managing your heap may be important for computers, but take it from me, unmanaged heaps are much more fun. You can jump up and down in them. You can toss them in the air and let them float playfully around you. You can fluff them up and take a nap on them when you’re tired. Try that with a managed heap.

It should come as no surprise that those dreary “managed” heaps you find in computers are created by people with a neatness fixation and a lot of persnicketiness. Now there’s a good word, “persnicketiness.” Why don’t computer books use fun words like that?

If computer books had more words like that, they would be easier to read. Some pictures to color would be a big help, too.

So the conclusion, if there is any conclusion to reach here, is that you shouldn’t box your stacked heaps in a pile. Or is it that you should stack your values in a heap? Or is it that you shouldn’t step in that pile?

Well, I’m just not sure, and that was my point to start with. But I don’t want to leave you with nothing from this column, so I’ll leave you with this: persnickety

Dave Loebig writes and banters out of the Tampa, Fla. area. You can banter with him at


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