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[CLJ-1454] Add a swap! that returns old value Created: 28/Jun/14  Updated: 26/Jan/16

Status: Open
Project: Clojure
Component/s: None
Affects Version/s: None
Fix Version/s: None

Type: Enhancement Priority: Critical
Reporter: Philip Potter Assignee: Unassigned
Resolution: Unresolved Votes: 8
Labels: atom

Approval: Triaged


Sometimes, when mutating an atom, it's desirable to know what the value before the swap happened. The existing swap! function returns the new value, so is unsuitable for this use case. Currently, the only option is to roll your own using a loop and compare-and-set!

An example of this would be where the atom contains a PersistentQueue and you want to atomically remove the head of the queue and process it: if you run (swap! a pop), you have lost the reference to the old head of the list so you can't process it.

It would be good to have a new function swap-returning-old! which returned the old value instead of the new.

Comment by Philip Potter [ 28/Jun/14 4:00 PM ]

Overtone already defines functions like this in overtone.helpers.ref, which get used by overtone.libs.event. These return both the old and the new value, although in all existing use cases only the old value gets used.

flatland/useful defines a trade! fn which returns the old value, although the implementation is less clean than a compare-and-set! based solution would be.

Comment by Philip Potter [ 29/Jun/14 6:23 AM ]

Chris Ford suggested "swap-out!" as a name for this function. I definitely think "swap-returning-old!" isn't the ideal name.

Comment by Jozef Wagner [ 30/Jun/14 1:33 AM ]

I propose a switch! name. The verb switch is defined as "substitute (two items) for each other; exchange.", and as you get the old value back, it evokes slightly the exchange of items.

Comment by Philip Potter [ 30/Jun/14 3:03 AM ]

Medley also has a deref-swap! which does the same thing.

Comment by Alex Miller [ 30/Jun/14 8:20 AM ]

I think deref-swap! seems like a morally equivalent name to Java's AtomicReference.getAndSet() which is the same idea.

Comment by Philip Potter [ 30/Jun/14 1:19 PM ]

Funny you say that Alex, because prismatic/plumbing defines a get-and-set! (also defined by other projects), equivalent to deref-reset! in medley. Plumbing also defines swap-pair! which returns both old and new values, like the overtone fn, although once again the only usage I can find only uses the old value.

Comment by Alex Miller [ 30/Jun/14 3:37 PM ]

I think it's important to retain the notion that you are not switching/exchanging values but applying the update model of applying a function to the old value to produce the new value. I don't even particularly like "swap!" as I think that aspect is lost in the name (alter and alter-var-root are better). I like that "deref-swap!" combines two words with existing connotations and orders them appropriately.

Comment by Timothy Baldridge [ 30/Jun/14 3:43 PM ]

except that that naming doesn't fit well compared to functions like nfirst which are defined as (comp next first). This function is not (comp deref swap!).

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