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[CLJS-919] compare-and-set! relies on Atom record structure instead of protocols Created: 23/Dec/14  Updated: 24/Dec/14  Resolved: 24/Dec/14

Status: Closed
Project: ClojureScript
Component/s: None
Affects Version/s: None
Fix Version/s: None

Type: Defect Priority: Major
Reporter: Nikita Prokopov Assignee: Unassigned
Resolution: Completed Votes: 0
Labels: atom, protocols

Attachments: Text File cljs-919-generic-cas.patch    


Here CAS uses .-state property, thus binding itself to Atoms only:

(defn compare-and-set! [a oldval newval]
  (if (= (.-state a) oldval)
    (do (reset! a newval) true)

We can replace it with -deref call instead, opening it up for alternative implementations:

(defn compare-and-set! [a oldval newval]
  (if (= (-deref a) oldval)
    (do (reset! a newval) true)

Comment by David Nolen [ 24/Dec/14 8:39 AM ]

thanks fixed https://github.com/clojure/clojurescript/commit/4ee89df427644c096d32117194ae1d76f8dec836

[CLJ-1599] Add a reset! that returns old value Created: 24/Nov/14  Updated: 02/Mar/15

Status: Open
Project: Clojure
Component/s: None
Affects Version/s: Release 1.7
Fix Version/s: None

Type: Enhancement Priority: Major
Reporter: Steven Yi Assignee: Unassigned
Resolution: Unresolved Votes: 1
Labels: atom

Attachments: File get-and-set.diff    
Patch: Code
Approval: Triaged



This patch adds the equivalent of reset!, here called get-and-set!, to core to allow getting the last value from an atom and setting it to a new value. This is useful for atomically draining an atom of its value and setting to a new value. The implementation delegates to Java's AtomicReference.getAndSet().

The equivalent operation in Clojure code would be:

(defn get-and-set! [atm newv]
(loop [oldv @atm]
(if (compare-and-set! atm oldv newv)
(recur @atm))))

This is close to a 1:1 translation of the Java code in sun.misc.Unsafe's getAndSetObject, used by AtomicReference (as of current JDK9 source code).


  • User may want to check if an operation has occurred before by using an atom as a flag. I.e.,

(def has-run-once (atom false))
(when-not (get-and-set! has-run-once true)
(do something))

  • User may want to use an atom similarly to a java.util.concurrent.LinkedTransferQueue, for the case of pairing up adds by writers and drainTo by readers:

Thread 1: (swap! atm conj item1)
Thread 2: (swap! atm conj item2)
Thread 3: (let [new-vals (get-and-set! atm [])]
(do-something new-vals))


  • For case of atom as flag, user can use existing compare-and-set!:

(def has-run-once (atom false))
(when-not (compare-and-set! has-run-once false true)
(do something))

Argument: get-and-set! is a little clearer in intent as it is using the value of the atom, rather than the success of the cas operation. Also, this would not be applicable to situations where the value stored is not a boolean.

  • User can just go ahead and use LinkedTransferQueue.

Argument: User not fluent in Java may not be readily able to use this.


Argument for: This seems like a sufficiently primitive operation to include in core for atoms. I am unsure of the rationale, but assume it was vetted to include into Java's AtomicReference for a reason. Also, if users are using atoms and have this available, they are less likely to try to do this incorrectly, such as:

(let [vals @some-atom]
(reset! some-atom [])
(do-something-with vals))

Argument against: This may not be sufficiently primitive enough to include in core. Users have a workaround to implement the get-and-set! operation in user-code as given above.

Note: This request is similar to CLJ-1454 (http://dev.clojure.org/jira/browse/CLJ-1454), but differs in that this is not a swap! operation that accepts an IFn argument. Also, I looked to add a test in test/clojure/test_clojure/atoms.clj, but saw that the other operations weren't tested. (I assume this is due to the other operations delegating to AtomicReference and hence not deemed test-worthy.)

Comment by Michael Blume [ 02/Mar/15 5:03 PM ]

I tend to wind up inevitably adding this to my projects, be nice to have it in core

Comment by Alex Miller [ 02/Mar/15 7:27 PM ]

So CLJ-1454 is swap! and return old and CLJ-1599 is reset! and return old?

Comment by Steven Yi [ 02/Mar/15 7:48 PM ]

Yes, I think that's an accurate interpretation of the two tickets.

[CLJ-1454] Add a swap! that returns old value Created: 28/Jun/14  Updated: 02/Mar/15

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

Type: Enhancement Priority: Major
Reporter: Philip Potter Assignee: Unassigned
Resolution: Unresolved Votes: 6
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!).

[CLJ-803] IAtom interface Created: 27/May/11  Updated: 07/Oct/14  Resolved: 07/Oct/14

Status: Closed
Project: Clojure
Component/s: None
Affects Version/s: Release 1.6
Fix Version/s: Release 1.7

Type: Enhancement Priority: Minor
Reporter: Pepijn de Vos Assignee: Unassigned
Resolution: Completed Votes: 4
Labels: atom

Attachments: Text File 0001-atom-interface.patch     Text File iatom.patch    
Patch: Code
Approval: Ok


Atom does not have an interface and is marked final. This patch extracts an IAtom interface and has Atom implement it.

Patch: 0001-atom-interface.patch

Screened by: Alex Miller

More info: Rich said "patch welcome for IAtom". See IRC logs: http://clojure-log.n01se.net/date/2010-12-29.html#10:04c

Comment by Stuart Halloway [ 27/May/11 2:33 PM ]

Please add a patch formatted by "git format-patch" so that attribution is included.

Comment by Pepijn de Vos [ 04/Jun/11 5:56 AM ]

I added the formatted patch a few days ago. Does 'no news is good news' apply here?

And, silly question, will it make it into 1.3? I can't figure out how to tell Jira to show me that.

Comment by Kevin Downey [ 04/Jul/11 9:06 PM ]

I fail to see the need for an IAtom, if you want something atom like for couchdb the interfaces are already there. Maybe I ICompareAndSwap. Atoms and couchdb are different so making them appear the same is a bad idea.


http://clojure.org/state one of the distinctions between agents and actors raised in the section titled "Message Passing and Actors" is local vs. distributed and the same distinction can be made between couchdb (regardless of compare and swap) and atoms

Comment by Aaron Bedra [ 04/Jul/11 9:18 PM ]

This ticket has already been moved into approved backlog. It will be revisited again after the 1.3 release where we will take a closer look at things. For now, this will remain as is.

Comment by Aaron Craelius [ 10/Jul/14 12:15 PM ]

Any chance this patch could get implemented in an upcoming Clojure release. There is still continued interest, see this thread: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/clojure-dev/y5QoMqd44Lc

One suggestion I would make is also removing the final marker from clojure.lang.Atom - I can see use cases where one would want to directly subclass Atom (to capture dependencies in reactive computations for instance).

Comment by Brandon Bloom [ 02/Aug/14 2:14 PM ]

I'd like to see an IAtom interface, but would prefer that `swap` not be part of it. Swapping can, and should, be defined in terms of `compareAndSet`. Seems like IAtom should only have `boolean compareAndSet(object oldval, object newval)` as well as `void reset(object newval)`.

Comment by Brandon Bloom [ 02/Aug/14 2:29 PM ]

Alternative patch that introduces IAtom and converts swap to be static.

Comment by Pepijn de Vos [ 03/Aug/14 2:59 AM ]

At the time I did the initial patch, I had the same idea to remove swap, but Rich said there where cases for having it, so it should stay in according to him.

Comment by Aaron Craelius [ 03/Aug/14 1:51 PM ]

One use case I can think of for overriding swap is if an IAtom is wrapping say a row of data stored in a database. Then comparing something like a version column (or transaction id in the case of datomic) is what should determine whether a swap is retried, not the actual value of the data. In this case then, compareAndSet would actually be a more complex operation than swap and it makes sense to define the two independently.

Comment by Aaron Craelius [ 03/Aug/14 1:56 PM ]

I should also mention my related issue: http://dev.clojure.org/jira/browse/CLJ-1470 which simply allows Atom (and also ARef) to be sub-classed. Both patches could ultimately work together to make the whole Atom/ARef infrastructure easier to extend.

Comment by Alex Miller [ 10/Sep/14 4:47 PM ]

This ticket needs some work before it can be screened:

  • description can lose the the Couch stuff
  • needs some mention of tradeoffs for the various swap alternatives
  • don't know what patch should be considered
Comment by Brandon Bloom [ 10/Sep/14 5:01 PM ]

I removed my patch because Pepijn/Rich is right: Swap should be part of the interface.

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