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	I call it my billion-dollar mistake. It was the invention of the
	null reference in 1965. At that time, I was designing the first
	comprehensive type system for references in an object oriented
	language (ALGOL W). My goal was to ensure that all use of references
	should be absolutely safe, with checking performed automatically by
	the compiler. But I couldn't resist the temptation to put in a null
	reference, simply because it was so easy to implement. This has led
	to innumerable errors, vulnerabilities, and system crashes, which
	have probably caused a billion dollars of pain and damage in the
	last forty years.
		--- C. A. R. Hoare

It was thus said that the Great Axel Kittenberger once stated:
> julien> -          It is the value given when we don’t know what else
> to give (not
> julien> defined, unknown value, an error occured, …)
> Thank you a lot for bringing that up! In your list it has 3 meanings
> already, including even an ellipsis for more! Thats whats likely the
> cause the reappearing confusion around it.
> I see what I've done here however. _Nobody_ was actually inspired by
> the idea of non-nilness. I'm suprised that no-one pointed the "this
> language you never heared of", that has non-nullable types and
> non-null-pointers. BTW: what does fortran (in its many dialects use?)

  I'm only slightly familiar with Fortran77, having used it briefly in '88
or '89 (college course and I still have the text book) but there's no
concept of NULL in Fortran77, which is understandable since you have to
predeclare everything (including the sizes of all arrays) before you use it. 
Also given that you declare all variable types (by default, variables
starting with I through N are of type integer, otherwise they're real) there
is no concept of "undefined" or "unknown" (okay, there *may* be a NaN but I
find no reference to such in the book I have).  Also, there is no concept of
pointers in Fortran77, so there is also no concept of a NULL pointer.

> I don't know what to make of it, either the idea is incredibly stupid
> and a fallback or an anachronism for which we just yet fail to see its
> virtue. 

  There's a program I came across [1] that allows on to map the
address 0 in a Linux process.  The program allows for both reading and
writing, but even just making the page(es) read-only makes for some
interesting possibilities, but first, a bit of a digression---feel free to
skip the next paragraph if it's too pedantic.

  C states that a 0 in a pointer context, such as:" char *p = 0;" is to be
converted to a NULL pointer, or an invalid address that cannot be
referenced.  On *most* platforms, this address also happens to be 0, but it
*can* be some other bit pattern that makes an invalid address (although I'm
not aware of any CPU architecture that uses anything other an 0 for an
invalid address; they can exist, I'm just not aware of any).  It just so
happens that 0 tends to work across a wide range of modern computers these
days.  So, assuming that address 0 *is also* an invalid address, we resume.

  In C, strings are character arrays terminated by a 0 byte.  Assuming the
memory at location 0 is also 0, then 

	strcmp(NULL,"") == 0
	strlen(NULL) == 0
	printf("%s",NULL) = ""

  And, if you map enough memory at 0, with the contents of 0, to cover the
size of any structure, then you automatically have a "NULL" object that can
be passed around, as long as it's not written to.   Too bad you can't map one
block of memory for read-only access at 0, and a different block of memory
write-only at 0, for then you would have a truely NULL object, that's always
empty and yet, writes to it don't do anything (much like /dev/null under

  Some might consider the idea wonderful (and I admit, it's an intriguing
idea), while others are horrified at the sins (bugs) this hides (as I am). 
But what would the effect of allowing such a "nil" in Lua?

  I know that in the C code I write, I try to avoid NULL as much as
possible.  It's not always easy, but it does lead to better code in my

  -spc (and no, I don't map address 0 in any of my programs, no matter 
	how tempting it is ... )

#define _GNU_SOURCE
#include <assert.h>
#include <sys/mman.h>
#include <stdio.h>

int main() 
  int  *ptr;

  ptr =  mmap(

  if (ptr == (void *)MAP_FAILED)
    perror("Unable to mmap(NULL)");
    fprintf(stderr, "Is /proc/sys/vm/mmap_min_addr non-zero?\n");
    return 1;

  assert(ptr == NULL);

  printf("Dereferencing my NULL pointer yields: %d\n", *ptr);
  *ptr = 17;
  printf("Now it's: %d\n", *ptr);
  return 0;