[Openmcl-devel] Is setf atomic?

Pascal Costanza pc at p-cos.net
Tue Nov 6 13:07:53 PST 2007

On 6 Nov 2007, at 21:59, Andrew Shalit wrote:

> What would it mean for (setf var 42) to be thread-safe or not thread  
> safe?
> I can understand what this might mean for
> (setf var (do-something-complex))  ;; lots of stuff can happen  
> during the calculation of do-something-complex
>                                                               ;;and  
> between the time that value is calculated and the variable is assigned
> and I can understand what it could mean for
> (progn
>  (setf var 42)
>  var)  ;;var might not be 42 at this point
> or
> (progn
>  (setf var 42)
>  (setf foo var))  ;; foo could be set to pretty much anything
> But what would it mean for (setf var 42) in isolation not to be  
> thread safe?

42 could be stored in a 64-bit place, and the store operation could be  
split up in two 32-bit store operations. Thus, it could happen that  
other threads see just garbage when they happen to do a read access in  

For example, that's a case that is documented for Java's memory model,  
see http://java.sun.com/docs/books/jls/third_edition/html/memory.html#17.7


Pascal Costanza, mailto:pc at p-cos.net, http://p-cos.net
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Programming Technology Lab
Pleinlaan 2, B-1050 Brussel, Belgium

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