Questions/issues regarding generators

Jason Orendorff jason.orendorff at
Fri Mar 8 09:23:07 PST 2013

On Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 1:05 PM, Andreas Rossberg <rossberg at>wrote:

> On 7 March 2013 18:30, Allen Wirfs-Brock <allen at> wrote:
> > Zip's informal contract should state that if iterators are passed as
> > arguments they need to be distinct objects. If you want to implement it
> > defensively, you can add a  check for that pre-condition.
> I have to disagree here. That is just evading the question what the
> contract for .iterator is. Either it is supposed to create new state
> or it isn't. It's not a very useful contract to say that it can be
> both, because then you cannot reliably program against it.

In Python, the contract definitely says that it can be both. It's the only
practical choice. For collections, you want new state. But you also want
things such as generators, database cursors, and file descriptors to be

    with open(filename, 'r') as f:
        for line in f:

and you definitely don't want new state here, because what would that even
mean? A read position is kind of inherent to a file descriptor, right?

When you call zip() in Python, you expect that each argument will be
iterated. I mean, it could hardly be otherwise. So if you've got an
argument that can only be consumed once (either something like a file, or
an arbitrary iterable you don't know about), you don't pass it twice; and
you expect each such argument to become useless afterwards, just as if you
had used it in a for-loop. That's clear enough to code to reliably in
practice. It's not all that different from Unix pipes.

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