Smart pointers

It’s a question of ownership really. Who does own the underlying object? In Boost we have

  • scoped_ptr and scoped_array – private ownership. I got my hands on the object and only I control it
  • shared_ptr and shared_array – shared ownership with internal reference counting. Collective thinking, we own the object and anyone if free to join
  • intrusive_ptr – shared ownership with custom reference counting
  • weak_ptr – no ownership. I don’t own anything but I can tell you who might

And then there are std:auto_ptr and std::unique_ptr. They do ownership transfer. That is only one owner is allowed at a time.

	auto_ptr x(new int);
	auto_ptr y;

	y = x;

	cout << x.get() << endl; // NULL !!!
 	cout << y.get() << endl; // not NULL
 
	unique_ptr x(new int);
	unique_ptr y;

	y = move(x);

	cout << x.get() << endl; // NULL !!!
 	cout << y.get() << endl; // not NULL
 

A while back I read Jeff Alger book "C++ for Real Programmers". That was before Boost. I think it was written even before auto_ptr. For anyone interested in C++ history I highly recommend it. At least it will be obvious why we have such a diversity of smart pointers.

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