13.9.1 Data Validity
Certain actions that can potentially lead to erroneous
execution are not directly erroneous, but instead can cause objects to
become abnormal. Subsequent uses of abnormal objects can be erroneous.
A scalar object can have an invalid representation
which means that the object's representation does not represent any value
of the object's subtype.
The primary cause of invalid
representations is uninitialized variables.
Abnormal objects and invalid representations are
explained in this subclause.
an object is first created, and any explicit or default initializations
have been performed, the object and all of its parts are in the normal
state. Subsequent operations generally leave them normal. However, an
object or part of an object can become abnormal
in the following
An assignment to the object
is disrupted due to an abort (see 9.8
) or due
to the failure of a language-defined check (see 11.6
The object is not scalar, and is passed to an in out
parameter of an imported procedure, the Read procedure
of an instance of Sequential_IO, Direct_IO, or Storage_IO, or the stream
attribute T'Read or language-defined input
, if after return from the procedure the representation
of the parameter does not represent a value of the parameter's subtype.
The object is the return object of a function call
of a nonscalar type, and the function is an imported function, an instance
of Unchecked_Conversion, or the stream attribute T'Input, if after return
from the function the representation of the return object does not represent
a value of the function's subtype.
explicitly list the routines involved in order to avoid future arguments.
All possibilities are listed.
We did not include Stream_IO.Read
in the list above. A Stream_Element should include all possible bit patterns,
and thus it cannot be invalid. Therefore, the parameter will always represent
a value of its subtype. By omitting this routine, we make it possible
to write arbitrary I/O operations without any possibility of abnormal
[For an imported object, it is the programmer's
responsibility to ensure that the object remains in a normal state.]
Proof: This follows
(and echos) the standard rule of interfacing; the programmer must ensure
that Ada semantics are followed (see B.1).
Whether or not an object actually
becomes abnormal in these cases is not specified. An abnormal object
becomes normal again upon successful completion of an assignment to the
object as a whole.
It is erroneous to evaluate a
is a name
denoting an abnormal object, or to evaluate a prefix
that denotes an abnormal object.
Although a composite object with no subcomponents
of an access type, and with static constraints all the way down cannot
become abnormal, a scalar subcomponent of such an object can become abnormal.
The in out or out parameter case
does not apply to scalars; bad scalars are merely invalid representations,
rather than abnormal, in this case.
The reason we allow access objects, and objects containing subcomponents
of an access type, to become abnormal is because the correctness of an
access value cannot necessarily be determined merely by looking at the
bits of the object. The reason we allow scalar objects to become abnormal
is that we wish to allow the compiler to optimize assuming that the value
of a scalar object belongs to the object's subtype, if the compiler can
prove that the object is initialized with a value that belongs to the
subtype. The reason we allow composite objects to become abnormal if
some constraints are nonstatic
is that such object might be represented
with implicit levels of indirection; if those are corrupted, then even
assigning into a component of the object, or simply asking for its Address,
might have an unpredictable effect. The same is true if the discriminants
have been destroyed.
Bounded (Run-Time) Errors
the representation of a scalar object does not represent a value of the
object's subtype (perhaps because the object was not initialized), the
object is said to have an invalid representation
. It is a bounded
error to evaluate the value of such an object.
the error is detected, either Constraint_Error or Program_Error is raised.
Otherwise, execution continues using the invalid representation. The
rules of the language outside this subclause assume that all objects
have valid representations. The semantics of operations on invalid representations
are as follows:
Discussion: The AARM is more explicit
about what happens when the value of the case expression is an invalid
This includes the result object of functions, including
the result of Unchecked_Conversion, T'Input, and imported functions.
If the representation of the object represents
a value of the object's type, the value of the type is used.
If the representation of the object does not represent
a value of the object's type, the semantics of operations on such representations
is implementation-defined, but does not by itself lead to erroneous or
unpredictable execution, or to other objects becoming abnormal.
This means that the implementation must take care
not to use an invalid representation in a way that might cause erroneous
execution. For instance, the exception mandated for case_statements
must be raised. Array indexing must not cause memory outside of the array
to be written (and usually, not read either). These cases and similar
cases may require explicit checks by the implementation.
A call to an imported function or an instance of
Unchecked_Conversion is erroneous if the result is scalar, and
the result object has an invalid representation,
and the result is used other than as the expression
of an assignment_statement
or an object_declaration, as the object_name
of an object_renaming_declaration, or as the prefix
of a Valid attribute. If such a result object is used as the source of
an assignment, and the assigned value is an invalid representation for
the target of the assignment, then any use of the target object prior
to a further assignment to the target object, other than as the prefix
of a Valid attribute reference, is erroneous
In a typical implementation, every bit pattern that fits in an object
of a signed an
integer subtype will represent a value of the type, if not of the subtype.
However, for an enumeration or floating point type, as well as some modular types,
there are typically bit patterns
that do not represent any value of the type. In such cases, the implementation
ought to define the semantics of operations on the invalid representations
in the obvious manner (assuming the bounded error is not detected): a
given representation should be equal to itself, a representation that
is in between the internal codes of two enumeration literals should behave
accordingly when passed to comparison operators and membership tests,
etc. We considered requiring
such sensible behavior, but it resulted
in too much arcane verbiage, and since implementations have little incentive
to behave irrationally, such verbiage is not important to have.
If a stand-alone scalar object is initialized to a an in-range value,
then the implementation can take advantage of the fact that the
any out-of-range value has to be erroneous abnormal
Such an out-of-range value can be produced only by things like unchecked
conversion, imported functions input
and abnormal values caused by
of an assignment due to abort or to failure of a language-defined check.
This depends on out-of-range values being checked before assignment (that
is, checks are not optimized away unless they are proven redundant).
Consider the following
My_Int is range
Safe_Convert is new
Unsafe_Convert is new
X : Positive := Safe_Convert(0); -- Raises Constraint_Error.
Y : Positive := Unsafe_Convert(0); -- Bounded Error, may be invalid.
B : Boolean := Y'Valid; -- OK, B = False.
Z : Positive := Y+1; -- Erroneous to use Y. Erroneous.
The call to Unsafe_Convert is a bounded error,
which might raise Constraint_Error, Program_Error, or return an invalid
value. Moreover, if an exception is not raised, most uses of that invalid
value (including the use of Y) cause causes
erroneous execution. The call to Safe_Convert is not erroneous. The result
object is an object of subtype Integer containing the value 0. The assignment
to X is required to do a constraint check; the fact that the conversion
is unchecked does not obviate the need for subsequent checks required
by the language rules.
The reason for delaying erroneous execution until
the object is used is so that the invalid representation can be tested
for validity using the Valid attribute (see 13.9.2)
without causing execution to become erroneous. Note that this delay does
not imply an exception will not be raised; an implementation could treat
both conversions in the example in the same way and raise Constraint_Error.
The rules are defined in terms of the result object,
and thus the name used to reference that object is irrelevant. That is
why we don't need any special rules to describe what happens when the
function result is renamed.
Implementation Note: If an implementation
wants to have a “friendly” mode, it might always assign an
uninitialized scalar a default initial value that is outside the object's
subtype (if there is one), and check for this value on some or all reads
of the object, so as to help detect references to uninitialized scalars.
Alternatively, an implementation might want to provide an “unsafe”
mode where it presumed even uninitialized scalars were always within
Ramification: The above rules imply that
it is a bounded error to apply a predefined operator to an object with
a scalar subcomponent having an invalid representation, since this implies
reading the value of each subcomponent. Either Program_Error or Constraint_Error
is raised, or some result is produced, which if composite, might have
a corresponding scalar subcomponent still with an invalid representation.
Note that it is not an error to assign, convert,
or pass as a parameter a composite object with an uninitialized scalar
subcomponent. In the other hand, it is a (bounded) error to apply a predefined
operator such as =, <, and xor to a composite operand with
an invalid scalar subcomponent.
The dereference of an access value is erroneous if
it does not designate an object of an appropriate type or a subprogram
with an appropriate profile, if it designates a nonexistent object, or
if it is an access-to-variable value that designates a constant object and it did not originate from an attribute_reference applied to an aliased
variable view of a controlled or immutably limited object
. [An Such
access value whose dereference is erroneous
can exist, for example, because of Unchecked_Deallocation, Unchecked_Access,
Ramification: The above mentioned Unchecked_...
features are not the only causes of such access values. For example,
interfacing to other languages can also cause the problem.
We permit the use of access-to-variable values
that designate constant objects so long as they originate from an aliased
variable view of a controlled or immutably limited constant, such as
during the initialization of a constant (both via the “current
instance” and during a call to Initialize) or during an assignment
(during a call to Adjust). One obscure example
is if the Adjust subprogram of a controlled type uses Unchecked_Access
to create an access-to-variable value designating a subcomponent of its
controlled parameter, and saves this access value in a global object.
When Adjust is called during the initialization of a constant object
of the type, the end result will be an access-to-variable value that
designates a constant object.
22 Objects can become abnormal due to other
kinds of actions that directly update the object's representation; such
actions are generally considered directly erroneous, however.
Wording Changes from Ada 83
In order to reduce the amount of erroneousness,
we separate the concept of an undefined value into objects with invalid
representation (scalars only) and abnormal objects.
Reading an object with an invalid representation
is a bounded error rather than erroneous; reading an abnormal object
is still erroneous. In fact, the only safe thing to do to an abnormal
object is to assign to the object as a whole.
Wording Changes from Ada 95
The description of erroneous execution for Unchecked_Conversion
and imported objects was tightened up so that using the Valid attribute
to test such a value is not erroneous.
Clarified the definition of objects that can become
abnormal; made sure that all of the possibilities are included.
Wording Changes from Ada 2005
Correction: Common programming techniques
such as squirreling away an access to a controlled
object during initialization and using a self-referencing discriminant
(the so-called “Rosen trick”) no longer
are immediately erroneous if the object is declared constant, so these
techniques can be used portably and safely. Practically, these techniques
already worked as compilers did not take much advantage of this rule,
so the impact of this change will be slight.
Correction: The description of erroneous
execution for Unchecked_Conversion and imported objects was adjusted
to clarify that renaming such an object is not, by itself, erroneous.
Ada 2005 and 2012 Editions sponsored in part by Ada-Europe