Go to statement considered harmful. Author: Edsger W. Dijkstra, Technological University, Eindhoven, The Netherlands View colleagues of Edsger W. Dijkstra . “GOTO considered harmful” needs to be read in its historical context, where structured programming (for Thanks for posting Dijkstra answer. One of the comments did mention Dijkstra’s article Go to Statements Considered Harmful, but aside from that mention, there was much.

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I’d Consider That Harmful, Too

It is also worth noting that there are programming languages that do not provide structured flow control constructs at all. It is hard to end this with a fair acknowledgment. ACM 9 May Examples E-1 and N-2 demonstrate the corollary to this, that if a programming language does not provide reasonably powerful flow control structures, there are programming problems that can be solved reasonably well only by resorting to the use of goto statements.

The reason for this popularity is that recursive definitions have a history of mathematical rigor – specifically, recursive formulas and recurrence relationswhich deal with recursively defined sequences wherein each element in the sequence is defined in simpler terms using previous elements in the sequence.

The abuse of GOTO is, thankfully, a long forgotten memory in today’s modern programming languages. Single tags These tags can be used alone and don’t need an ending tag. Most programming languages of the time did not support the basic control flow statements that we take for granted today, or only provided very limited forms of them.


Andrew Koenig

The sole matter of opinion is how much harm those properties cause–an opinion which can only be contextual. This may explain, to some degree, why his famous “Go To” letter has been read by so few people.

And yet, in spite of all of these adavances in design, some of Dijkstra’s main point about unstructured program flow remains just as valid now as then.

In one of two ways: Such techniques were designed to allow a programmer to construct programs in a methodical fashion that guaranteed that they exhibited correct behavior. A major goal of all of this effort was to create a nomeclature that could be used not just for actual programming languages, but which also could be used directly for mathematical formulations of programming algorithms.

The comments associated with that post that post mostly repeated the pattern of the Usenet discussion: Dijkstra still allowed for the use of goto for more complicated programming control structures. Consider a procedure that performs four operations: Biography of Niklaus Wirth Wikipedia: Also some algos express them self best using goto’s.

That’s easily one of the funniest things I’ve ever read in Wikipedia. This reflects the fact that, at that time, recursion was very much in vogue and was considered by many, especially the more academically inclined, to be a superior form of expressing programs and algorithms.

Here Dijkstra observes that humans are better at visualizing static relationships than dynamic relationships.

Considered harmful – Wikipedia

It must be noted that Dijkstra’s harmfup comment on the subject seems to imply that completely removing all of the gotos from one’s own programs is a bad idea.


The decisions to not use Goto was decided harkful managers with no real world programming experience. Read a header block from the opened file. You may think about this question in a very concrete manner: This makes a big difference in security and usability of GOTOs.

This reflects what is known in modern parlance as a call stackwhich is an array of program counters a. Webcasts Agile Desktop Infrastructures: Another way to say this is that gotos can invalidate the program invariants that are supposed to be guaranteed inviolate by haemful program structure.

Go To Statement Considered Harmful

Dijkstra mentions that iterative statements can be implemented on finite equipmentwhich of course is what all actually existing machines are, no matter how much virtual memory they possess.

Most structured programming languages provide some kind of multiple selection control construct variously known as caseselectswitchexamineinspectchoosewhenetc. That was consistent in much of what I read. Dijkstra born Maydied Aug Wikipedia: With these remarks in hand, we can look at continue statements.

One must be careful, however, to make it obvious that the goto statements are for error handling, e.