When Time Is of the Essence: A Look at Rust and C++

Some of the oldest and most widely used programming languages are C and its object-oriented counterpart, C++. Despite being created several decades ago, these languages are still the go-to choose when programme performance is a priority or when resource management is a factor.

Periodically, new teams endeavour to develop and launch what are commonly referred to as “C killers”, programming languages developed from scratch to offer the same benefits as the C family, whilst additionally mitigating some of the most acknowledged drawbacks.

Two examples that demonstrate the strength of programming languages are Java and C#, which both have strong online communities. Java is possibly the most widely used programming language in the world, particularly when taking mobile applications into account.

Rust has been dubbed a “C-killer” due to its fast, secure and efficient nature. Whilst Rust may not be the language to finally replace the C family, there is no doubt that it is a fantastic choice for those looking for a modern programming language. Its features are well-executed, making it a great option for those seeking strong programming languages.

It is important to note that there is no definitive answer when it comes to the speed of different programming languages. This is due to the complexity of the various factors that come into play, such as the way each language performs specific tasks and the expertise and ingenuity of the programmer. Therefore, it is not a competition and should not be treated as such.

An experienced Python programmer may be able to produce code that runs more efficiently than a novice programmer working with C, despite Python being generally considered one of the slower languages.

Now that we have everything settled, let’s examine Rust’s features and contrast them with those of C++ to see which one is superior.

Both high and low-level

It is commonly accepted that both C++ and Rust are considered to be ‘low-level’ languages, or less ‘high-level’ than other languages such as JavaScript or Python. Could you provide further insight into what this distinction entails?

Computers utilize calculations and reasoning to complete their assigned tasks. For example, to display the text you are currently reading, your CPU is sending an electrical signal to each pixel, determining the color and thus creating an image.

Following precise mathematical instructions, a computer can create the letter ‘A’ on a screen, however it has no comprehension of what it actually represents. The technical term for such instructions is ‘machine code’. Natural language, which is how humans communicate with each other, is situated at the opposite end of the spectrum.

The aim of a programming language is to enable effective communication between machines and people. Low-level programming languages are closer to machine code than natural human language.

Higher levels of processing capacity are needed to translate higher-level languages into machine code due to their close resemblance to natural language. Consequently, languages such as Python are easily understandable, but they lack performance and optimization.

It can be concluded that both Rust and C++ are suitable for creating comprehensible code that is sufficiently fast for use in critical applications, such as operating systems and driver software.

Safety first, says Rust

In 2023, the Mozilla Foundation developed Rust, initially as a side project for one of its engineers. However, the organisation quickly recognised its potential and invested in it, which proved to be an astute decision as Rust rapidly gained popularity amongst programmers since its inception.

Rust’s secure concurrency and memory safety are two of the main reasons why it has become so popular.

The term “concurrency” refers to a program’s or software’s ability to execute multiple sections of the program or software in a way that is not necessarily sequential or in a particular order.

If your programme consists of ten individual instructions, using multiple processors to execute them simultaneously results in faster completion than if they were executed sequentially.

Manual threading requires more expertise than is expected of the average developer, whereas some languages require the developer to implement threading. To ensure developers do not inadvertently introduce errors by allowing their code to access data it should not have, Rust provides static checks for Ownership.

It is commonplace for developers to manage memory either manually or through a process known as garbage collection, which entails entrusting the computer with the task.

Garbage collection is a great resource; however, it can be slow, even for experienced developers, and can be quite limiting. Rust provides a safe coding environment which prevents issues such as null pointers, dangling pointers and data races, thus eliminating the need for garbage collection. This reduces the amount of bugs, and therefore speeds up the development process.

Analogously, Rust can be likened to wearing a seatbelt while driving on a racetrack; it provides an additional layer of protection for inexperienced drivers, and is advisable even for more experienced racers, despite the low probability of an accident occurring. This summarizes the importance of memory security.

C++ is a programmer’s paradise.

It is remarkable how much knowledge and how many libraries have been accumulated by C++ over its 36-year history. It is likely that any concept can be found that has been previously implemented in C++ by someone else.

C++ is an excellent choice for those who enjoy experimenting with coding. The C programming language family is renowned for its level of freedom for developers. It is a powerful tool that, when used by an experienced coder, can create remarkable results, similar to a Stradivarius violin.

Have you used Windows in combination with C++? How much time do you typically spend on YouTube, and how does the programming language support video processing? Additionally, have you experienced any games that have been powered by the Unreal engine – demonstrating the versatile potential of C++?

At present, there are significantly more experienced developers proficient in C++ than Rust, making C++ a more viable option for companies seeking to recruit engineers. However, it is impossible to predict how the distribution may shift in the long-term.

Studies have indicated that C++ is still the fastest object-oriented language available. As a result, the availability of more libraries can lead to reduced development times, as developers have access to a wider range of tools for free use.

How do I choose?

The results of this comparison are almost equal, making it difficult to identify one language as a clear winner. Fortunately, this is not necessary since Rust and C++ are so highly compatible that they can be easily combined. Both languages have proven themselves to be great assets for software development.

If speed is a top priority for your project, then it’s a toss-up between the security of Rust and the flexibility of C++.

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