EDIT: This question was not intended as a forum for discussion about the (de)merits of undefined behavior, but that's sort of what it became. In any case, this thread about a hypothetical C-compiler with no undefined behavior may be of additional interest to those who think this is an important topic.
The classic apocryphal example of "undefined behavior" is, of course, "nasal demons" — a physical impossibility, regardless of what the C and C++ standards permit.
Because the C and C++ communities tend to put such an emphasis on the unpredictability of undefined behavior and the idea that the compiler is allowed to cause the program to do literally anything when undefined behavior is encountered, I had assumed that the standard puts no restrictions whatsoever on the behavior of, well, undefined behavior.
[C++14: defns.undefined]:[..] Permissible undefined behavior ranges from ignoring the situation completely with unpredictable results, to behaving during translation or program execution in a documented manner characteristic of the environment (with or without the issuance of a diagnostic message), to terminating a translation or execution (with the issuance of a diagnostic message). [..]
This actually specifies a small set of possible options:
- Ignoring the situation -- Yes, the standard goes on to say that this will have "unpredictable results", but that's not the same as the compiler inserting code (which I assume would be a prerequisite for, you know, nasal demons).
- Behaving in a documented manner characteristic of the environment -- this actually sounds relatively benign. (I certainly haven't heard of any documented cases of nasal demons.)
- Terminating translation or execution -- with a diagnostic, no less. Would that all UB would behave so nicely.
I assume that in most cases, compilers choose to ignore the undefined behavior; for example, when reading uninitialized memory, it would presumably be an anti-optimization to insert any code to ensure consistent behavior. I suppose that the stranger types of undefined behavior (such as "time travel") would fall under the second category--but this requires that such behaviors be documented and "characteristic of the environment" (so I guess nasal demons are only produced by infernal computers?).
Am I misunderstanding the definition? Are these intended as mere examples of what could constitute undefined behavior, rather than a comprehensive list of options? Is the claim that "anything can happen" meant merely as an unexpected side-effect of ignoring the situation?
EDIT: Two minor points of clarification:
- I thought it was clear from the original question, and I think to most people it was, but I'll spell it out anyway: I do realize that "nasal demons" is tongue-in-cheek.
- Please do not write an(other) answer explaining that UB allows for platform-specific compiler optimizations, unless you also explain how it allows for optimizations that implementation-defined behavior wouldn't allow.