July 20–24, 2015
Portland, OR

When Performance Counts: C++ in the 21st Century

Jon Kalb (A9.com)
1:40pm–2:20pm Thursday, 07/23/2015
Scale D137/138
Average rating: ****.
(4.67, 3 ratings)

Prerequisite Knowledge

I will be presenting some examples of new language features, but only at a high level. A knowledge of general programming will be helpful, but no particular expertise is required.


C++ is hot again. Find out why. This talk will cover why engineers looking for performance choose C++, and where C++ fits in a world in which solutions are increasingly created using different languages for different components. You will get a historical perspective of C++, focusing on what’s going on in the C++ community right now and where the language and its user base is heading.

C++ rode high atop a wave of object-oriented popularity during the 90s, but the first decade of the 21st century saw a lack of excitement. Desktop machines had cycles to spare, so the challenge of writing in C++ didn’t seem worth the performance gains. Java was all the rage and with no interesting developments in the C++ standard, interest lagged.

But with a renewed interest in performance for both data centers and mobile devices, and the success of open source software libraries, C++ is back and it is hot. This talk will explain why C++ is most software engineers’ go-to language for performance.

You will receive a rough historical sketch that puts C++ in perspective and covers its popularity ups and downs. We will discuss the kinds of projects for which C++ isn’t a good fit, and the kinds of project where C++ is almost uniquely positioned as the implementation language of choice.

The talk will also brief you on what is happening in the C++ community. In the last few years we’ve seen a new open source C++ compiler (written in C++), a new non-profit committed to promoting C++, three new C++ conferences, and over a dozen new user groups. In this decade we’ve seen the ISO standards committee release two major updates to C++; it is on target for a third release in two years, and is committed to several new technical specifications for important extensions to the language in the coming months.

We’ll discuss how the ISO committee is evolving the language, including the biggest opportunities and challenges we face now and what we anticipate in coming releases.

Photo of Jon Kalb

Jon Kalb


Jon Kalb has been programming in C++ for over 20 years. He is currently doing this for Amazon’s A9.com. He has written C++ for Amazon, Apple, Dow Chemical, Intuit, Lotus, Microsoft, Netscape, Sun, Yahoo!, and a number of companies you’ve never heard of. Jon has taught C++ at the graduate school at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He chairs CppCon, C++ Now, and the Boost Steering Committee.