This site is a static rendering of the Trac instance that was used by R7RS-WG1 for its work on R7RS-small (PDF), which was ratified in 2013. For more information, see Home. For a version of this page that may be more recent, see BinaryData in WG2's repo for R7RS-large.


2010-04-29 20:39:51

Most Scheme implementations provide one or more ways to represent blocks of data which are fundamentally binary in nature - they are opaque sequences of 8-bit bytes whose structure is to be interpreted at the application level. This is particularly important for efficient I/O, and for other host system interfaces such as pathnames which may not be valid strings.

SRFI-4 provides multiple uniform vector data-types, of which the u8vector often gets special treatment as a general container of binary data. R6RS provides only a byte-vector data-type, similar to the u8vector, with an API that allows accessing other machine numeric types from any offset. We need to decide what, if any, binary data type we will provide in WG1, including any read/write representations.

If you view the bytes as primarily textual (as in the pathname case), then it makes sense to provide an external representation which allows ASCII. PLT, for instance provides


where the \0 indicates a NULL byte.

On the other hand, if you view the bytes as primarily binary, then it makes sense to encode each of the bytes as an integer, so the above example becomes

#vu8(65 66 67 0 68 69 70)

Erlang allows mixing both, where numbers are taken as individual bytes and ASCII strings are flattened. So the same example becomes

#vu8("ABC" 0 "DEF")

The #vu8 is the R6RS syntax. SRFI-4 uses #u8. The former has the advantage that only one letter is taken up after the #, leaving room for more future syntax extensions (SRFI-4 uses #u, #s and #f). The latter has the advantage that it's more widely implemented.