Programming Language Performance, Part IV: Java and VB6

September 22, 2012 - Programming

This is part of a occasionally updated series on various programming languages. It should not be interpreted as a benchmark, but rather as a casual look at various programming languages and how they might be used by somebody for a practical purpose.
Currently, there are Articles written regarding Python,C#, Java and VB6 (merged for some reason),Scala,F# & Ruby,Perl, Delphi, PHP,C++,Haskell,D, VB.NET, QuickBASIC, and Rust

In order to compare various languages, I have been implementing a anagram search program in a variety of languages and testing and analyzing the resulting code. This entry describes the Java entrant into that discussion. A naive anagram search program will typically have dismal performance, because the “obvious” brute force approach of looking at every word and comparing it to every other word is a dismal one. The more accepted algorithm is to use a Dictionary or Hashmap, and map lists of words to their sorted versions, so ‘mead’ and ‘made’ both sort to ‘adem’ and will be present in a list in the Hashmap with that key. A psuedocode representation:

  1. Loop through all words. For each word:
    1. create a new word by sorting the letters of the word.
    2. use the sorted word as a key into a dictionary/hashmap structure, which indexes Lists. Add this word (the normal unsorted one) to that list.
  2. When complete, anagrams are stored in the hashmap structure indexed by their sorted version. Each value is a list, and those that contain more than one element are word anagrams of one another.

The basic idea is to have a program that isn’t too simple, but also not something too complicated. I’ll also admit that I chose a problem that could easily leverage the functional constructs of many languages. Each entry in this series will cover an implementation in a different language and an analysis of such.


Here is the Java implementation I came up with:

This implementation averaged around 1800 milliseconds, or 1.8 seconds. I assume it would be on par with the C# implementation if I had used something better than Bubblesort to sort the characters. It’s a shame that you have to implement your own sort, I started writing a Merge sort but then I realized that is exactly what my point was. I wanted to create a program to look for anagrams, and I ended up having to write my own primitives to do so, and concentrate on sorting an array, which should be built-in IMO.

I won’t deny it- I really do not like Java at all. I find it obtuse and ham-fisted, like trying to write a program while wearing gloves. The Language has various design decisions that impair how you can implement certain constructs, and force you to shoe-horn your solutions into not just Object Oriented solutions, but ‘impaired’ Object oriented solutions. It is not a language I enjoy working in, but I prefer it to the other entry in this post- VB6.

Visual Basic 6

Visual Basic 6 is, for lack of a better word, old and pretty crap these days. I used it for far too long as I described in some previous postings on the subject. Anyway, this is the implementation I came up with for it.

This implementation took a dismal 9 seconds. This was with the compiler set to optimize for small code as well as with “Favour Pentium Pro” selected in the project compile options dialog. Fast code was pretty much the same speed, for what it’s worth. My guess as to why this code is such a poor performer comes from several reasons. First, it relies heavily on late binding; the collection is inherently late-bound, and those collections are placed in a Dictionary which is also late bound. This implementation even uses a ShellSort rather than a Bubblesort like the Java implementation, but still performs far slower. (I happened to have a ShellSort routine lying around in my VB projects directory so repurposed it). Another reason might be the way I chose to acquire input, which is through a fell swoop using Input$ to read ther entire text of the file, and then use the built-in Split() function to explode the resulting string to the desired array.

Update: March 5, 2013 I tried to improve the Java implementation by swapping the insertion/bubble sort with the following:

This actually resulted in a reduced speed. according to the javaDoc, Arrays.sort() uses a modified QuickSort. This explains the issue; Bubblesort/Insertion sort will be faster with fewer than 10 or so elements, which would explain why my original implementation is faster. I still think I can make the Java implementation faster, though.

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One thought on “Programming Language Performance, Part IV: Java and VB6

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? Blog Archive

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