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Thinking in C++
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Overloading on return values

It’s common to wonder, “Why just scopes and argument lists? Why not return values?” It seems at first that it would make sense to also decorate the return value with the internal function name. Then you could overload on return values, as well:

void f();
int f();

This works fine when the compiler can unequivocally determine the meaning from the context, as in int x = f( );. However, in C you’ve always been able to call a function and ignore the return value (that is, you can call the function for its side effects). How can the compiler distinguish which call is meant in this case? Possibly worse is the difficulty the reader has in knowing which function call is meant. Overloading solely on return value is a bit too subtle, and thus isn’t allowed in C++.

Thinking in C++
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire